Dr. Judith Orloff answers the question:

What is the nicest thing a non-family member has ever done for you?


When I intuitively let my mind roam to find this answer, I came up with something really interesting. I remember my best friend Irene, when I was 16 and she was 16, and it was right when my sexuality was beginning to blossom and we were coming into what it means to go through puberty. I had my first relationship with my first boyfriend, Andy. I was just swept away by this. And Irene was always there for me in a nonjudgmental way. She was a very free spirit. She was very comfortable with her body, even at 16. She was more extroverted than I was. I’m an empath, and I'm very quiet and I'm a little inhibited, especially back then about anything to do with the body.

She was just more earthbound; she was more inhabiting her body. She had beautiful curly hair and we were best friends. I mean, we did everything together. I'm an empath, so I tend to get one best friend and maybe a small circle of friends but not tons of friends. And so when I was in high school, I was always the outsider. I was always the one standing by the auditorium, and the popular kids were all on the upper patio together looking all gorgeous, and I was feeling all awkward by the auditorium. And she was my friend, and it was a very big thing for me to come into my sexuality and what that felt like, because it felt so different than when I was younger. And I could talk to her about everything and she could talk to me about everything — all the changes, all the hormonal response that makes you so in love that suddenly here's another person and you're so in love.

This boy took me to the senior prom. I actually went to the senior prom. I never would have gone if I wasn't with him because I never went to social things like that. I got dressed up; I still have a picture of myself in this blue satin dress with my hair curled under and a corsage that he gave me. And she was with me all along, not at the prom, but she was... Well, actually, she did go to the prom with us because she had a boyfriend at that time, and I think we drove together. So we experienced that together. 

Being so young, being 16, and having such a good friend be with me and nonjudgmental, loving me. We were counterparts; she was extroverted, I was introverted. She had a tree growing through her living room. I always remember that. She lived in Westwood and she had a tree. I thought that was the most wild thing in the world, a tree growing through her living room. The architectural structure of the house ... I mean, I know some houses have that, but to me it was, "Wow, she's so free and she has a tree growing in her living room." 

And so she was my heart. She was my soul. A year or two later we kind of drifted apart where I went to college, she went to college. And then I got a terrible call that she got killed in a car accident coming down from San Francisco. We were hippies. She was a hippie and they were in a VW, and God knows what they were doing in that VW. And she got killed and she was taken away so young.

And there's a street that... I live in Venice, California, and there's a street I drive down that goes by Wade Avenue. And her last name was Wade. And every time I drive by that street now, I still think of her. Friendships are timeless. Life is timeless. What happened to me when I was 16 feels just as alive to me now as what happened yesterday, because it's just the way I hold things. I hold everything in one big container, it seems like. And so it doesn't seem like 16 was that far away, honestly. And this girl, this woman, was my friend, and friendships are just so holy to me. I've always been a friend person. I've always had girlfriends. I've always had good friends. And my mate is a good friend as well. It's just, I really value that.

And so, now this segment is for Irene Wade and everything she gave to me and all the openings I had as a girl coming into my womanhood with such an amazing spirit who loved me and was able to hear all the details of my young relationship with this guy, I’d never had a boyfriend before, and so going through the first boyfriend experience or the first partner experience, it's so sacred to have... Who goes through that with you? She was my person. She went through that with me and she supported me. And girls need support going through that first love experience. And down the road, he dumped me and left me precipitously for this blonde-haired, blue-eyed cheerleader. And I was more the girl by the auditorium, the outsider. And he left me and it was just this huge, huge wound. I mean, huge. And that's another story, and I talk about it in Second Sight. And it's interesting because this guy Andy, who was my boyfriend, he actually read that book, and he says, "Oh no, you've got it all wrong." And I said, "No, I didn't." 

So Irene. Irene was my friend and that's a very high honor and I appreciate you, Irene, so much at this point in time. I love you. I appreciate you. And thank you for being my friend during that time.

Judith Orloff, MD, is the New York Times bestselling author of Thriving as an Empath: 365 Days of Self-Care for Sensitive People, which offers daily self-care tools for sensitive people. Judith is a psychiatrist, an empath, and is on the UCLA Psychiatric Clinical Faculty. She synthesizes the pearls of traditional medicine with leading-edge knowledge of intuition, energy, and spirituality. Judith also specializes in treating highly sensitive, empathic people in her private practice. Her work has been featured on the Today show and CNN, and in Oprah magazine and The New York Times. She has spoken at Google L.A. and has a popular TEDx talk. Her other books include The Empath's Survival Guide, Emotional Freedom, Guide to Intuitive Healing, The Power of Surrender, and Second Sight.

Click here to visit Judith’s website.

Catalyst is produced by The Shift Network to feature inspiring stories and provide information to help shift consciousness and take practical action. To receive Catalyst twice a month, sign up here.

This article appears in: 2020 Catalyst, Issue 5: Evolved Empath Summit