Since I was a young child, I knew that I was "different" than other kids and that I had sensations and experiences that were not normal for my classmates. Other little girls talked about being a hair stylist, a ballerina, an astronaut, or a doctor. My oldest and dearest dream was to be a magical healer. I remember daydreaming that I was a princess with a lovely singing voice and when I sang for my kingdom, a strong white light descended on the crowd and everyone who was poor, sick, elderly, or frightened felt uplifted and strong and happy.
It wasn't until the age of 27 that I had real explanations for my "abilities." Prior to that point, the only available reasons for my depression and sense of being "different" were insanity (I thought that I was crazy for many years despite being in touch with reality because my sense of things seemed more intense and different than other peoples') or mental illness (depression and anxiety, to be specific). I rarely talk about my empathic experiences and my dreams because I know many people are skeptical of psychic abilities and I'm sensitive about being considered "crazy." I also have trouble talking about them because they have caused me a lot of distress, confusion, and pain.
A few traumatic things occurred in my childhood that are linked to empathic abilities. My parents divorced and my mother subsequently had a 4-year relationship with an abusive man. She told me once that I was her best confidante, despite being in grade school, because I always understood her emotions, no matter how "adult" they were, and because I always "knew" when she was having problems with him, even when she didn't tell me. I strongly suspect that my depression as a child came partly from living with adults who were self-destructive and depressed and picking up on their feelings without knowing I was doing it. I also felt a lot of pressure to "heal" my mother and to act as her adviser, even though her adult problems were too much for me, and had trouble forgiving myself for my failure to "fix" her issues.
At school, I always attracted friends who came from troubled or broken homes and frequently felt drained by them. I didn't understand that empaths naturally give off energy and it can become depleted. Since I could feel other people's pain to the extent that it seemed like my own, I wanted to help and heal everyone and felt frustrated when I couldn't make everything better. Frequently I took on other people's pain and anger and began to have extremely low self-esteem because I attributed all of the negative emotions with myself. I thought something was "wrong" with me that I experienced so much pain and negative emotions.
In college I began to come to terms with my abusive childhood and then other abilities began to surface. I have what are called "telepathic dreams." I dream about things that a person hasn't told me - friends, family members, and mere acquaintances. I have dreamed about people's physical ailments, emotional distress, mental illnesses, and even memories. I don't always know when a dream is "telepathic" but many of my dreams have been verified. (For example, I dream that a person has a heart attack and later find out that the person has a heart condition.) I have also dreamed about very disturbing, dark, and scary things and this ability started to frighten me. There are things I don't want to know about people, but at least it helped me end relationships with individuals who may have been dangerous.
I also began "overhearing" people's thoughts - I will occasionally think of something out of the blue, even things about strangers that make no sense to me, and the thought will turn out to be true later. (Example: I spend time with a very pretty girl and suddenly think, "This girl hates her body" and she later tells me that she had an eating disorder in high school because she "hates her body.") I also sometimes say "the right thing at the right time" to make someone feel better, and it's always because a thought pops into my head and I make a comment without thinking about it.
A pagan friend of mine taught me how to put up a "shield" to protect myself from psychic attacks, but now I have a shield up almost all the time. It's always up in public or in groups so that I don't become overwhelmed by other people's feelings, and I also put it up when people close to me are in pain. I don't even do this consciously - it has become instinct. It's draining and I struggle to open up to even my closest friends and relatives.
I feel unbearably vulnerable and sensitive; I feel like people perceive me as "weak" and "overly emotional." It's hard to make friends because people have very extreme reactions to me - they either love me right away or feel very uncomfortable with me. It's almost like people sense that I know too much about them, that I can see past their defenses, and people who aren't comfortable with themselves don't want me around to expose them. It causes many social problems. I feel rejected and people with low self-esteem tend to feel threatened by me and spread hurtful rumors. I have trouble defending myself from that kind of thing because I can always "feel" their unhappiness and can't bring myself to cause more by standing up to them. I have lost several groups of friends over my inability to stand up to people who bully me or feel threatened by me.
I have learned by now that simply "knowing" things about people and experiencing their pain and is not the same as being able to help people or heal people. Does anyone else have experience with being "open" to their empathic abilities and to other people while still protecting themselves from negative emotions? Does anyone else have tips on how to heal people without draining their own energy? I am afraid that I'm becoming bitter, closed off, and frightened by my own abilities and that I'm not using them to understand, love, and nurture people.