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Why We Must Treat Ourselves as 'Loved Ones' in Mental Illness Recovery

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We all know that a house cannot remain standing on an unsound foundation. The same principle applies to our own well-being. As a chronically and mentally ill person, I have cultivated many relationships with people who struggle in similar ways. Naturally, I am a people-pleaser. I desperately want to save my friends and I put my own needs on the back burner to ensure theirs are met. This is not healthy. I repeat, this is not healthy and only hurts both people involved.

When we keep applying more weight to our already unstable foundation, it leads to cracks. As we progressively gain even more weight atop our crumbling structure, our health plummets. We begin disintegrating. Because of this, we are most likely not helpful to our loved ones, and most importantly, ourselves. Instead, we find ourselves slipping back into habits that are detrimental to our health. Panic attacks may increase, depressive episodes may arise and we lose ourselves trying to fight others’ battles.

Please keep in mind I would never say to withdraw support. We are asking for the same thing in return after all. What I mean here is that you need to ensure your own needs are met first. If you find yourself sliding backwards, I recommend stopping for some self-care. It’s OK to request space, even when it’s difficult. Remember, you are not up to your most helpful potential to another being if you’re relapsing or reducing yourself to rubble. I know how hard it is to take care of yourself already, and while I adore being a great friend above all else, it only hurts me if I become submerged in an ocean of another person’s problems while trying to keep my own boat afloat.

This may offend some people, because naturally, we want to be there for loved ones no matter what. As do I. I just want to express the importance of seeking professional help for someone when necessary, and knowing when to preserve your own well-being. It is not our job to provide someone else with a life boat we don’t possess. It is not our job to be someone’s savior. We can help, we can intervene, we can try to help them help themselves, but ultimately, it is up to the individual how they decide to react. Should a friend be in crisis, it is vital to contact a crisis help line or 911. Help your loved ones the best you can, but never forget to treat yourself as a loved one, too. You deserve the same love you’d extend to someone else.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Thinkstock photo via Ola-ola.

Originally published: June 7, 2017
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