As a curious learner, I attempt to stay updated on world news. Mostly a good quality, this desire for knowledge leads me to read many books, newspapers, and magazines. Librarians laugh when I enter the room because of my stack of materials well over my head. My family allows me the privilege to read our Sunday paper first so I can announce the headlines excitedly. Whenever I learn an intriguing tidbit of information, I share it at the supper table.
However, like other positive qualities, this curiosity has its downfalls. For me, it mixes strangely with my sensitivity. Although I long to know what is happening in the world, I cannot handle hearing about the sorrow, devastation, and hopelessness so often reported. Like a boulder attached to my heart, this love and care for all people drags me down into a deep depression.
I long to be a bright light who inspires, loves, and rescues as much of humanity as possible. This motivates me to become healthier and stronger. Unfortunately, this goal also exhausts, frustrates, and sometimes drains me of hope. In my my desire to help others, I sometimes hurt myself.
As I read or hear about deaths, disasters, or devious behavior, my heart grows heavier. Although strangers to me, the people involved in the reported tragedy merge with myself. Their feelings are mine and I weep for their pain. Struggles they face haunt me even in my dreams. Laughs of relief and joy peal from my lips when I hear of their triumphs. It is as if I am living part of their life.
This oneness with people I will never meet helps me to grow in compassion for family and friends. Yet, I sometimes wonder if carrying the burdens of the world is worth it. How can I continue to love the entire world but still move forward in my recovery? Is this another unhealthy behavior that I engage in or a way to relate with others despite my Aspergers?
One problem with taking on the woes of others is that I have limited ability to help them. The hard truth is that no matter how much I do for others, I cannot make everyone in this world change. For one thing, even if I threatened, I do not have control over the way people choose to live their lives. Ultimately, others choose their response to situations. Even if I offer suggestion or aid, my power over them is only as strong as they allow it to be.
Painful to admit, a second problem with my care-taking is the effect it has upon me. For example, I learned of disturbing news yesterday. Gray filled my vision as I walked through the sunlit woods. All I wanted was for the sun to stop shining and the world to end. How could people go on living in a world filled with so much misunderstanding, cruelty, and pain? When would I be free from these overwhelming feelings?
Yet, I persevered through those emotions without self-harm. This morning, I feel drained and sad but not as hopeless as yesterday. Just as so many therapists told me, all feelings will pass with time if you allow them to peak and then fall. I am over the worst of my agony.
However, I hold those I agonized over close to my heart. Even if I live for years with excruciating pain, I refuse to stop loving all the people in the world. Hardening myself protects me but also shuts me even further off from others. That being said, I do need to learn how to care for myself in the process as well as keep in mind that I cannot change other people. As I grow in those areas, I will continue to weep for and rejoice with strangers who, for a little while, merge with me.