I have this friend that recently described herself as being too empathetic. And it’s true. I’ve watched her singlehandedly take on millions of problems that belonged to other people. Their sadness, frustration, self-loathing, pain, anger….she felt it. She told me that she couldn’t let the people she cared about hurt. But she was taking on more than she could handle, and it was really getting to her. I saw her attempting to help others while she was struggling to help herself. She is an amazing person, truly a blessing to have as a friend, because she cares. But she cares too much.
Let me be clear, I’m not saying to never care about anyone else ever again. Your family and friends are important to you, and you SHOULD care about all of their problems. But when you get to the point of having all of these different emotions piling down on your shoulders, when they don’t even belong to you, it becomes a problem. You shouldn’t be the one fighting everyone’s wars for them. It’s okay to be a gladiator on their team, but remember, it’s THEIR problems, and as much as you love them, they should be ones to heal themselves.
I had a conversation with the friend I mentioned at the start of this piece, and I’d like to share with you a sentence from the message I sent her:
Remember that if you stop taking care of yourself, you won’t be able to take care of anyone else.
And I meant it. This inspired me write this post, because I wanted to share my message with everyone who comes across this. If you are reading this because you feel upset, sad, scared, angry, or whatever, but you still want to help others, remember this: You are important. You are beautiful. And wanting to help other people is your best quality, but also your biggest flaw. Help yourself first so that you can be in a good enough place to help others.
I’ve decided to share some tips with how I’ve managed to put myself in a better position to be able to heal myself:
The first rule to healing yourself is to let yourself be sad. You take on everyone else’s sadness. Maybe, to you, it’s a way to escape your own pain. But the truth of the matter is that before you can even think of taking on someone else’s problems, you need to focus on yourself. Stop pretending like they don’t exist. You can’t ignore the sadness you feel. If you need to cry, then cry. If you need to scream, scream. Punch a pillow, tear up an entire stack of paper. Express your emotions; do not let them sit inside of you, they will eat your insides up until you feel like you have no option but to explode. Exploding is bad. Crying is good. Spend a day or two or even three snuggled in bed and just cry. Allow yourself a few days to just be sad. Use this period to reflect on what is making you depressed. Analyze your life and think about where you are now and where you want to be. So again, take a minute and cry. Three days. That’s all you get, so really use those days to let it all out. After that, though, it’s time to go to work.
The second rule to healing yourself is to get rid of the negative. I’ve seen it time and time again where people who are depressed are trying to solve other people’s problems. Hell, that was me for the last few years. Maybe it’s because knowing that someone else is sad is kind of comforting. I had a friend in high school who I loved because I could relate to their sadness. I thought we were such good friends because we understood each other. As I got older, though, and learned more about myself, I realized that my relationship with that friend was unhealthy. That friend was bringing me down, not allowing me to heal. All of our conversations were always about how sad we were, how much we wanted to do something to ourselves, etc. We were not helping each other, and we were not allowing ourselves to heal. Instead, we were building a friendship based around being depressed. I look back now that me and that friend have grown slightly apart, and I know that it was for the best, because that relationship was toxic. I stepped away from that friend for a while. We needed space form each other. We needed to grow apart so that we could heal ourselves. And let me tell you, it worked. We are friends again, but this time, it’s a relationship built on an actual friendship, not sadness. I know that it may seem easier to talk to people who seem like they understand what you are going through, and you probably have friendships like the one I just mentioned. But the thing is, you need to get rid of that negative energy. You cannot ever move forward unless you expel people who constantly remind you to be sad. Being sad should not be romanticized, and it’s not something you should form a bond over. Find people that uplift you.
The third rule of healing yourself is to exchange the negative for the positive. Like I mentioned earlier, I had extremely toxic relationships in high school. I was surrounded by people who made depression seem cool. It was almost as if you had to be sad to relate to them, and anyone who was happy didn’t belong in their group. I’m not even sure if I was genuinely depressed when I first met them, or if I quickly realized I needed to be in order to be accepted by them. Isn’t that terrifying? But you will encounter people like that, who romanticize sadness and angst, especially if you’re still in high school. Thankfully, I parted ways with 99% of that group when I went to college. One lucky day in my first college math class, a mutual friend sat me next to these two amazing girls. I was terrified at first, because I didn’t know them at all. I was so used to being around all of these sad people, but these girls, as I quickly learned, were so different. I’m lucky enough to call these two girls my best friends now, and I’ll tell you why: they are uplifting, empowering, and they constantly make it a point to tell me how wonderful I am. As I hung out with them more, and formed genuine friendships over common interests (none of which were being sad) I was shocked at how confident I began to feel. It was so new to me, having these two friends who appreciated me, who complimented me, who genuinely wanted me to succeed. I wasn’t familiar with people who wanted the best for me, yet here were two girls who proved to me that being sad wasn’t trendy, and it certainly wasn’t necessary in order to make friends. Instead, they showed me that it is better to feel good about yourself.
The fourth rule of healing yourself is to love yourself. I woke up this morning, after spending the last two nights crying, and I wasn’t sure how his day was going to go for me. But I eventually decided to get out of bed, and feeling good enough, I put on a nice dress and some makeup. Then, I looked at myself in the mirror and thought “damn, I look good!” I felt happy, and it was as simple as taking care of myself. Often, when we are depressed, we tend to stop loving our bodies. We eat junk food, wear frumpy sweatpants, and stop brushing our hair. That’s how it is for me, anyway. But this morning I put on my favorite dress, spent a little extra time on my makeup, and even succeeded in the perfect messy bun (a huge achievement). And it really boosted my self-esteem. I felt so confident today, and I wasn’t afraid to speak up in class, or talk to that cute boy sitting next to me, or even to post a selfie. Actually, I posted two! It was incredible how spending a little bit of time on myself really improved my mindset. It’s so easy to let yourself go and fall into a hole of self-pity. But if you take an extra minute to pick out your favorite shirt, put on some mascara, go to the gym, or choose to do something that makes you feel more confident, you will walk with an air about you that you never have before.
Now, I’m sure that there are many more rules to healing yourself. I could probably keep going, but I’ll stop here and remind you again that If you are still sad, still struggling, still wondering what your life means, how can you help anyone else? You can give them healing words and tell them that their sadness won’t last forever, but you have to mean it. And unless you heal yourself first, you won’t mean it, and your words won’t be effective. The best way to help someone who is going through a tough time is to be an example of happiness. If you can get through any situation and come out smiling , then you will have a greater affect on those around you. You can’t just tell someone that things will get better; you need to be living proof that they do. You need to heal yourself.