Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Stop Bending Before You Break

Those of us who battle mental health conditions tend to be, on the whole, particularly understanding, sympathetic, and empathetic.  We give others what we wish people would give us - second (and third and fourth and fifth) chances. We listen to other people's reasons, even when they're simply excuses, blaming ourselves for their shortcomings and flaws. We know ourselves well, and because of this we're easy to place, and except, blame. We know we tend to have rigid thinking at times, black and white, for both self preservation and survival. This thinking gives us something to grasp onto, when everything else is so unreliable. Because of this, we can quickly take the blame: Maybe I should be more understanding and flexible. I know how rigid I can be. It's all my fault. Or I'm so needy and demanding. They put up with so much from my condition. They deserve for me to give them this. Or so many other ways of blaming ourselves, thinking that others know better, that our thinking must somehow be distorted by our condition and they really know best. We are easily convinced, sometimes by ourselves, that because of our conditions what we're feeling isn't "legit" in some way - that we're feeling upset or anxious about something not because that's a legitimate way to feel about it, but because our conditions are making us feel that way.

The problem with all of this, in addition to the fact that it's not actually true and it dismisses our feelings, thoughts, and needs, is that it convinces us to bend well past the point that we should. When we try to stand up for ourselves, we're often told we're being difficult. Sometimes, if a person is really being unfair, they'll point out "how much they put up with" because of our condition. They'll point out how flexible they are for us, because of our condition, how much they accommodate us. And this may be true, and it should be acknowledged - but not as reason for making us back down and stop standing up for ourselves.

In every discussion, or almost every discussion, there is the opportunity for compromise. Sometimes, it's one person giving in one situation, and another giving in another situation. Sometimes you both adjust and meet in the middle. But when it comes to being treated the way you deserve, do not give in. It's easy to think of ourselves as too needy, as too much trouble, as a burden. It's easy to bend and bend, thinking we owe someone else for "putting up with us". It's easy to be convinced that we're asking for more than we deserve. Much of the time, though, I'm willing to bet that you're not. I'm willing to bet that you're selling yourself short, because others have always taught you to do so. I'm willing to bet that if anything, your condition is telling you that you deserve less than you actually do. I'm willing to bet you've bent so far at times, trying to compensate, just in case you really are being too needy or demanding. Just in case you really don't see things as they truly are, no matter how sure you are that you do.

And when we do this too much, we break. We break our spirit. We break our hearts, or others break them for us. We break our emotions, often turning numb because we've cared and given so much that we're completely drained. We're hollow. We can't feel. When this happens, know that you are not alone. There are others out there, like myself, who understand exactly how this feels. Who don't blame you. Who won't let you blame yourself. There are others out there who will stand up for you when you have bent and broken to the point that you no longer feel able to do so for yourself.  And eventually, you'll get back up. You'll remember that it isn't all your fault. You'll know how much you deserve. One day, you'll be able to say, "No, this time, it's not me.  It's you." 

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