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Living With A Diagnosis and Empathy

Living With A Diagnosis and Empathy

Mental illness is serious. We need the courage to survive ANY Mental Health diagnosis. It’s hard to understand, for some, the depth of compassion along with empathy, each mental health survivor/peer has…they have to be Empathic Leaders.

Nevertheless, it’s always reassuring to me that when I talk to my peers about living with my diagnosis and symptoms of bipolar, I know they can empathize with me; not just sympathize.

Empathy is an important quality for healthy relationships and effective communication.

That is not always easy to do. Especially IF you have never walked in somebody else’s shoes. Our diagnosis may keep us thinking and focusing only on our own balance.  At times, it’s so easy to get caught up in our feelings and sufferings that we fail to be there for those who are the closest to us. All of us need an empathetic ear, and a sympathetic shoulder to cry on when dealing with the burden and trial of a mental illness diagnosis. It can be a very dark tunnel to make it through and out the other side. Sympathy alone is not enough. Empathy is needed to the help see the light aspect of that tunnel.

Share your thoughts. What do we do to develop further and cultivate empathy?  Our mental well-being is at stake.

By developing empathy, you can deepen your understanding and acceptance of how and why people do what they do, and build greater respect for others…This doesn’t mean whitewashing the differences you have with other people, or letting them walk over you. Rather, empathy gives you a stronger, wiser base for resolving conflicts when you have them. You’re able to bridge differences more effectively and with less destructiveness. ~ [vi] Douglas LaBier Ph.D.

To sum up the differences between the most commonly used meanings of these two terms: sympathy is feeling compassion, sorrow, or pity for the hardships that another person encounters, while empathy is putting yourself in the shoes of another.” ~ Empathy-vs-sympathy blog excerpt

Empathy [i]: the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions: the ability to share someone else’s feelings.

Sympathy [ii]: the feeling that you care about and are sorry about someone else’s trouble, grief, misfortune.

Apathy [iii]: the feeling of not having much emotion or interest : an apathetic state.

 (Part 1|Part 2|Part 3)

Mental Health Humor and Empathy vs Sympathy Chato Stewart
Mental Health Humor by Chato Stewart

Mental Health Humor

Yellow Balloon: I feel so deflated and down as if the joy is being sucked out of me.

Red Balloon: I Think I’m feeling an emotional connection with you… I feel your pain..Ya hear that Hissing??

Caption: Empathy: It is the ability to share someone else’s feelings

Attention Florida Peer and Advocates
Please help me share the Florida CLEAR Warm Line. Call 800 945 1355 – say it: 800 945 1355.  It rolls off the tongue. It is the CLEAR Warm Line staffed by Peer Specialists waiting to lend an ear.  Offering support for you from 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. seven days a week.


[i]Empathy Definition © 2015. Merriam-Webster, Incorporated. Retrieved on June 10, 2016, from
[ii]Sympathy Definition © 2015. Merriam-Webster, Incorporated. Retrieved on June 10, 2016, from
[iii]Apathy Definition © 2015. Merriam-Webster, Incorporated. Retrieved on June 10, 2016, from

[vi] Douglas LaBier Ph.D.(Apr 12, 2010) Are You Suffering From Empathy Deficit Disorder? Retrieved on June 21, 2016, from

MLA: “Empathy vs. Sympathy | Blog.” Insert Name of Site in Italics. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Jun. 2016

Living With A Diagnosis and Empathy

Chato Stewart

Chato Stewart has a mission, to draw and use humor as a positive tool to live, to cope with the debilitating effects symptoms of mental illness. Chato Stewart is a Mental Health Hero and Advocate. Recovery Peer Specialist board-certified in Florida. Chato is the artist behind the cartoons series Mental Health Humor, Over-Medicated, and The Family Stew - seen here in his blog posts. The cartoons are drawn from his personal experience of living with bipolar disorder (and other labels). [email protected]

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APA Reference
Stewart, C. (2016). Living With A Diagnosis and Empathy. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 1, 2020, from


Last updated: 26 Jun 2016
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