Helping Others While Helping Yourself

“I’m left with no shoulder/But everybody wants to lean on me/I guess I’m their soldier/But who’s gonna be mine?” – Save The Hero, Beyoncé Knowles

If you’re like me then you might like being alone. I enjoy it, to a certain extent. But, in excess, it can feel terrifying. I’m the kind of person that will shut myself away for days at a time and then wonder why the hell my mood has dropped so badly. Or I’ll ignore people’s messages and phone calls because I’m not able to answer them, and then worry that people are pushing me away. But I do have a core group of people I will always answer to; these people are like me. They suffer from a variety of different mental health problems. But how can I help them when I can barely manage myself?

I’m a people-pleaser. I always will be a people-pleaser and I can’t help that. I can’t stand the idea of someone thinking I’m in some way bad. There’s probably some deep-rooted reason for that but we’ll think about that another time. If someone messages me in need, no matter what I’m doing, I’ll do my best to help. I could be on holiday, having a much-needed self-care day, or just trying to get some sleep (a rarity for me at the moment), but if someone needed me then I’d be on the other end of the phone.

This is both a blessing and a curse. It means that the friendships I do have are incredibly strong and will probably last me a lifetime, but it also means that I find it really hard to set aside time for me. People who know me might think “but hey, you spend most of your time alone or in bed…what are you doing then?” And the answer to that would be: I’m probably worrying/staring at a wall/thinking about all the things I’ve ever said to someone that might have the slightest chance of sounding rude.

My point here is that I need to get better at looking after myself and being a little selfish. I hate the word selfish, it always has such negative connotations. But sometimes you need to be selfish. Or maybe “self-indulgent” is a better term. I’m awful at saying to people “actually, I’m in the bath listening to my relaxing songs playlist…I’ll message you back later” because I get the feeling that if I ever said that to someone, they’d flip and instantly hate me.

My friend had an amazing analogy for the energy levels of someone throughout the day; I’ll do my best to explain it now.

Everyone has a certain amount of spoons to give out per day. Person A might have 40 spoons whereas Person B might only have 5. Person A might use one of their spoons on giving an incredible presentation at work, and Person B could spend one by simply opening their eyes in the morning. When you’re exhausted and all you can do is sit at home watching your favourite show, or reading your favourite book, your spoons are low. Then imagine, when you’ve got one or even no spoons left, someone messages you saying they need your help. What do you say?

For me, the answer will always be “what’s happened?” but sometimes I wish I could say “I’m sorry, I’ve run out of spoons for the day.”

I’ve heard a lot of people saying that you need to help yourself before you’re able to help others (like on an aeroplane when you have to put on your own oxygen mask before assisting someone with theirs), but it can be so hard. When you’re an anxiety-riddled, depression-filled people-pleaser like me, saying “no, I deserve some time to work on me” is incredibly hard.

But remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup. Make sure you’ve got enough water inside you to hand out spoonfuls to other people and still have some left to keep you hydrated.

Until the next post,

RS x

 

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