All of my peers received a balloon at school one day. I was walking home, holding on tightly to my string, when I noticed that one of my classmates ahead of me on the sidewalk was crying.

His balloon was quickly ascending into the blue afternoon sky.

I remember feeling so sad for my friend. I hated the fact that he was upset and I wanted to fix it, to make him feel better. I told my mom that I wanted to give him mine.

She probably asked me if I was sure and I must have said yes, I’m positively sure. (This was many moons ago, so the details are no longer at my disposal.)

So, I gave him my balloon and he was happy again.

I’m sure that my mom must have said something like, that was so nice and kind of you, Mer. And yes, it was pretty damn sweet of me to give up my own helium balloon, to a kid who in our older years would join in with the other boys who teased me.

There are times when I truly loathe being an empath.

I absolutely feel other people’s emotions like they are my own, on a daily basis. I absorb them like a sponge, only I’m not so good at wringing myself out.

It’s exhausting.

I’ve tried everything to help myself filter them, to close my pores. But they come off of people, like waves from the ocean crashing up against me. I can usually stay the course, but I often lose my footing and fall into the foamy tide.

“You can’t fix the world.”

“You can’t take on everyone’s problems.”

“Pain and suffering is the human condition.”

I’ve heard these things my entire life, in varying forms. Although my mind can understand the meaning behind the words, my heart isn’t getting the fucking memo.

I can come across as an extremely aloof bitch sometimes, but it’s mostly a bunch of bullshit. It’s my shield, my way of protecting myself from the continuous onslaught of distress and dismay.

And you want to know something? It’s everywhere. There is no hiding from it, even if I don’t leave my house for an entire week. It’s online, it’s on the TV, it comes from my immediate family, my friends and even within the books that I read.

If I didn’t have my sense of humor, I don’t think that I’d be as functional as I am. I get really scared when I lose it for any length of time.

I know that my purpose in this life is to help others in any way that I am able to. I’d be thrilled to give you my balloon if you accidentally let go of your string.

I just need to learn how to replenish my own supply of helium afterwards.