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Monthly Archives: February 2015

Indispensable

Indispensable

My therapist once told me that I try to be everything to my partner–even things that he didn’t know he needs. This was not a conscious strategy. Why in the world would I want to do something so unrealistic?

After I thought about it, I realized that I want to be indispensable so that if the person needs something, I can say, don’t go anywhere! I can fix that! That way he can’t leave me.

This is a pretty common strategy for helpers–professionals and nonprofessionals. Everyone comes to us when they have a problem. We are such good listeners. We give fantastic advice. What would they do without us?

Although being indispensable gives the illusion of safety, in reality, it has not actually prevented people from leaving me. And it has not protected me from heartbreak.

Plus there are other drawbacks. It is impossible to be all things to all people, so I can never succeed. Which increases the likelihood that I will feel like a failure.

And even when someone thinks I am everything he needs, it becomes a burden because then I have to try to convince myself that I love him.

But then when I can’t convince myself, I still can’t leave him, since I tried to be indispensable so he wouldn’t leave me. That would be unfair.

So then I just start another relationship and let the new person’s needs pull me away from my existing relationship. Which is way worse than just breaking up with the person to begin with.

Or if he breaks up with me, I’m all devastated at first, but then I realize I actually didn’t like him all that much. Which makes me feel crazy for having invested so much energy into the relationship.

The biggest problem with trying to be indispensable is that, until recently, I never asked myself what I need in a relationship. This is proving to be a difficult question to answer because, as I indicated in a previous post, I don’t know how to distinguish my wants from my needs.

Usually the guy, my family, and my friends would tell me that I’m being unreasonable. So then I would try to convince myself I don’t really need what I think I need. But that doesn’t seem fair to me.

This is exactly why I am not looking for someone to date. Too many decisions that don’t make any sense.

However, I now realize that I can choose to give myself what I need. I can even choose to give myself what I want.

So now I don’t have to worry about someone else telling me I’m unreasonable. I don’t have to be afraid of being alone. Or force myself to try to love someone. Or try be indispensable so that I won’t be abandoned. In theory, at least.

So for now, that’s what I’m working on. Reminding myself that I am indispensable–to me.

2015 Blog for Mental Health Project

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I pledge my commitment to 2015 Blog for Mental Health Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.

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For the second year in a row, I am participating in the Blog for Mental Health Project. Many of you already know my story, but if you don’t, check out my post on Why I Blog About Mental Illness. You can also check out my post for the 2014 Blog for Mental Health Project.

I wrote my story about depression last month because Sarah Fader from Stigma Fighters asked me to write a 1000 word essay on my experience with mental illness. Since it’s hard to cram 25 years of depression into 1000 words, I basically just stuck with the facts. And yet, it is the post that has resonated the most with people who have struggled with depression.

I guess that’s because when you say things like, I stopped taking my meds because I didn’t want to rely on them to be normal, and then I relapsed 3 months later, they know exactly what you mean. You don’t have to spell out the shame and self-loathing involved in that process.

When I first started my blog, my goal was to model how to practice self-acceptance, because I need all the practice I can get. I was especially proud of that post because it meant I have finally accepted what it means to be someone who has struggled and will continue to struggle with depression, which is the thing I have been the most ashamed of.

But after I wrote my story, I realized that self-acceptance is not enough. Accepting all of the things that I have to do to prevent a relapse is not the same thing as acknowledging how painful it has been to live with depression. How hard it was to feel like a failure. How isolating it was to hide my depression because I knew that some people would minimize my suffering and make me feel worse about myself.

Until I wrote that post, I had never had compassion for my suffering because I didn’t think I deserved it. So now I’ve upped the ante, so to speak. Now I am modeling how to practice self-compassion. Which is why I’m also participating in 1000 Voices of Compassion, in which 1000+ bloggers will publish posts on compassion on February 20.

I will continue to educate people about mental health and do my part to erase stigma, but ultimately I cannot change what people think about me or anyone else with a mental illness. So I will make sure that I treat myself with the love and kindness that I deserve, and I will encourage other people to do the same.

On a final note, if you read my blog, then you know that I am obsessed with being a warrior. So I thought I would leave you with this article on Mental Illness Warriors, some of whom you may recognize.

What Compassion is Not

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It happened again. I was telling some friends about the incident in which I was attacked for my presentation on compassion, and while I was doing so, another friend walked in and said the exact same thing. Compassion just enables people to be lazy, incompetent, unproductive members of society.

I am trying to be compassionate about why some people feel the need to attack compassion. I am going to assume it is because they have misconceptions about what compassion is. So I thought I would take this opportunity to clarify what it is not.

1. Judgmental responses are not compassionate. This one is obvious but still worth mentioning, since judgment is usually our automatic response. You are so lazy. There must be something seriously wrong with you for watching Netflix when you should be working on your paper. 

Judgment is a motivation strategy that is shame-based. Sometimes it’s effective, but even when it works, it rarely makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something. It’s about time you did something! You only wasted the whole freaking day!

An example of a compassionate response would be: It is hard to motivate yourself to do something unpleasant. It’s hard for everyone. And it’s hard to write something knowing that someone else is going to evaluate it. No one likes to be criticized. 

2. Compulsory positive thinking is not compassionate. Telling someone to look on the bright side, count your blessings, or think positive thoughts is not compassionate because it communicates the message that negative feelings are bad and should be avoided at all costs. When we are being compassionate, we accept all of our thoughts and feelings, positive and negative.

An example of a more compassionate response would be: It’s ok that you’re feeling sad. Everyone feels sad sometimes. At some point–maybe even later today–you will feel differently.

3. Comparison is not compassionate. Think of the less fortunate. The people in war-torn countries. The poor, hungry, and sick. What do you have to be unhappy about? These suggestions are well-intended and helpful for some people, but they, too, can convey the message that you have not suffered enough to deserve your feelings.

A more compassionate response would be: This may seem like a small thing, but it causes you pain. And I care about anything that causes you pain. I care about all of your feelings.

4. Self-indulgence is not compassionate. I have to thank Yvonne Spence for leaving this comment on my post Mental Illness Does Not Discriminate, because it hits the nail on the head. People who attack compassion believe that compassion gives people permission to avoid responsibility. Which it does not. You still have to write the paper. Experience pain. Strive to be a better person. But you can do so in a loving way.

I would argue that any advice that you give to someone can be made more effective by prefacing it with a compassionate response. And in my experience, validating someone’s feelings frees up the energy they were using for self-hatred and actually makes them more productive.