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Your Needs Before My Own

Mental Health and Trauma Blog | Noisy

In an emergency, when the oxygen masks on a plane drop down, if you don't put your own on first, you're no good to help others.

Jango said this to me, and it resonated. Yesterday (5th November) I had a mini breakdown. I've got a lot going on in life right now, many day-to-day stresses alongside big changes, and making future dreams a reality finally took its toll. Being someone who has experienced a lot of past traumas, who's fought demons daily, and has been in some very dark, lonely places, I know what it's like to have to fight to survive. In the past I was fighting these losing battles alone, I would reach out for help and my hand would be smacked away. I learned to live with these demons, to quietly battle while putting on a smile and telling everyone "I'm fine" when I was far from it. I know what it's like to feel as if you're the only person in the world experiencing that pain and suffering, and as a result feeling isolated. I know how it feels to put on a smile so convincing the world thinks you're fine, to be at your lowest but still wear a convincing mask that hides your pain. As a result of these experiences, I help people. Not just with this blog, but in everyday life. I go out of my way and abandon my own basic needs to make sure others are happy and have everything they need. It's not a bad character trait, nor a surprising one considering the life I've lived. But if not kept in check, it can quickly get out of control. Helping others is great, selfless acts are something I enjoy and seeing other people happy is infectious. But when it gets to the point where my needs aren't being met, and I'm unhappy as a result, that's when it needs to be reined in. It's such a gradual progression that I won't even notice it happening, I'll run around doing everything I possibly can to help others, and since it makes me happy, people assume I'm doing well. But burnout begins to flicker, the tiredness kicks in, listening to people's problems starts to negatively influence my mental health as I take their burdens on as my own, and my mental health starts to decline. But even then I feel this need to help others, so I keep going. I'll listen to those who want to talk, I'll give advice to those seeking it, and I'll run errands to make people's lives easier. Meanwhile I'm starting to become exhausted, both physically and mentally. But in the back of my mind all I can think is how difficult it was to be in the situations these people are without any help, so I convince myself their needs are greater than mine. Until I have a particularly stressful day, something bad happens, a plan falls through, it can be anything, and I finally snap. All my own needs, the daily stresses I have, the problems I'm trying to overcome suddenly come to light and I'm now faced with a mountain to climb, while helping everyone else climb their own safely.

When it gets to that point it's an impossible task, I'm so behind in my own life that to catch up I must take a step back from everyone else, even if they really need my help. It hurts to do it, but if I don't I'll break completely. That's what I've had to do now, I'm still here for people but only in a limited capacity. I'm putting myself first and getting back on track so that I can continue to help others. I'm putting on my oxygen mask first so I can help those who need me most. Luckily, many are understanding when this happens. They encourage self-care and tell me to take a moment to breathe, to get my ducks (or geese) in a row and come back stronger than ever. But there is the odd few who see it as selfish. They believe their own needs are much greater than mine. If looking after my physical and mental health is selfish, then that's a label I'll proudly wear. Those few, even after being told that I need some time to myself to recover, still throw their problems at me expecting me to help them. And when they're told, I'm sorry but right now I'm not in a place to help you, they take offence. That is selfish. When you repeatedly go to someone for help, never helping them in return, and then take offence to them explaining why they can't help you, that is selfish. Setting boundaries with people is healthy, and something I encourage. You can say look I can help you, if I'm in a place to do so, and If I'm not, then you'll either need to figure it out yourself or find someone else to help because I'm not in a good place right now. I feel no guilt towards those people. The ones who don't care about my own problems, the ones who think their problems are of more importance than mine, even though I'm physically or mentally unwell. I don't have time for those people, I don't want to be surrounded by them, and I don't want them in my life. Any relationship, on any level, is a two-way street. You can't just take from them; you need to help them too. Whether it's helping with their problems, simply giving them time, or making sure they're looking after themselves. You can't expect people to drop everything, abandon their own basic needs, and suffer as a result just to help you when they're not able to do so. If you find yourself doing that, take a step back and really think if you're asking too much of someone. Stop and think about what you've done to help them in all the time they've put you first. And if you're like me and always put others before you, just take a break from time to time. Check in with yourself, make sure you're both physically and mentally well. If you're tired, rest. If you're hungry, please eat something. If you find yourself taking on other people's problems as your own then take a step back and allow yourself to recover. Put on your own oxygen mask first before you help others. This is the fight of your life. - Noisy If you found this post helpful and would like to support me, and this blog, you can do so below. Thank you!


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