When Crisis Comes

The past few days have been difficult ones.  A loved one of mine received disturbing news about his health.  He will undergo surgery in his very near future, and there is a lot of uncertainty about the outcome.

At this point we don’t know exactly what will happen, or how life will change – we only know that it will change.  Those of us who love him are scared.

When crisis comes, my mind takes a turn in direction. My sensitivity kicks into high gear, of course. My emotions run high, so much so that it feels as though my thinking shorts out.

I stop being able to think well anymore, not enough to make solid rational decisions or to stay on task at anything.

During crisis my emotions also short-out in their own way.   They are so powerful that it feels as though they are also too much for me to process.

Not only do I have my upset feelings to manage, but I also feel the emotions around me so strongly:  The raw emotions of my children.  The compact, controlled worry in my husband.  The barely contained panicked fear from my mom.  The quiet, thoughtful nervousness in my step-dad.

And more, on into the shock, fear and upset of other extended loved ones and friends.  I sense their emotions, I feel them, they weigh me down along with my own.

Crisis emotions are overwhelming. They are so much, so intense, that I become unable to face them as a whole.

Eventually, they will seep through, a little at a time.  I will feel them, and deal with them as they come.  But for right now, it’s kind of backwards: the emotions are too intense, so it’s almost as though I can’t feel anything at all.

So, here I am.  Can’t really think, can’t really feel.  There is just this sense of numbness, and that is all for a little while.  On second thought, there is just this sense of numbness…and that is almost all, for a little while.

When crisis comes, my thinking doesn’t stop completely.

My ability to make quick, logical decisions peters off into nothingness and my normal, day to day, decision-making thinking struggles. But my thinking does continue, just in a different way.

My thoughts turn toward the philosophical and the universal.  I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders.  “What is the point of it all?” I catch myself thinking.

And…what if every decision I’ve made has been wrong?  Or, what if who I am is wrong? What if every word of comfort or advice I’ve given to others has been misguided? Or, the big one: “what is the purpose of my life, anyway?”

What is the meaning of life?

When crisis comes I begin to question myself.  I question the core of who I am.  I begin to second guess all my decisions, my thoughts, my philosophies in life.

Every piece of advice I’ve ever given.  Every belief I hold, and every opinion I’ve expressed.  I end up in this emotional spiral, spinning around and around within myself.  Feeling helpless and hopeless.

It is common among HSP individuals to carry a deep ache inside us.

Even when circumstances are calm I often ache, burdened by feelings that I have a specific purpose to fulfill here on earth, but I don’t know what it is.  This makes the ache turn into feelings of failure.   When crisis comes, it seems to bring that ache and those feelings of failure to the forefront.

As an empath, my instinct is one of a healer.  I want to soothe and resolve.  Crisis is something painful that I can’t fix.  I can’t really soothe myself or those around me, I can’t resolve the problem.

I feel my inability to make things better, very strongly.  I feel useless.  Like I can’t help, and can’t do anything right and am good for nothing.

Which is why my thinking turns instead towards the meaning of life.  Cause it’s all got to be for something, doesn’t it?

The pain, the heartache, the ups and downs – why do we go through them?  There has to be some grand master plan out there, some purpose in it all…doesn’t there?

One thing I know about myself, is that if I allow the claws of hopelessness to grip me, I stop being able to move forward in life at all.  I stop finding joy.  I stop feeling content.  I stop being able to pour good or kindness or love into other people.

Hopelessness makes me turn inward, in a bad way. I become stagnant, and I become selfish. When I embraced my sensitivity a few years ago, a stubbornness developed in me at the same time.

I decided I would not let the world make me hard.  Not past wounds, not the cruelty of others, not future hurts.  And not crisis or tragedy.  I will allow nothing to make me bitter or cynical.

I will not let my own life’s pain cause me to be uncompassionate towards others.

“What is the meaning of life, anyway?”  It’s a question we all ask at one point, and it needs to be asked sometimes to make life meaningful.

It is a question tinged with hopelessness, which can so easily lead to bitterness, if we let it.  When crisis comes, I could easily sink into frustration and despair the unfairness of life.

My determination is to stay soft and stay sensitive.  So I have also determined to approach that question (and the emotion behind it…and the crisis causing it to be fluttering through my thoughts) from a different angle.

I don’t hold the answer to the meaning of life.  The only ‘answers’ I hold are what I learn as I feel my way down this road I’m on.

What I know for certain, is that I can only take one step forward at a time. It is not possible to see the entire length of any path as we travel down it.

We don’t see the whole picture at once, and never will.  We only see this small piece we are living in right now.  We only see this moment, clearly.

This moment. I can only find the meaning in this moment.

I may never know the meaning of life, but I know it is within my reach to find the meaning in this moment.  And even more important – I can create meaning in this moment.

I can hold that hand, give that compliment. Cherish that hug.  Spend that time in open air, surrounded by green. Ride the roller coaster.  Laugh.  Appreciate that cup of coffee.  Cry.

Take the extra five minutes, or the extra two words, or the pause for thought necessary to make that loved one feel important.  Or to make that stranger’s day.

When crisis comes, I will always question. I will always feel the heaviness, the weight of helplessness.  My highly sensitive nature guarantees that.

But I can also carry on with my determination to remain soft, and to keep hopelessness at bay by creating meaning in the only moment we have.  This moment.  Now.

Image Credit: Lenny K Photography

Leila Skidmore

Leila Skidmore

Always a lover of words, I began reading them at a young age, and began creating with them shortly thereafter.

A bend in the road led me to embrace my introversion, and to discover my identity as a highly sensitive person. As I have moved along the path in learning more about who I am, how to take care of myself as an introvert, and how to handle the challenges of life as an HSP - my love of writing has been rekindled and embraced once again. It intertwines with the journey I am on, and is reflected in what I write.
Leila Skidmore

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