Afraid of the Dark

Who, at one point in their life, hasn’t been afraid of the dark? I still am depending on where I happen to be when lights go out. I don’t know if that’s the reason I dread winter. The nights drag on and on, and I find myself missing the daylight.

I’ve never been diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder, but for several years now, I’ve noticed a darker mood come over me when the fall begins. It’s a profound melancholy feeling. Like losing something you deeply love. For me it’s sunshine and everything that thrives under it. I understand why the seasons are necessary, but it still makes me sad.

My therapist wanted me to do some digging with regards to my overall dislike of winter (besides the freezing temperatures!). Was I dreading it because I associated it with a bad experience? At first I resisted exploring that area. I avoided it … much like I do the dark.

I don’t remember growing up feeling safe at night. When my parents were together night time represented arguments, and my dad drinking. I’m not saying this happened every night, but these are memories that stand out. When they separated we went to live with my grandma who had young children of her own. So all together there were eight of us kids and a teenage uncle or two who were in and out of the picture.

Nights during this time, were chaotic to say the least. Part of our culture involves scaring kids so they go to bed. And although we would eventually go to bed, we did so full of fear. When the adults were gone for the night it was sure chaos among us. The young adult male(s) left in charge of us would watch inappropriate movies, and sometimes invited friends who smelled of marijuana. One relative in particular, exposed us to pornography. We were being conditioned for his own selfish desires (but that’s another story).

As a child, this was difficult to process. I was reassured it was fine to see such things, but the secrecy it involved disturbed me. People can lie to children, but when they are asked to keep secrets, it does something to their spirit. These type of secrets isolate and bring with them a sense of shame and humiliation. I was always on high alert. As if remaining awake would protect me somehow! So night time didn’t represent rest for me.

Many other memories from this time period come up during the winter months. I haven’t shared the majority of them or how they make me feel with anyone. Just thinking of them makes me feel dirty. They can’t be washed off or covered over, but talking about it is bringing me some relief.

I’ve had different versions of this draft for a couple of weeks now, and the anxiety it’s brought up is sometimes through the roof. It’s a mess of emotions, but I’m getting through it. I look forward to my next appointment with my therapist. She’ll be happy to hear that I’m getting to the bottom of my dread of winter. I don’t think my dislike of freezing weather is ever gonna go away though!

That part of my life is over. I no longer need to keep on the watch as if to prevent something bad from happening to me. I need to let my body rest along with my mind. That’s what night time should represent. Rest. It’s a gift. Night is to us, what winter is to the earth. It’s a time to gather strength, whether it’s for the next day, or the next season.

Love you guys ; )

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Don’t Give Up!

I’ve been wanting to share a song with you guys for some time now (it’s not sad, I promise). I found it at the beginning of summer and I liked it because it conveys a message of not giving up. My struggle through life is not so uncommon after all! This song described it perfectly. I’ve included the lyrics, just in case. Hope you like it.

The Fold Ivan & Alyosha

All the years that you have wasted.
Now you want them all back.
Long ago you stopped counting,
Because you couldn’t keep track.
You were faced with a future,
That was bright as the sun,
But the pressure, it was mounting.
You decided to run, run away.
Which direction does the wind blow,
In the valley there below?
And brother how should I know,
The way that you should go?
There’s a dream on the horizon,
That’s calling out your name.
Better go and find your reason,
Better find your claim to fame.

(Chorus)
Don’t you fold,
When the mountain is high,
When the river is wide.
Don’t you fold,
When you’re out of your mind,
When you’re walking the line

An oasis in the desert
Where the waters run clear,
And the only way to see it,
Is to believe that it’s there.
Well we all must fight our battles,
No matter where you came.
So be done with your excuses,
You’re the only one to blame.

(Chorus)

And all this time,
I was living a lie,
I was lost and petrified.
But I know that things can change in time.
All the years dreams can buy,
Between the heart and the mind

(Chorus)

Love you guys ; )

Keep Your Head Up

“You are worth a lot. Always keep your head up!”

