Several years ago, Elise Lebeau asked me to contribute my "empath story" to a book she was working on about empaths. I took the request as an opportunity to finally write about my "lightbulb moment" - that flash of knowing that, eventually, led to becoming a working psychic medium. I took some creative liberties with the telling, but the story is all true. I hope you enjoy it.
My Empath Story
4:38 AM, the green numerals on the face of my clock radio informed me.
“What the hell?” I whispered to the far wall, the one illuminated by the streetlight outside my second-story bedroom window. I had been sound asleep less than two minutes ago, and now I was so alert it felt like I’d had two cups of coffee. Was there someone in my apartment? No. Some ruckus going on outside? No. So what had woken me?
Then, I suddenly knew. “Crap,” I told the wall, “someone wants to talk to me.” You see, this had happened once before already.
At 19, I was slowly coming to the conclusion that I was different than most people. I had yet to figure out what it all meant, and this new thing was now officially freaking me out. I mean, it’s one thing to be able to feel what other people are feeling – I was a big enough geek to think that Counselor Troi was awesome – but it was something else entirely to have so little control of it that I could be woken from a dead sleep in the middle of the night just because some drug-addled friend wanted to talk to me.
5:12 AM. I wished that whoever it was would just call. I tried to figure out who would want to talk to me so badly that they could wake me out of such a sound sleep, but I couldn’t decide. My skills weren’t yet developed enough to be able to discern the flavor of one person’s thoughts and feelings versus another’s. That would come later, along with names for this dubious gift: empath, telepath, psychic, medium, and others.
I wondered if perhaps I was putting my mind through too much, too soon. I had been working with tarot cards for about a year, and had been dabbling with psychedelic drugs for nearly two years. I’d also been reading as many “new age” books as I could get my hands on: everything from ancient Egypt to shamanism, aliens from the Pleiades star system to the Mayan calendar, Wicca to Ayurveda. But this, being woken in the middle of the night sure that someone desperately wanted to talk to me? This was not my imagination. This was not an airy-fairy new age justification of something with five more-logical explanations. This I knew for sure.
5:58 AM. I knew the call would come at 7:00. Most of my friends knew I got up at 7:00 during the week, and that’s when the call had come the previous time this had happened. I took deep breaths and told myself that it didn’t matter if I lost a little sleep. It was Saturday, and it didn’t matter if I was a sleep-deprived zombie today. I stared at the ceiling and thought about what to do.
My “gift” hadn’t seemed all that bad, until now. Of course, I hadn’t yet figured out that I was an empath. I hadn’t come to terms with what it meant that I had spent my childhood assuming everyone felt others’ emotions so strongly. This mistaken childhood belief had led to another, more unfortunate one, which was that if people were hurting me, and my pain hurt them as much as theirs hurt me, then I must be really bad and deserving of pain, or why else would they want to hurt themselves just to hurt me?
6:12 AM. I tossed and turned. Dawn was creeping steadily toward my windows. In the years to come, I would remember this moment as the day I realized I couldn’t run away from this really-not-a-gift. I could try, and did try for many years, but I didn’t win. Staring at the ceiling, I didn’t know it would take me ten years to finally find the help I needed.
6:42 AM. Almost there, I thought, 7:00 is right around the corner now. I swished my tongue stud from one side of my mouth to the other, the hard steel comforting in its textural distraction. Without that distraction, that subtle alteration of energy caused by metal disrupting one of the body’s main energy channels, (or so my acupuncturist would tell me many years later,) I may have been able to tell who it was that wanted to talk to me that morning. I didn’t know that then, of course. It would be many years before I would learn what my mind was capable of.
Eventually, my boss at work would point out that a pierced tongue is not appropriate for a business loan officer, no matter how discreet the jewelry, and that I would need to remove it, permanently. I wouldn’t tell him that my tongue piercing was partially blocking my empathic reception, and that I was completely terrified to be without it. More terrified to be an unemployed single parent, though, I would take out the offensive jewelry and wonder how in the world I would handle the resulting energetic overload. The answer would come in the form of a friend, an empath with a good suggestion.
6:50 AM. I sat up and stared at my toes. Stared at the wall. At the carpeting visible to the side of my bed. At the phone. Ring, darned phone, I thought. Ring! Just ring! I lit a stick of incense, the scent of Nag Champa catching on the breeze from the open window and filling my small studio apartment.
My empath friend’s suggestion would initially be met with a scoff. “Pshaw. Nice idea, though. I’d love a mentor,” I’d tell her. Several months later, though, the recommended mentor would, in fact, appear, much to my disbelief. To be specific, she would appear in a small, second-story professional office on the same street as my friend’s day spa, with a sign reading “Psychic Medium” outside the door. My friend, touched by her session with the medium, would rather emphatically encourage me to also go for a reading, suggesting that maybe this was the mentor I needed. And she would be, of course, completely right.
6:58 AM. I stared alternately at the phone and at the tree outside my window. I flopped back down and covered my head with a pillow. I sat back up and stared at the phone again. Holy crap! Just call already!
It would take a lot of time, patience, dedication, and practice, but eventually I would develop the skills to know who was on the other end of those telepathic phone calls. I would know whose thoughts had just woken me up or distracted me from my work, and how to stay asleep or on task even if someone wanted to talk to me. I would be able to ride a bus without feeling overwhelmed by everyone else’s “stuff”. I would learn how to converse with the non-physical beings that had been trying to get my attention. I would embrace my gift, knowing that I controlled it, and not the other way around. Well, maybe not so much “control” as “live in a happy co-existence with”, but my life would become manageable, and I would see my gift as something useful and good. One day, I would even come out of the psychic closet and tell my story.
7:03 AM. After one ring, I reached for the phone. Finally.