Leah Campbell and daughter

Throughout my life, I’ve had several people describe me as an empath. It’s one of those titles I’ve always shied completely away from, mostly because it just sounds so mystical and hippy-dippy — two things I’ve never seen myself as being. I’m a logical person. I like facts and stats. To me, the title is not logical. It’s completely feelings-based, and that makes me uncomfortable.

But I can’t deny that I’ve always been able to tap into things about other people that most would never be able to identify. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, when someone is lying to me. I can usually tell when things are coming — both good and bad, before they even happen. And I’ve always been really good at picking up on people’s moods, knowing exactly what they need to feel better when they’re down.

I also tend to be the person people confide in, whether they initially mean to or not. I have a knack for learning people’s secrets, often unintentionally. And if you want to get really hippy-dippy, there have been multiple points in my life when I’ve just known I was going to hear from someone I hadn’t seen or heard from in years. Suddenly, they would be on my mind out of nowhere. Then sure enough, the phone would ring.

Most of that probably sounds fairly positive. Or at the very least, benign. But there is also a negative side to all this. I am a sponge for people’s emotions — soaking up the good and the bad. I can swing on a pendulum of highs and lows, dictated mostly by what is going on around me. And when major tragedies strike, like the recent shooting in Las Vegas, I tend to get physically ill. My whole body will start to ache from soaking in the sadness, and it takes me weeks to recover.

I’m also extremely introverted. I have a small group of friends that I’m incredibly close to, but new people and crowds overwhelm me. I feel too much. It’s hard to be in those settings, soaking up everything strangers around me are putting off.

And while it’s nice to be able to read people with a scary degree of accuracy, it can also be pretty uncomfortable. Like when a friend is dating someone new, for instance, and I immediately realize that he or she is not a good person. When I’ve got nothing but my own intuition to back that feeling up, it’s not something most people want to hear. The only thing I know for sure is that my gut instincts about people are never wrong.

The worst thing, perhaps, is that I am drawn to broken people. Far too many times in my life, I’ve fallen down a path of ignoring my own needs in a quest to fix someone else. I think I’ve only recently realized that it’s in part because I don’t want to feel their personal pain anymore.

I’ve also realized that my best friends always tend to be people who run on a very even keel. I value these people more than they will ever realize. I need them, and time spent with them stabilizes me.

I don’t know if there is something mystical to any of this. The logical, scientific part of me will always want to shy away from that interpretation. But I do know that I am more tuned into people than just about anyone I’ve ever met.

I also know that in motherhood, this quality become even more amplified.

Before I adopted my little girl, I had a lot of fears about how bonding with a child I didn’t carry would work. But from the moment my daughter was placed in my arms, we were connected at a level that even my friends who have birthed their babies often marvel at. I have one friend who says my daughter and I are soul mates; I can’t say I disagree.

So it’s actually been in motherhood that I’ve finally found myself accepting and embracing this title that so many people have tried to place on me over the years. And as I’ve done that, I’ve not only found better ways to tap into it, but better protect myself.

Because at only 4 years old, I’ve come to realize my daughter is also an empath. Like me, she is a sponge for the emotions of people around her. This means I’ve had to do a better job guarding my own emotions and establishing better boundaries with the people in our life who are sometimes drawn to chaos.

There are things I do to protect her that I never really thought to do for myself. But it’s because I know this little girl, inside and out. I know when she’s had a bad day, often before I even pick her up. I know when something is wrong that a doctor might not yet be able to see. And I’ve known how to help her through challenges that others suggest will simply “toughen her up,” like when she was going through severe separation anxiety, or when she developed a strong fear of the water. I ignored the advice of those around me when we dealt with those situations, and I’m proud to say that today, my daughter loves the water and has no problem leaving my side to run off and play.

They say that mother’s intuition is a powerful thing. But add in an empath’s intuition, and it’s pretty much unstoppable.

My only regrets have come when I’ve ignored my intuition and caved to whatever others around me were trying to push. So I’ve had to learn how to do that less. I’ve also had to learn how to trust myself and my gut — especially when it comes to motherhood.

And in doing so, I’ve come to a place in my life where I’m willing to proudly admit that yes, I’m an empath … and I actually think I’m a better mother for it.

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