The best policy

I’ve kept far too much to myself over the last year or so. I’ve had no other choice with some issues – for example, whatever difficulties I was going through in my last relationship I could never have discussed them on my blog because both the man himself and some of our mutual friends read it, and it wouldn’t have been fair. But this seems to have led to a similar problem to one I encountered while living in halls of residence, when I was too scared to tell anyone about my history of mental health problems. Since my eating disorder and other illnesses were the whole reason I was a mature student and had spent the previous several years flailing about trying and failing to complete a degree, it was quite difficult to make small talk with students I didn’t know – their first question was always something to do with previous study, work or reasons for time out. I didn’t want to start friendships with a discussion of my entire life history, but it also proved impossible to make friends by avoiding the subject of mental health entirely and just talking about the weather. It is hopeless trying to make meaningful connections with other people when you are hiding an aspect of your life which affects every other so deeply.

For quite a while now I’ve felt that way about my blog. I haven’t been able to talk about what’s been going on, even though I could have done with the support, out of respect for the other people involved. This has made me feel like there’s no point in blogging at all, when I’m writing vaguely, euphemistically, metaphorically, hypothetically or just superficially. I was so open and honest for the first year of writing, and then suddenly I couldn’t be, and it drove me crazy. I still can’t really talk about why that was the case in the past, but from now on I’m not subject to the same restraints, and I hope that means feeling a bit more enthusiastic about and connected to my writing here.

I’m a complete mess at the moment what with one thing and another – on top of ending my last relationship I’ve also given my manager a note explaining that my job is making me unwell and that I need to speak to her about it and I’m waiting for her to get back to me, there was some highly distressing drama on New Year’s Eve which not only meant that 2012 got off to an awful start but also pushed my poor nervous system right over the edge, and now I have bloody toothache just to top it all off. I feel like I’m in a constant state of panic, and I only have myself to blame. Other people might have caused me a lot of stress and pain but I have put up with it in several areas of my life without saying or doing anything. I can’t change the actions of others, but I can change my reaction, and that is what these last couple of weeks have been about. I’ve discovered that I am absolutely hopeless at letting people know when they have hurt me, instead excusing their actions even when they are clearly damaging my mental stability. How are they supposed to know what effect they are having on me if I don’t tell them? And it seems that when I do finally try to change the situation I end up making more excuses and placing all the blame on myself again, when really the situation is very different to the version I’m peddling to make other people feel better. So I first take the stress of coping with unhelpful behaviour on board and put up with it as long as I can, and then when I finally can’t cope any more I tell them it’s all my fault and then – then I end up horribly resentful and angry and in a complete mess, because I’ve been so wired, so anxious, trying so, so hard to be okay for so long, and then my reason for pushing myself to those extremes disappears and I fall apart.

I’ve survived worse. I’m not okay by any means, but I’m always the woman with the plan, and I am determined to make 2012 the year that I put my mental health well before the needs of others. Other people can take care of themselves. I need to stop asking myself how I can make myself useful to other people and start asking what I want out of my friendships, relationships and other acquaintances. Not that I plan to be entirely selfish – I’m training to be a counsellor after all, and I have no problem with helping friends in need of support – but I can’t keep getting myself into the situation where I try to be everything to someone and get very little in return. I can’t keep being so desperate to put others needs before my own that I tell them lies to spare their feelings at the expense of my own. It’s not healthy and it never leads anywhere good.

No more. Here and elsewhere I am going to be completely honest from now on.

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8 responses to “The best policy

  1. I love this, Katie. I’m so glad to hear that you’re going to challenge your tendency to put others before your own needs. You are so important. I’m sure you already know that taking good care of your own mental health first will allow you to continue to help others to the best of your ability (and you do it very well; I know you’ve helped me loads, through MSN conversations and your blog).

  2. Sounds like a plan, Katie! In order to be truly mentally/emotionally healthy we must all take great care to be true to ourselves and have our actions/words be congruent with what we are feeling and needing inside. Too much hiding of our own self is harmful in so many ways. That is a big change for you to be making, and it will require new skills. You may need help to do this, and if so, I trust you can find it!

  3. It’s very hard to be honest – I wasn’t brought up to do it and neither was my mother. In fact we had a bit of a row about it during the enforced togetherness that is Christmas. I described her as “hard” because she does not show her emotions very readily. It was the wrong word to use and she was upset but, since she does not like to offend by showing her emotions didn’t cry or shout but merely looked hurt and said that it was just that she doesn’t like to upset people. It’s true, she DOESN’T but as she gets older she’s less good at hiding the resentment that’s building up inside and that’s quite nasty to behold. I know I can be very similar. Here’s to an honest 2012

  4. I love this! I mean, I don’t love that you’re feeling so stressed out about things, but I love that you’re going to put yourself ahead of others. I’m certainly not one to talk, since I’m probably the queen of keeping things inside when they need to be released, but — it helps to just be honest about it.

    And if all else fails, to hit things. 😉 (THINGS, not PEOPLE.)

    ❤ ❤

  5. I’m really sorry you’ve had such a horrible time, Katie 😦

    I’m so not good at giving others advice in this type of situation – because I’m so hopeless at dealing with conflict myself. Reading through what you have written is somewhat familiar to me. I have previously ‘taken the blame’ for things others have done to me – just to avoid conflict. When I see people being assertive (without being aggressive) and explaining themselves and their needs so well, I watch in wonder (as well as awe) at how they are doing it.

    Being a bit ‘sciencey’.. I wonder whether some of this relates to the difficulty those of us with a susceptibility to developing EDs have with sensitivity to punishment (?); i.e. we fear conflict, others’ anger (etc.) so much that we become ‘doormats’ if we’re not careful (?).

    Anyhow, I do hope that things work out with the job situation…

    Take care xxx

  6. Good on you, Katie.

    I must say that I did miss your old style of blogging rather than this slightly more reserved one, simply because I thought that it helped you to have somewhere to be completely open with any thoughts and struggles, and also because I worry for you and about how you’re doing!

    As you know I never bottle anything up any more and am at the opposite extreme emotionally, but would you call me selfish or a bother (wait, don’t answer that…:P) I wish I could do something to help you or make you feel better (sadly I am not a dentist…) but at least if you now feel this is a place where you can be ‘yourself’ again then I can at least annoy you with my comments all of the darn time.

    If I’m ever p*ssing you off in the slightest, I expect a good slap from you now, verbally if not physically, and I am going to hold you to that.

    *massive hugs*

    xxxx

  7. Beverley Osborne

    Yep, this sounds like a plan. Let other people take care of themselves and you look after Number One first. With this will come improvements in every other area of your life. It never works when you pretend to be something you are not (I know because I’ve done it loads). Much better when you are the ‘real you’ and true to yourself.

    Hugs and encouragement xxx

  8. Sorry to hear you’re having a hard time. You are right when you say that you should put your needs first though. It always helps me to remember that I literally cannot be useful to other people if I don’t keep on top of my needs – I end up too frazzled to help anyone at all, least of all myself. Constantly putting other people’s needs first can only lead to burn out, which (at it’s worst) can make you vulnerable. Not good or worth it. So I approve of your plan to be honest about things, though it is hard I know. Seriously, I could really do with taking a leaf out of your book right now and learning to be honest about my needs. Now if I could only work out what my needs are…

    Hope things improve x.

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