I don’t mean to be dramatic, but yesterday, I experienced a new emotion and I am not the same person.
I’m not a girl, not yet a woman, I’m an empathetic lady.
1990-2016: My search for empathy
Achieving empathetic status has long been a problem for me. I have spent many
drunken nights trying to figure out with my friends why I can’t feel empathy. I can sometimes feel sympathetic toward a situation, but empathy is not something I feel. I know I’m supposed to feel bad when someone tells me something bad as happened, but the feeling never actually comes. My friends would tell me it’s a problem. When something bad happens to a friend, instead of trying to come up with a solution, I should try feeling empathetic.
1405 CT August 18, 2016: The emotion
My entire life changed. All it took was one text message. Yes, people have told me their grandparents have died and I felt nothing. People have told me hours of work wasn’t saved on their computer and I felt nothing. I’ve watched PETA commercials and felt nothing. But when Brad told me he was feeling bummed out, a wave of new emotion came over me. It was a feeling of also feeling bummed out. Could I be bummed out because I was at work and didn’t want to be or could I possibly be bummed out because Brad was bummed out? I investigated.
1416 CT August 18, 2016: The Investigation
I did the only thing I knew to do.
I went to a psychologist I typed my questions into Google and hit the search button.
All of these searches led to the usual suspects: Reddit, an empathy quiz, and a private community forum for people dealing with autism.
1420 CT August 18, 2016: The Reflection
Was I Autisic? Had I gone years untreated? Was I Autisic and just no one told me? Where was Jenny McCarthy when you needed her? Then at some point in my Google searching, murder came up as a keyword, so then I had to sit and reflect on if not feeling empathy for 25 years was linked to the time I basically murdered my sister’s babydoll. The reflection period was tough.
1500 CT August 18, 2016: The Frightening Realization
All of a sudden, a wave of frightening realization came over me. Had people been dealing with empathy their entire lives??? How did anyone get anything done??? I just broke down and didn’t work for an hour straight because I was dealing with my own personal empathy. How did social workers work??? Was Sarah McLachlan really feeling empathy??? How did she go on???
0840 CT August 19, 2016: It’s Gone
I walked out to my car and started to get in. I noticed a young woman approaching me. She asked me if I remembered parking to a white car last night. I blanked. She started crying and told me she thought her car had been stolen. I said oh man. I offered to sit and wait with her until the police came. I told her to call the apartment office. I asked her what kind of car it was. I did everything but buy her a new car, But I felt nothing. I felt no empathy for her. I knew I was supposed to feel bad, but I went about my day. The empathy was gone. Gone but not forgotten.