These were words my husband wrote to me not long after my attempt. At the time I didn’t grasp their full meaning. I thought he was wrong for thinking I was worth anything! As for him telling me to keep my head up I had no idea what he meant.

In the “Expressing Grief” post, I wrote about when a person has unexpressed grief it reflects on their body. Being the keen observer that he is, he took note of this in me. My body language screamed “shame”! I would spend most of the time looking at the floor, avoiding eye contact. I don’t remember smiling much either. That was all I could do at the time. It must’ve been hard to live with me!

I don’t think I ever sensed him giving up on me. I felt his frustration (sometimes) because I couldn’t see in me, what was obvious to him. During this time he began to write me poems, words of encouragement, and little love notes. He made sure there was a positive thought in my day because I was full of negative ones. It was clear I was only tearing myself to pieces.

This made me think of when marine mammals beach themselves and people try to help them. Sometimes they’re successful, depending on the size of the mammal, at helping them return to sea. There are times though, when the mammal(s) go right back and do it again. Scientists are dumbfounded by this behavior. Why would a creature do this to itself? It has a wide ocean to roam, food, and apparent health. It doesn’t make sense. In my last post I mentioned that a person in their right mind doesn’t want to die. I’m sure it’s the same with these creatures. We just haven’t come to understand them yet.

My husband was like those concerned people trying to help those stranded mammals, and I wasn’t budging! What else could he do but use his words to hopefully draw me out? They didn’t sink in back then, but they’re starting to now. I’m finally beginning to understand his words! It’s like he’d been watering a seed and waiting for it to sprout. My seed just needed some sunshine. Those much needed rays of light had been blocked by my layers of grief and shame.

When grief started to leave my body I began to lift my gaze off the ground. Now I look ahead. Maintaining your head up definitely sends a message of confidence to your body, and others. This is what my husband and family had been waiting for. The inner confidence that hadn’t existed in me for so long was starting to grow. My husband believed I had nothing to feel ashamed of. What had happened didn’t diminish my worth in his eyes. I therefore had no reason to hang my head in defeat. What I repeatedly failed to grasp was that I needed to deal with the toxic memories in order to start freeing myself from the guilt and shame. Our mistakes, past and present, don’t define who we are but give us a picture of what needs to be addressed and fixed. Making them is human. Learning from them and moving on, is living. Shame on the other hand, doesn’t let us move on and learn. We truly come to believe that we’re a mistake and a bad person. Having this distorted view of oneself is painful. It’s too much for anyone to bare.

I now view myself like the people on the beach with the mammals, wanting to help. Unfortunately, you can’t always physically save someone who’s decided to end their life. But if you think about it, they’ve already ended it, emotionally. How do you draw them out? With your patience and physical presence. They may not always want you around, but they need it. Offer your non judgmental love (remember they’ve already judged themselves enough!) and words: words of encouragement, love, and acceptance. Also, there’s a lot to process after surviving an attempt and routine is comforting because it adds structure where there’s chaos. It won’t take much for the person to feel overwhelmed either, so don’t push. Instead, slow down. Life is hectic enough as it is. We wouldn’t want someone who’s just had major surgery to go up and down a flight of stairs! It’s gonna take time to heal and everyone does it at their own pace, not others.

I’m so glad my husband had the strength to help me get through some of my toughest days. And there were many others who could only offer their presence, in one way or another, for a lack of not knowing what to do with me!!! There is no instruction manual for dealing with people who have attempted suicide. So the survivor and the family go about it confused, not knowing if what’s being done is enough to help. Remember, what got them there was not knowing how to ask for help and voice their pain in the first place. Learning to voice things will be a struggle, but if we control our reactions, it encourages the person to keep sharing.

An experience like this shouldn’t make anyone feel they’re unworthy of love, understanding, compassion, reassurance, forgiveness, and more LOVE. We all deserve to have these things regardless of whether we’re suffering from a mental illness or not.

