This post is difficult for me to write and inspired by my friends Lauren and Yael, who are two of the strongest women I know.
I learned an important lesson last night. I learned my emotional limits. I truly realized for the first time, too, that my primary responsibility now is to my son and keeping us both safe for his sake. This includes eating healthy, sleeping well, and setting emotional boundaries like I’m about to do.
I’ve always rooted for the underdog, cried with the depressed, hugged the anxious. In other words, I feel I am an empathic person. Sometimes I wonder if I absorb other people’s energy because it affects me so profoundly.
Last night, I lay awake from 1:30 until 5 in the morning worrying about a friend in trouble. Then I slept for an hour and a half before starting my morning, still deep in worry. Of course after a night like that, I had to call out of work; I was physically sick to my stomach from lack of sleep and abundance of worry. Then I cried a lot, and I turned to my friend Lauren, who has helped countless people, for advice. I struggled with what to do to help versus how far to extend myself, possibly endangering my emotional, mental, and physical health.
And then I got mad.
I got mad at myself for having taken so much on. I realized I do that all the time, and how drained it makes me feel. Sometimes it is uplifting to know that I had a positive influence on another person’s life. Sometimes I am able to help someone through their troubles, their depression or anxiety. But right now, it’s just too much.
I got mad at my troubled friend, irrationally mad. I did not ask for the burden of the words he texted me that scared the hell out of me. I was angry with him for not seeking the proper kind of help, for not doing what needs to be done. But then I realized that when we are in the dark, it is difficult for us to see what needs to be done. My anger weakened.
Times like this, when it gets to be too much for me, I need to realize that it’s OK–in fact, it is in my own best interest and that of my family’s–for me to put up what my dear friend Yael refers to as my “forcefield” and decide what I choose to let inside that forcefield.
So that’s what’s happening, starting this very minute. I’m going to find a way to help others gently–and by that, I mean that I will be gentle to myself. There’s got to be a way to help others while not carrying the load myself, right? I want to shine a light, but not if it leaves me in the dark.