For the purposes of my book, an Empath is someone who experiences another person’s emotions as if they were their own, meaning they can actually feel the feelings of others. However, unless they are aware that they’re Empathic or have the training required to make the distinction between feelings which are legitimately theirs from Empathic events, they’d have no way of knowing that they’re experiencing emotions from an outside source.
The Inspiration for Finding Emmaus:
I knew I wanted to write a book about Empaths and actually Finding Emmaus started out as a love story with an Empathic element. But I wasn’t crazy about it. It kept feeling strained and forced. I’d written about two or three chapters and I just didn’t like the ‘feel’ of it. It didn’t flow; it just didn’t have the power to move me.
And then, one morning, it occurred to me that perhaps I should try coming at it from a completely different angle … just pick anything. The first thing that popped into my head was ‘name the town where the story will take place.’
At that moment I just happened to be standing in front of a fabulous work of art I own called The Basketweaver, drawn by a wonderfully talented artist from Tennessee named Marita Parisi, a pencil drawing of an incredibly old man named Frank who truly did exist. He used to sit inside the shelter of a covered bridge and weave baskets. So I thought: Weaver’s Bridge, and suddenly the town had a name.
That thought was followed closely by: yes, the town is Weaver’s Bridge and this is Frank and he’s an Empath. In fact, he’s the Father of Empathy. He ‘wrote the book’ on it. But the book has long since disappeared and has fallen into legend.
And then I thought, if the book faded into legend, this had to have happened a very long time ago. And since modern America’s history is only about 390 years old, the decision as to when the story took place was made for me. It couldn’t have happened any earlier than the 1600’s because that’s when Connecticut colony was settled.
Then I thought: no-one wanted to listen to him. He wrote the book — dedicated his life to it, in fact — but everyone considered him to be a madman. Why? Because HE was an Empath and therefore would have been considered a lunatic, particularly in Puritan times.
So Frank (now dubbed Francis, as he would have been called back then) dedicated his life to the creation of a guide, a central source of information, an authoritative voice, an anthology of his experiences as well as the experiences of as many other Empaths as he could find and persuade to contribute, a manuscript containing not only practical lessons of what it meant to be an Empath and how to survive in this life, but a set of principals to live by and pass on so that none would ever be harmed again. This guide would eventually come to be known as The Lodestarre.
Unfortunately, Frank couldn’t find anyone to publish it or any other way to disseminate the information (because of Puritan beliefs) so eventually The Lodestarre was hidden away in the hopes that some time in the distant future, when hopefully the world might have evolved and people might have become more tolerant, that someone would find The Lodestarre and carry on with Frank’s dream. Then, 300 years later, Katherine, the 21st century Empath, does just that: she finds it and picks up where Frank left off.
I had all of that – I swear to God – in my head in less than 15 minutes.
As I said, I knew I wanted to write about book about Empaths and I also knew I wanted to draw a comparison between the outward manifestations of the Empathic personality and the “symptoms”, if you will, of Bipolar Disorder. And in order to do that accurately, of course, I had to do some research.
In the story, Katherine finds out at 54 that she’s been misdiagnosed and inappropriately medicated all her adult life. Now in her case, she’s an Empath so of course she could not be ‘cured’. Katherine was actually the initial reason for MY research: I did it just so I could speak intelligently about Bipolar Disorder and not for any other reason. But what I found in the course of my research sickened me. Frankly, it scared the hell out of me. Eventually, as I delved deeper, learned more and became more appalled at what I learned, it had a tremendous influence on what happened to Katherine as the story progressed.
Traditional psychiatric philosophy has it that Bipolar Disorder is an illness which is treatable only by the administration of extremely toxic drugs, the side effects of which are pretty universal — and most of them hideous. A good number of them, in fact, can become permanent and in about 10,000 cases each year, the effects are fatal. Those who ingest these drugs — and I am speaking here specifically of people under the care of licensed physicians who legally prescribe them, can become psychotic, lose their eyesight, develop body tremors, become insomniacs, lose the ability to swallow, or if they can swallow they lose their appetite anyway because of severe nausea and vomiting, develop a condition known as Akathisia, develop hallucinations and actually lose ability to think clearly and reason.
Then I found out that the failure rate of these drugs is 70% — meaning that 70% of the time, these drugs do not have their intended effect.
Think about that: If a cough medicine failed at that rate, or if 70% of the time when you popped open a can of Coca Cola you didn’t like the taste, just how long do you think those products would remain on the store’s shelves?
And yet, these drugs not only remain on the market, but in an economic environment when everyone else is suffering layoffs and cutbacks and closings and downsizing, the manufacture of psychotherapeutic medications has skyrocketed in four short years from a $12 billion industry to a $70 billion industry — with a product that fails 70% of the time.
You go figure it.
After reading congressional testimony and reports written by the CDC (US Center for Disease Control) and patient diaries and blogs from the loved ones who also suffer right along with the patients … I do not exaggerate one bit when I tell you that some of the stuff I read not only froze my blood, but broke my heart and had me sitting in my office, unable to read what was on my computer screen because I was crying too hard.
It was — and still remains — impossible for me to talk about or write about objectively or dispassionately, but because it’s all true and I wanted to remain true to my characters, and because Katherine really would have found all of this had she been a real person and been the one to do the research, I wrote it into the story.
Now, not only does the story move me, but there are parts of the book that, even now, even after countless reads and edits and re-reads, still have the power to break my heart and bring me to tears.
~~Pamela S. K. Glasner~~
Finding Emmaus is available at several locations. See the “Buy the Book” page on the website.