Remember to keep your head up, you are worth a lot.

Love you guys ; )

 

Losing the Will to Live

Have you ever felt so desperate and hopeless that the thought of death seemed like a welcoming relief or know someone who has entertained this thought? At one time, thoughts of suicide were constantly with me, but what made death seem like a better option than living?

As a little girl I was petrified of death. The finality of it was terrifying. I didn’t understand it. It was enough to keep me awake at night. I thought going to sleep meant I could lose my life! It had been explained to me that when you die you lose consciousness, similar to when you’re asleep and not conscious of your surroundings. That fear never really went away as I grew up, but I began to obsess over it when I entered my teen years.

I don’t know how many times I attempted, in my mind, taking my life. I never had the courage to physically end it. But I imagined all these different scenarios. The most prevalent one was overdosing. Going to sleep and never waking up. A permanent solution to the emotional pain that had built up through the years. I had already judged and discarded myself in my mind. This was desperation at its worse in my life. I thought the solution was to find someone to love me and whom I could love in return, but that was like putting a band aid on a deep gash that needed stitches. It only delayed my sentence, instead of nullifying it.

Five years ago today, I finally acted on my thought of attempting suicide. I had a terrible sense of failure. I felt like I had failed my husband, my kids, my family. My failure was coupled with shame and the feeling that I could never live up to my expectations, or that of others. That night I gave up. I convinced myself that everyone would be better off without me. I wrote a few goodbye letters and told them I was sorry. I took my remaining prescription meds, and went to bed. Looking back I’m surprised how calm I remained, but I didn’t want anyone to interrupt what I had already decided. As I watched my husband sleep peacefully I thought, “he deserves a better wife, one who will make him happy”.

When I awoke a few hours later, I was so disappointed. My body was getting rid of what I had taken and I felt like such a loser. I hadn’t been successful in my attempt. My relief hadn’t come. Now I had to tell my husband what I had tried to do. At first he didn’t believe me. Then I mentioned what I had taken and the letters.

I think my mind was on a natural high because of the fact that I was still alive, and I didn’t think I needed medical attention, but my husband insisted. When the kids left for school that day he took me to the hospital. I thought they would look me over, see that I was okay, and send me home. Instead I was admitted to the psychiatric ward and required to stay there for three days. I still wasn’t grasping the scope of what I had done. It seemed surreal, like a bad dream. What had I put my family through? All I could do was cry.

I could’ve used this experience to begin healing, but I didn’t. I went on living as if in a trance, disconnected and feeling defeated. I couldn’t see the good things, nor the wonderful people that surrounded me. I was self absorbed in pain, and trapped in a downward spiral of shame and guilt. Only a few people learned of what I did that day. I’ve never openly talked about it until today. I decided it should no longer be a source of shame for me. I’m tired of that feeling. So my way of releasing the shame is by talking about it.

Unfortunately, suicide continues to plague people around the world. The stigma about it hasn’t gone away. It’s true that when someone is successful in their attempt, they cause a lot of pain to their family. But an individual doesn’t reach that point without inner turmoil. No one in their right mind wants to die. It’s a cry for help they weren’t able to, or aren’t able to voice.

I’ve mentioned before that I no longer care about appearing weak. But now that I’ve been sharing my weaknesses, I feel stronger. I’ve gained strength by being weak! Now I need physical muscles to show off that strength!

I didn’t share my experience to make anyone feel sad or sorry for me. I did it because I know there are people out there who are where I was five years ago, and feel desperate. I don’t know if I would’ve listened to someone tell me back then that things would get better, but that’s the message I want to convey here. No matter how bad the storm gets, it will end. The sun will shine again. Never doubt you have the strength to get through it.

We weaklings are stronger than we think!

Love you guys ; )

Afraid to Know Myself

“Who am I?” I have been asking myself this question since I can remember. That’s how I imagine a person who has amnesia going about life in an effort to figure out their identity. But when did I lose mine? Did I ever have one?

