The Day My Shelf Broke
"Come in", said the man, "We have every shelf a person could ask for here."
"How much can the shelf manage?" you ask.
"It can take all the stresses the world will throw at it and more, but be aware, this is only possible if you use the boundaries and safety features provided."
"Of course! I am totally able to do that! How much will shelf cost me?"
The man replied in a serious tone, "If the boundaries and safety features are not used, it will cost you your life."
After giving a look of confusion, you walk away and don't think twice about it. Then decades later you don't feel right. You feel like the world is too much. You feel like if anyone puts even one more thing on you, you don't think you will be alright. You don't know what will happen but you do know that it just doesn't feel right.
You decide to return to where you got your shelf from and speak to the man who sold it to you. It must be a defective shelf because you can handle everything! At least you thought you could. When he asks if you have exceeded your shelf's boundaries and safety features he notices the look of confusion on your face.
"You see", he begins, "When you don't take care of yourself or use boundaries your shelf fills faster than it should. The normal things of the day-to-day with a family, job, possibly kids, and bills are the only items the shelf can safely handle without taking care of yourself by using strategies. Once you start to add anything additional to your shelf, it begins to get too heavy and will begin to dissolve and crumble. You need to make sure you are saying no, doing things for yourself, and getting the opportunity to speak to people who won't gaslight you."
"But I am strong and don't need to say no or even speak to anyone. I do things for myself all the time! I pay my own bills and solve my own problems. I even solve other people's problems."
Does this sound like you? I am sure it sounds like most people. So often we think we can handle it and then when we realize we can't, it is dangerously close to being too late.
Let me tell you about someone I know. Someone who didn't say no because it was less of a problem and less drama to say yes than it ever was to say no. (sound familiar) When they had issues with people and tried to talk to them about how they felt, they would tell them that the problem is in their head and that they were the only person causing it. So you closed your mouth. Allowed people to take.
A piece here and a piece there. Another piece and then another. Until all of a sudden, you had nothing left.
You found yourself crying and wishing the world would swallow you up. Literally. Yet at the same time, you didn't want it to because you knew how much you would miss. How much some people not all would miss you, at least you hoped they would.
People speak about taking time for your mental health ALL THE DAMN TIME, yet when you do something for YOUR mental health it is either inconvenient for others or not done the right way. Some workplaces are trying to help us deal with staff who experience mental health situations*. They aren't there yet though and I truly doubt they ever will be while people are focused more on micromanagement than on trusting staff to get the work done.
(*I don't want to say problem because that puts a negative stigma to it that isn't deserved. I feel they are more situations.)
What do we do when it feels like society says 'We care and want to help' but then turn their backs and ghost you? Here are things I have found work for me. They may be hard and may not be right for you at this time.
Talk to Someone
It doesn't need to be a counselor, however, I would suggest one. They truly do help. If not a counselor talk to someone you can trust. While this may be harder than speaking with a stranger, it is truly worth it.
It doesn't need to be every day and it doesn't need to be only when you are in a super pissy or down mood. It can be about happy things too! I say happy things too because it helps to be able to look back and see that you do have those days. Be honest in your journal, like truly honest. If you feel like it is hard to be here, say that! Scream it into your journal! Then at the end of your entry just find one tiny little itty bitty micro thing to say that is nice about you. Even if it is I am not as horrible as yesterday or I watched someone trip while I was out today and finally, it wasn't me. Anything that is slightly nice.
Get Rid of Those Who Gaslight and Ghost You
This may be the hardest or easiest thing you need to do. There comes a time though even with family, that you need to create a bit of distance. You don't need to shut them out, however, limit the effect they have on your day-to-day and mental health. Just because they are family doesn't mean they get to control what or how you feel about yourself. I think we can all say that we are the best at being our own worse enemies, so we don't need any extra help there.
Do Something That Brings You Joy (as long as it is legal)
For some this is exercise and for others, exercise is the cause of misery and stress. Try something new. It doesn't need to be outside of the house or cost a lot of money but try something. Who the fuck cares what other people have to say about what you are doing! There are always going to be people who for some odd reason find joy in pissing on other people's days. DON'T LET THEM! Or at least don't show them it bothers you.
Our mental health is important and making sure our shelf doesn't break is also very important. YOU ARE NEEDED AND WANTED! If you don't feel like you are just know that if I knew you, I would want you!
IF YOU ARE SOMEONE WHO WANTS TO HELP A LOVED ONE BUT DON'T KNOW HOW OR WHAT TO SAY here are some tips.
Listen with no judgment - yes this is hard however if you even look like you are judging it will shut your loved one down.
Understand that the person who is having these feelings and emotions doesn't need you to fix them. They need to know that there is someone there who loves them and who will just listen to them.
Ask them if they want you to listen to them while they try to let what they are feeling out. Their thoughts may be all over the place, but this is just how our heads are processing everything at that moment.
NEVER tell them to 'Just focus on something else or move on' - This is a sure-fire way to shut down any conversation ever.
Ask them if and how you can help. They will tell you. Sometimes they just don't want to be alone.
If someone says they can't do something, DO NOT pressure them or even ask why. If they want you to know their thoughts they will tell. Just be there for them. Once they trust how you will respond they will open up.
Don't assume they want a hug. Sometimes physical touch is the one thing they don't want, especially when they are trying to hold it all together.
Finally, just LOVE THEM!
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