I believe that energy vampires are real and unhappiness is contagious. Why do some people drain your energy and others refill your reserves? While most of life is a balancing act, it is important to make sure you are surrounded by enough people, activities and thoughts that refill your tank or you will find yourself walking around on empty. And, when on empty, you are even more susceptible to a debilitating bite.
I’ve often wondered if energy vampires enjoy sucking the life out of you or if it is simply and passively what they do, completely unaware, to survive. The overly critical, the Debbie downers, the complainers with no desire to change, and the self-destructive victims all zap your energy with every conversation. There are also those that walk around with roller coaster emotions or a constantly negative aura, and those that have exhaustive, unchanging narratives or love the drama they swear they don’t seek. And, my personal favorite are the individuals stuck in their own abyss. Their unhappiness exudes from their pores like the blob moving toward you at a slow, yet menacing pace.
As a family physician, a shield is necessary. Your energy is required in every room, with every interaction. I understood this and would do my best to present with a steady energy stream to get through my day. I’d scan my schedule every morning and look for the names that I knew would deplete my reserves. If I had more than two, I’d plan to take a long lunch or listen to an upbeat song before going in to see that patient. But, not every day could allow for a walk, a song, or a few extra minutes over lunch so, by day’s end, I’d leave wiped out and depleted. I’d fall into bed without talking and hope that the magic of sleep would reverse the damage. And, it did, until it didn’t.
Some psychologists suggest maintaining an energy shield to wield throughout your day in order to deflect negative attacks back out into the world. I never visualized an actual shield, although a lot of therapists suggest doing so, but along the way, over the course of several years, my shield was badly damaged. So much so, that I could not seem to stop the negative energy from seeping into my daily interactions and at one point it even felt like the universe had jumped into the attack.
Exhaustion, repetitive unhealthy thoughts, and self-criticism crept into my head. And, I let them live there as unwanted and uninvited guests for far too long. I am sure I was at risk of becoming an energy vampire. But, my friends lovingly absorbed and, at one critical juncture, formed their own shield around me. Within the course of one week, I profoundly understood that what feels significant for years can be rendered insignificant in a moment. So, I changed my narrative. I forgave. I exited a toxic work environment. I prioritized. I read, I travel, I exercise, I engage and now, after a long while, I feel my shield rising again.