In “A Good Actress”, I wrote about me ‘putting on a performance’ for people so they wouldn’t see the real me. I did this for so many years that it was even hard for me to know who I truly was! I’m not talking about split personalities here. It’s just the fact that I never took the time to get to know me, because I was too busy wanting to be someone else.

When is it that we refuse to get acquainted with someone? Is it when we learn of their status in society? Maybe we’ve heard they have a bad reputation. Or their appearance may not be to our liking. What factors are involved when we make an effort to get to know someone? It may be an overall attractive appearance, or having heard good things about such a person. So when it comes to ourself, why do many of us (I’m aware I’m not alone) walk around confused about our true identity? I personally didn’t want to know myself. I hated my entire being! Don’t we avoid people we hate? I do! Self hate kept me hidden away all these years, but why?

Showing others my true identity meant that I was comfortable with who I was, and I wasn’t. This involved a lot of denial on my part. I lied to myself because I didn’t want to face things. It had been a good coping mechanism when I was a child, but in my adulthood it was the source of my loneliness. I didn’t understand how withholding my true self from others kept me from forming meaningful relationships. How would I describe it now? Imagine yourself going over to hug someone, but first, they made sure to place a pillow between the two of you! How good would that feel? That would drive me crazy! Yet that’s what I was doing.

In order to begin the process of knowing me, I had to deal with the self hatred. That hate came with plenty of hurt feelings. It was all a heavy load I could no longer carry. It was time to let it all go. I needed help with this. I had tried doing it by myself before, but it became overwhelming and I gave up. Having someone who will be neutral and non judgmental is essential for this step. You need to feel safe in order to open up. And if the nature of all that self hatred is sensitive, a professional will be better equipped to help you through it. I went through two different therapists, a psychologist and a psychiatrist before I found my current therapist. The fact that they are professionals doesn’t mean that just any one will be a good match for you. Don’t give up!

I’ve always had an identity, I just wasn’t aware of it. Now when I look in the mirror, I no longer see confusion in my eyes. I probably still look ‘spaced out’ from time to time, but that’s because I may be processing something profound (for ex. the weather)! It seems like every new thought nowadays is like discovering something wonderful. I don’t dread getting to know me anymore. I look forward to it. I have a lot of catching up to do. This gal is not so bad after all, she’s pretty cool!

So how well do you know you?

Love you guys ; )

I was Simply Existing

“When will the pain end?” “Am I alive only to suffer?”

Reading these two questions still makes my heart ache. I would often ask myself these and other questions when I felt utter despair. It felt like life had been a successive series of painful events. Sometimes one after another. My head was still spinning from the last blow when I got the next! I just couldn’t understand.

One thing I failed to notice was that I have never been alone while going through life’s struggles. I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by people who care, and yet, loneliness consumed me. The responsible girl in me, who took care of others, couldn’t allow anyone to help. Doing so would mean I was weak, and I wasn’t going to allow them to see that side of me. Putting up a strong front takes a lot of energy. And like all things it took its toll.

At my worse I would simply get out of bed to go to the couch. Sleeping every moment I was alone was my escape. Not being conscious was one way to not feel anything. I didn’t care to make myself something to eat during the day either. Sugary food was my comfort and I indulged in it. This of course didn’t help my energy level or overall health, but I didn’t want to bother with taking care of myself. That would require effort on my part and I felt I wasn’t worth it. I didn’t bother for myself, but I did for my family. On the days my husband found me in the kitchen he knew I was feeling okay enough. When I wasn’t, he knew it was bad.

This illness has been especially hard on my kids. My oldest has never liked seeing me sleep during the day or past a certain time in the morning. Before I was aware that I struggled with depression, I remember promising him that I was gonna try harder not to fall asleep when I shouldn’t. I wasn’t able to fulfill that promise and I felt terrible. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t fight it. If I was confused, I can just imagine how my kids they felt. After a few years of many doctor visits and tests, I was finally diagnosed with depression. I felt relief at finally putting a name to what I was suffering from, but also despair, because I was led to believe that without medication I would never come out of it.

