I consider myself active in the mental health community. What I mean by that is I continually research not just medical developments but also radical self-care. I apply what I learn to the interactions I have with my peers and tend to have a vastly less-stigmatized perspective of mental health than most (at least in my experience). However, my motto has always been: I am here for you, but I am here for myself first.
Lately I have been struggling with the burden of others’ mental health. I appreciate the differences of the people I surround myself with, but along with these different backgrounds and life-experiences come different behaviors. They are learned, they are historical, they are accustomed. They are no one’s “fault”. Yet, even with my understanding of this, I find difficulty leveling with the need to constantly be rescued that I am witnessing among some mental health circles.
My sensible mind knows self-pity does no good. There is no production in it. I am also aware that self-pity can be uncontrollable for some with mental health illness. Keeping those things in mind, there is still one truth: Only you are responsible for you.
I’m not saying you should put the blame on yourself, but you have to be responsible for how you respond. You may not be able to stop the processes that lead you to think ” Why does everything awful happen to me?” but generally you do control what happens in the aftermath of that thought. You certainly do not choose to wake up one morning energized, happy and hopeful and the next day full of dread and a sense of impending doom. You will probably need help getting up from low places, but no one is going to build the ladder for you.
I am not responsible for putting your pieces back together. I cannot be. I have me to take care of. No matter how badly I want to cure the world of disease and loneliness, I have to first be here for myself. And so should you. Do not let anyone else tell you it is selfish to love you first. It would be irresponsible to give and give and give without taking a self-inventory. We would end up watching our friends climb higher and higher, only then realizing we’ve left ourselves without the materials needed to join them.
In order for accountability to become an automatic response to our mental health, we have to appreciate ourselves as we are. We’ve heard the mantra “You are enough” and it is very true. I certainly encourage you to strive for improvement, but you are not required to explain who you are to anyone. Appreciate that you do not need to be more than you are and when you are comfortable saying “no” for the sake of your own mental health, that’s when we learn to say “yes” to ourselves.
You do not need to be rescued.