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Empathy Is Hard on Me

empathy guilt
It’s not easy to be this empathetic …

In so many of today’s discussions on mental health, empathy comes up repeatedly as what is needed in this world to make a place of comfort for those with mental health issues.

And that empathy, when fostered and cultivated, does a wonderful job of making the world a better place for people with mental health challenges to participate in.

And that is all great. Empathy is the basis of what we call humanity.

But recently I’ve become aware that empathy can be a burden.

To whom?

To us!

That’s right. Somehow, people with ADHD, although often oblivious to their surroundings, when made aware of other peoples problems, burdens, and issues, become emotionally enmeshed in those things.

Many of us live them, feel them, cannot extricate ourselves from them.

And …

We find ourselves dealing with feelings of responsibility, even though we often can’t, in any way, connect our own actions with the other person’s problems.

Perhaps, it has something to do with our usual style of operation in life, which usually goes like this: “Do the thing, suddenly remember the other thing we were supposed to do, figure out what problems not doing that other thing has created, solve those problems, suddenly remember the other thing we were supposed to have done by now, figure out the problems … ”

And so

This results in unwarranted feelings of guilt. So much so that, even when we can clearly see that the issue isn’t our fault, we feel guilty about that as well.

Yes, we feel guilty that it isn’t our fault, because if it was, then we could just accept the blame, rectify the erroneous action or behavior like we always do, and help the person to move on from there.

Because …

Because when you have ADHD, and you live with it daily, and you experience life as a series of things you’ve done or not done that now need to be corrected, what’s one more situation on your shoulders, eh?

And this isn’t just me talking here, I’ve asked friends who are friends because we’re all in this ADHD life together and have found each other because of that, and they have given me the evidence I need to speak about this.

This may not be a scientific study, but I’m not talking about things I imagine, I’m talking about things that happen to us. I’m talking about things that, when discussed in the group, cause a chorus of “Oh, yeah!”s that ring and echo through the internet space where we gather.

And the guilt?

I personally like to just blow in to a situation, do my best to solve it, act nonchalant especially if I can help, and move on without discussing why it was all my fault. For one thing, it’s easier not to accept the blame for something when you can’t actually prove that it was your fault.

And for another, even if it was my fault, I prefer to keep my own counsel, carrying around a shoulder full of guilt is how I live, and I’d feel odd to the point of possibly being ineffective and useless if that burden wasn’t there.

Empathy Is Hard on Me

Kelly Babcock

I was born in the city of Toronto in 1959, but moved when I was in my fourth year of life. I was raised and educated in a rural setting, growing up in a manner I like to refer to as free range. I live on the traditional lands of the Chippewas of Nawash in an area where my family history stretches back 6 or 7 generations and my First Nations friend's families go back hundreds of generations. I was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 50 and have been both struggling with the new reality and using my discoveries to make my life better. I am a freelance writer and I write two blogs here at Psych Central, one about living with ADHD and one that is a daily positive affirmation that acts as an example of finding the good in as much of my life as I possibly can.

Find out more about me on my website: writeofway.

email me at ADHD Man

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APA Reference
Babcock, K. (2019). Empathy Is Hard on Me. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 24, 2020, from


Last updated: 25 Jun 2019
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