I acquiesced and took medications for a few years, and I waited. I waited for them to take effect. I waited for them to make me feel better. The doses went higher and prescriptions were changed. More drugs were added. All the while I became more restless. I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t coming out of it like they had promised. After all, these medications were finally taking care of the chemical imbalance in my brain. I felt like a failure. They weren’t working because there was something wrong with me. What else could explain their ineffectiveness?

I’ve mentioned before that my depression doesn’t stem from a chemical imbalance. That was the reason why these meds weren’t working for me. The source of my depression was trauma, and pills weren’t gonna resolve it. It took 9 years for me to realize that! During the majority of that time I felt like an empty shell of a human. My body was present, but my mind wasn’t. I wasn’t living, I was simply existing and going through lifes’ motions.

I’m learning to use the pain that kept me down, to help me get up. You can’t heal without feeling pain. Picture it like a fleshly wound. You know it will eventually close, but it forms scar tissue in the process. What I didn’t know was that I had kept my emotional wounds from healing, and they had festered; that was the pain that kept me sick with depression.

I’m finally letting others be a part of my healing process. I don’t care about appearing weak anymore. That’s what makes us human! And, now I’m aware that some people were just waiting for me to stretch out my hand. I’m holding on to their hand with all my strength just like they are mine. You guys have no idea how grateful I am for that!

It’s time to start living!

Love you guys ; )

Learning to be a Gracious Recipient

“You did a great job”.

“You look beautiful”.

“Thank you for helping out”.

How does reading these compliments make you feel? Do you feel proud, uncomfortable, or shy when you get recognition? It probably depends on who it’s coming from and if we can read the motives behind the words. I’ve learned to view compliments differently now than how I did before.

I don’t know when it was that I became self conscious, but I remember it was before I became a teenager. Members of my family would at times tell me or my mom that I was pretty. Yeah, talk about an ego booster there! When it came from male members though, I quickly learned that sometimes there was an ulterior motive to their compliment, and it wasn’t good. I then became leery of hearing any male tell me good things about my appearance. I viewed them with suspicion. By then my self esteem was non existent. My perfectionism had heightened, and I was extremely self critical. So when teachers and other well meaning adults would give me a genuine compliment, I didn’t believe it. This came to include my husband and close friends.

This past summer my husband sent me a text in which he asked me if I had any idea of how much I meant to him. I was having negative thoughts that day and I replied by telling him that I could spend a lifetime asking myself that question, and never understand why he loved and cared so much for me. Although I meant what I said, I felt so bad for having turned his compliment into a discussion over how terrible I felt. I thought, “if he had spent time and money to buy a gift for me, would I have treated it the same?” Why was I treating his compliment as anything less than a gift?

Seeing it that way has helped me to appreciate words of encouragement, love, and approval. Compliments are gifts that are within the power of all of us to give to our loved ones; regardless of our financial status. If someone has taken the time to observe something positive in us and shared it, it’s a gift. Accept it, don’t throw it back at them. If we have a negative self image, this may be easier said than done, I know! But if you choose to see their compliments as gifts (I literally have to bring up the picture of a present in my mind), it will become easier to accept them. Soon they will look like gems, and these aren’t things you throw away or refuse!

This process does involve learning to distinguish a genuine compliment from one where the persons’ motive is selfish. Their actions will speak louder than words, literally. But you will find that those who love you won’t use their words simply to flatter you, but to build you up, and help you become a better person. That’s what we should want isn’t it? To help one another improve our lives.

Well, this is my gift to you:

“You are doing awesome!”

“I’m so proud of you.”

