Bipolar Disorder and Extreme Empathy
Monday, June 5 2017 Hannah Blum
Bipolar disorder and empathy. A lot of people reading this might expect that I will be writing about my lack of empathy. However, in my personal experience living with bipolar 2 disorder, I live with extreme empathy; to the extent that it sometimes affects my mental health. The part of my bipolar disorder that allows me to feel emotions so profoundly contributes to this immense empathy and empathetic perspective.
When Empathy Affects My Life with Bipolar 2 Disorder
It is important to be empathetic, but is there a point where you can have too much empathy? This is a question I think about often. It may sound crazy, but I can feel people's emotions, their pain, to the extent that I lose sleep. It does not even have to be someone close to me, like a friend or family member.
Many of my friends and relatives enjoy this part of me because I am an excellent listener who is genuinely trying to help. I am sensitive to other people's emotions, but it can affect my mental health. I want to undo the sadness that other people feel. The less pain they feel, the less pain I feel. I want to respond to every message and email I receive from people struggling with their mental health. When someone is upset and I cannot be there, I beat myself down about it. It is almost as if their pain becomes my pain. It is humbling but can put me at risk of being taken advantage of mentally.
Empathy and Bipolar Disorder Leaves Me Vulnerable
In my previous relationship, I realized that feeling great empathy with those who have wronged you makes you vulnerable to being taken advantage of mentally. My ex-boyfriend was mentally abusive in ways that will be explained in one of my bipolar 2 YouTube videos when I am ready to share that intense experience. The only reason I stayed was that I was empathetic to his situation. He was losing his job and going through family problems. I stayed for two years and took the abuse, causing my mental health to deteriorate.
Luckily, at one point, I finally realized my self-worth and abruptly left the relationship. I have learned that some people are in bad situations for a reason and it is not my job to save them, nor should I feel obligated to help.
Maybe it is a natural part of my brain chemistry, or maybe it's because of my experience living with bipolar 2 disorder. Whether it is brain chemistry or stems from life experience living with bipolar 2 disorder, is irrelevant. I can be empathetic but to a certain extent. When people begin to take advantage of my sensitivity, it is time for them to go. They don't deserve that part of me.
What about you? Has bipolar disorder affected your level of empathy? Share your experience with bipolar and empathy below.