writer, photo editor
I get overwhelmed.
I get overwhelmed all the time. I have dealt with anxiety and depression for as long as I can remember, it has only intensified as I have gotten older and become more and more aware of the troubles of the world.
I have always been amazed by people who can watch the news on a regular basis, I break down in tears within about five minutes of watching those smartly dressed reporters babble sensationally about the latest massacre, fire, oil spill, storm, or attack.
Needless to say, I am often called “too sensitive”. I disagree–I am sensitive, not “too sensitive”. Sensitivity can feel like a curse in our globalized society, there is no escape from bad news when the entire planet is connected through instant methods of communication– thanks Internet.
I spent years of my life hating how much I feel things that have no direct impact on my life. I longed to just forget the troubles of others and to just “relax” and enjoy the relative ease of my own day to day existence. Guilty thoughts replayed in my mind: “what right do I have to feel so unbelievably broken by events experienced by others?” OR “other people are actually suffering, get it together.”
As time has gone by, I have slowly learned to love my sensitive, weepy self. I have found that the way to stop the tears, the shaking, the gasps for air is action! I cannot save the world, but I can help bring a bit more love, light, and hope into it. I am, like many others, a busy person; I work a full time job, have a young child, and attend college courses in the evenings. Due to this fairly relentless schedule, I have felt the need to commit myself to taking action in a way that feels fun.
I have always loved animals and dreamed of becoming a vet, however life got in the way. I now spend weekends at the local Nature Preserve, doing the “dirty work” of keeping animal habitats clean. While scooping poop and filling water buckets doesn’t always feel like the greatest aid to a planet with so much pain and suffering, it is in fact a step in the right direction. By my doing these time-consuming tasks, the educators and curators of the Preserve are able to spend more of their time caring for the animals and educating the public on the importance of conserving the natural habitats in which they should be living.
While I would love to be able to give my time to countless organizations, groups, and movements, I am only able to spend a few hours at the Nature Preserve at this time. That does not, however, mean that I only give my aid to one place–I use my voice! When I hear about people both close by and across the world in need of support, I take a minute to let myself feel the pain and suffering that will undoubtedly overwhelm my body with waves of tears and feelings of panic. I take that minute, but then I get to yelling! By yelling, I do not (usually) mean that I scream at the world, rather that I share knowledge of what is happening with the people all around me–the ones that are not “too sensitive”, the ones that can shut out the news and the suffering of those that are not “them.” I share the stories of those who are in pain, I support the organizations that do have the time and the resources that I do not. I can do this by giving blood, sending money, sharing a story online, writing to a political figure, joining a march, or boycotting a brand/product. These small actions are just that, small. That does not make them meaningless.
I hope that as I continue to grow as a person, I will continue to grow as an activist. I can always do more–and the more that I do, the less overwhelmed I feel by this scary world.