Love you guys ; )

Expressing Grief

I’ve been wanting to write about grief and crying for awhile now. Since I wrote about emotions last week I figured it was time to talk more about this feeling. Yes, part of dealing with depression is talking about these uncomfortable feelings. : /

One of the therapists I first saw shared an observation I’d never noticed in myself. My body was visibly showing my unexpressed grief. My shoulders were leaning in towards my chest. She said it was my body’s attempt to physically protect my heart. You may have seen an exaggeration of this in cartoon drawings of characters who are sad. They’re practically leaning forward, with their arms hanging in front of them, and their head down. I’ve seen people do this, my youngest son included (this is in response to not getting what he wants!). Unfortunately with some it’s become a permanent way of carrying themselves, they don’t straighten up anymore.

This was eye opening for me. I’d never linked the action of bringing in the shoulders with grief or sadness. I associated it with insecurity. Okay, so why am I mentioning this? It has to do with how our body starts to physically change when there’s a prolonged emotion we don’t address nor express. It’s like we become that feeling and we see life through that emotion. In the case of grief, everything looks gloomy. I, for example, gravitated toward sad songs. Anything with a sad theme, actually. I was doing with my grief what I had done with my anger. I was suppressing and channeling it the wrong way. Sometimes I just wanted to cry and cry, but didn’t know the reason behind it. When there wasn’t a valid reason to cry I resisted the tears, and when there was, I felt too ashamed to give myself permission.

Crying is our first non verbal way of telling others we’re uncomfortable and need attention. As we grow and learn to speak, this way of communicating is used less often. In some cultures crying is viewed as a sign of weakness and is discouraged. If you grew up around adults who were emotionally unavailable because of their own issues, crying was enough to incite their anger and frustration. We quickly learned to suppress this way of venting our sadness, especially so if we are people pleasers. What we fail to recognize is what this does to our bodies.

I did research on this because I was curious about why we feel better after crying. I found that emotional crying is the body’s way of restoring balance. Although it’s not fully understood, the theory is that hormones in our body “stimulate” crying, thus releasing a buildup of substances that can be harmful to us. These tears have a higher protein content than those produced to keep our eyes moist.

What I wanna get across here is that crying is part of the grieving process. We may be grieving over the loss of a loved one; through death, separation, divorce, breakup. Maybe our life hasn’t gone in the direction we wanted it to. For some of us it’s dealing with painful trauma. Whatever it is, you need to allow yourself to vent that emotion. Grieve over what was lost (that’s us channeling it appropriately), without feeling shame or a sense of weakness. Think of it like a river that gets dammed up*. After a strong rainfall the accumulated water becomes so overwhelming that it breaks the dam. Our emotions can be likened to rivers. Sometimes they swell, but then they go down. Our “putting a dam”, so to speak, to repress them may seem like a good idea, but in the long run does more harm than good.

*A river fulfills its purpose when it’s allowed to flow. Grief fulfills its purpose when we let it run its course, and that is to help us move forward.(12/7/14)

Things will, and do get better.

Love you guys ; )

Letting Myself Feel

Ahhh emotions! Where do I begin with emotions? I’ve touched on how I’ve avoided them, repressed them, denied them and lost touch with them. At one point I totally disconnected myself from my feelings so that I could cope with living another day.

I honestly believed they were my enemy. These crazy out of control emotions were the reason I was so miserable! Then came the day I realized I could no longer ignore them. Not if I wanted to regain my sanity! But saying you’re gonna face them and actually doing it, is like saying you’re gonna run a marathon, then actually putting forth that effort. It’s involving a lot of work and pain.

To say that my emotions were my enemy, was me not taking responsibility for them. Everybody has them, but not everyone is controlled by them. As we grow into adulthood, we learn how to manage and deal with them. If we don’t learn this we become emotionally unstable adults. We can’t deal with life’s challenges successfully and our way of coping is to take up an addiction, or we simply disconnect and sink ourselves in depression. Neither one is good, they’re both destructive.

What makes feelings so scary to us? Maybe because they can be disguised, and to a certain extent faked. Or is it because we can’t touch them? One thing is certain though, when they’re ignored they don’t go away. Think of it like a sink of dirty dishes, the longer you let them sit, the filthier they get! My pile of dishes had waited long enough.

