“I Thought I Was Sick or Crazy.” How Empaths Struggle in Today’s World.

Whenever you read another article on introverts, HSPs, INFJs or INFPs, the same story always comes up. It seems that every single one of us struggled with being called “too sensitive.” I can relate because this happened to me too. But what I find missing from these articles is an in-depth explanation of what that really means.

When someone says they were called “too sensitive” by family and friends it brings to mind someone who gets teary-eyed at sad commercials or takes routine teasing too seriously. This is not what I mean at all when I say I’ve always struggled with being “too sensitive.”

Maybe I should introduce myself first and make things clear:

Hi, I’m Lauren Sapala, and I’m an empath.

What this means—what the “too sensitive” label really means for me–is that for the first three decades of my life I frequently ended up in situations where:

I was flooded with anxiety out of nowhere to the point where I felt physically ill.

If I was around any form of extreme anger my arms and legs went tingly and numb and I felt like I was distinctly dizzy and “out of body,” to be followed by an adrenaline crash, during which I again felt physically ill.

I would get migraine headaches after spending more than an hour or two at the mall, a sports stadium, indoor concerts, outdoor festivals, and large parties.

I experienced totally random thoughts and images popping into my head that I strongly felt were “not mine” and then decided I must be crazy.

I felt uncomfortable physical sensations in my body when in the presence of an injured or ill person, and then decided again that I must be crazy.

You can see that there is a big difference between feeling sad while watching a sentimental commercial and feeling crazy, severely ill, and attacked by migraine headaches.

It wasn’t until I was working at my first startup, and in a completely toxic environment, that I met my savior. She’s a person who continues to be one of my best friends to this day. We were hanging out after work and I felt instinctively that she was a “safe person” so I start detailing the way I felt in the office: fatigued, anxious, stomach problems and headaches. I followed up with my then-standard line:

“But you know, I’m just crazy. That’s all it is. I’m a crazy person.”

My friend did something no one in my life had ever done before. She stopped and let my words just hang there in the air, looking at me openly all the while. Then she finally said, “You’re not crazy. You’re an empath. You know that, right?”

My next question opened up the floodgates and changed the course of my entire life.

What’s an empath?

Then, I Googled it.

This was the—definitely insulting—definition I found:


(chiefly in science fiction) a person with the paranormal ability to apprehend the mental or emotional state of another individual.

Chiefly in science fiction, eh? As if I didn’t feel crazy enough.

Thankfully, I kept Googling. I stumbled on empath websites, empath strategies and support, and most importantly, other empaths. People just like me.

For the first time in my life I didn’t feel alone, and I was starting to understand that I wasn’t crazy.

In our culture, there is still an appalling lack of acceptance for empaths. I have no problem telling people that I’m an introvert, that I’m a Highly Sensitive Person, or even that I’m intuitive. But once the word “empath” comes out we’ve crossed into different territory. Science fiction territory, apparently. “Paranormal” territory where a lot of people start feeling really confused and threatened by the conversation.

That’s why this next thing I’m about to tell you is so very, very important:

Things are changing. The empaths of the world are waking up to what they are and how to embrace their gifts. This is HUGE. We are finding each other and we are teaching each other how to take care of ourselves and our energetic health. We are stepping into our power and owning it, and the world at this time needs that very, very badly.

A woman I very much admire, a healer and an empath herself, Karyn Kulenovic, is conducting a totally free empath summit starting June 1. I’m one of the speakers and I’m in fantastic company. Dr. Judith Orloff, Dr. Bernie Siegel, and dozens of other healers, coaches, shamans, teachers, and artists will be speaking on how to integrate your empathic gifts into a whole, happy and healthy life.

You can sign up for the summit here:

The Integrated Empath

If you read this article and felt yes yes yes  as you were reading then this summit is for you. It’s time for us to take back our power and stop telling ourselves we’re crazy. We’re not crazy and we never have been.

We have real gifts that can be of real benefit to the world.

We are healers who were meant to heal.

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