For example, I’ve carried a lot of anger with me through the years. It was justifiable to a certain extent. I was angry with the people who had harmed me when I was defenseless. I never used that anger to face them and call them out, exposing their shamelessness. Instead I took it out on my loved ones who had nothing to do with that part of my life. I also took it out on myself. In facing that part of my life and “allowing” myself to be upset at the ones responsible, I’ve released a lot of anger. It’s no longer festering within me creating rage. Anger is beneficial when it moves us to action, to right the wrong, but rage is destructive. Nothing good comes out of it.

We don’t have to let anger become rage, sadness become depression, happiness become mania, fear become anxiety. If we become angry at a person or situation, voice it and do what you can to make things right. If we’re sad; grieve, cry your eyes out and let others comfort you. When we’re happy, share it with others including those who aren’t so fortunate. This can help us stay balanced. When we’re fearful, we should ask ourselves “what do I need to do to feel safe?”. If it’s fear that stems from thoughts, what is the likelihood of them becoming a reality? Take a deep breath and release them, they serve no useful purpose in your mind. Or better yet write them down. Share them with someone you trust, or read them over when you have calmed down and relaxed. They won’t have the same power over you as when you felt fearful, and it’s easier to get to the root of what brought up that feeling.

Emotions aren’t our enemy. We don’t need to fear them, but we shouldn’t ignore them either. When we let them flow and deal with them accordingly, they make life enjoyable. When we bottle them up they stagnate and we become emotionally sick.

Its ok to feel your feelings!

Love you guys ; )

Keeping it Together

A few weeks ago a good friend asked me, “how do you keep it all together?” I was taken aback by this question. I never thought that I gave that impression to others! I always felt that if they looked close enough, they could see my mental chaos. What I’ve recently accepted, is that I’m never gonna be in total control of anything or anyone, except myself. Why have I come to this conclusion?

Being the oldest in a family of four siblings, I often ended up looking after them. That feeling of responsibility never really went away, but instead grew to include anyone I came to care about. I became obsessed with their well being, and their problems became my problems. I thought that by doing this I was actually being helpful to them. “Who doesn’t want to feel cared for”, I thought?

The sad thing, is that I couldn’t see what it was doing to me! I was a mess. I was anxious all the time (now it’s down to half). I often felt like I was riding an emotional roller coaster. My loved ones’ emotions influenced mine. I was already carrying a heavy emotional load of my own, but I felt like I also had to carry theirs. No, they weren’t asking me to do this. I took it upon myself. I thought it was my duty! Isn’t that what a good wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend would do?! Yes, on the surface I appeared to be in control of things, holding it all together, but I was falling apart.

It took the pain of falling apart to see that that behavior was doing more harm than good. I wasn’t taking care of “me”. Why would my loved ones believe that I cared for them if I was neglecting myself? Whose problems did I want to help fix, if I couldn’t even solve my own? How could I help my children grow up to be stable, both emotionally and mentally, if I myself wasn’t?

I got a mental picture of a car. If we have one, we’re well aware they need maintenance, fuel and cleaning. If I was the one who made sure to fill up my son’s gas tank, took his car to get oil changes, and cleaned it out when it got dirty, wouldn’t he soon become irresponsible for doing these things himself? For how long would he be grateful that I’m taking care of “his” car? When things are often done for us we easily take it for granted. So would it make sense for us to do this to everyone else’s car but our own, to the point that it brakes down?

So the sum of all of this is: being a good friend, wife, husband, mother, father, etc., doesn’t mean you need to solve their problems or worry about them to the point of anxiety. Doing these things won’t control their behavior (ok it will, but it won’t be good), and we will burn out under the stress. When we stop, they may at first be confused, but then they start stepping up to “their” responsibility (or they may find another person who is willing to worry about them).

To my friend: No, I don’t have it all together, and that is okay. Who of all of us on this earth does? We don’t expect you to either. That’s too much pressure for anyone. Take time to take care of you, so that you will have the energy to help those you love.
Help, not control.

Love you guys ; )