This fairly unkind thought popped into my head this evening. I’m no-one’s priority. Not even my own. And there’s something insidious about this. I know this is a negative thought. It’s theme is one I know well from my experiences of depression. Those voices that told me that I was unwanted and unloved through so many of my teen years. I’m happy to say that for the most part these thoughts are a distant memory. Something I have closed the door on. But they still linger and can ensnare me when I’m vulnerable.
It reminds me how easy it can be to be trigged. And that although things are far better now. We never truly shut out those past experiences. And how they made us feel or the thoughts that accompany them. They cling on and hover in the background ready and waiting to make their entrance. As they did tonight. And whilst I’m able to combat them more effectively nowadays. I know I need to sort them out and writing can help me do so. So, here we are.
It’s Easy to Prioritize Others
As many of you will know from other blog posts. I’m often caught between the balance of caring for myself and caring for others. It’s not a balance that comes easy to me. And the equilibrium is often off kilter. Whilst I’ve known this for a while. And written on the subject multiple times. Including advice and tips that I try and follow to address this. It occurs to me that the problem remains. And not only does it remain; but it may be worse than I thought.
I’ve always believed in caring for others. Whether or not they reciprocate should be immaterial. The nature of relationships should be symbiotic. Sometimes you need my help more than I need you. But there should always be a vice versa. I kind of always assumed their was. But thinking about it tonight, I’ve realised the flipside of my relationships are largely absent. I’m the only one walking down the street.
A Priority Review
I’ve thought about all the people I reached out to via text in the past few days. Those who are having a hard time. The people who are experiencing life events; both positive and negative. I’ve offered someone to talk to, to make a meal or drop off groceries. Or anything else they might need. Even sending a message just to say hello can help someone feel seen and supported when times are tough. I know this first hand; although I can’t think why on present evidence.
On reviewing this litany of caring for others. It occurs to me that many if not all don’t reciprocate. And likely never will. Even some of their replies aren’t particularly anything to write home about. It’s not that they are ungrateful. And I’m not looking for gratitude anyway. Or at least I don’t think I am. It’s more that. Whilst I’d happily help these people whether or not we were good friends. I should have some people in my life who I can count of when things are hard. Not a massive group. But a few core people in a support network. I thought I had that. Now I’m not so sure.
Not Even My Own Priority
Because here’s the thing. For years I’ve gladly put myself at the bottom of the to-do list. Believing that firstly helping others is important and integral to who I am. And secondly, that when you help others, you help yourself. Whether it’s a boost to your mental health for being there for someone else. Or because they will reciprocate when you need some support. But now I’m realising that, for me, neither of these things are true.
My balance is so off that the benefit to my mental health of being part of a community and lending a helping hand. Is a drop in the ocean compared to the stress I incur trying to help everyone. And the fact that in doing so I neglect my mental health on an almost continuous basis. And whilst I don’t expect everyone I try and help to known when I need support. Or to be able to offer me help whenever I need it. Even a simple text message goes a long way. It says I’m thinking of you even if I can’t be there. And that’s why I try and send them when I can.
I’m not looking for anything ground breaking here. I don’t require people to drop everything to help me. But a few people who show they care would be appreciated for time to time. But despite trying to demonstrate my care, no-one is knocking at my door. Or texting my phone as the case may be.
Whilst I am happy to acknowledge that people get busy. And I don’t expect to be anyone’s priority. Even when I make someone my own; it is my decision to do so. I also believe, perhaps erroneously, that if someone wanted to call or message. They would. It is that simple. Even when I’m at my most busy. I’ll admit I can be days or weeks late with a message or offer to help. And I feel unaccountably guilty about it. But the point stands, they were in my thoughts and I do get around to it. So, although I hate to agree with those voices that made me feel so alone and friendless in the world. Surely, if people cared enough they’d show it. Maybe not immediately. And in their own time and way. But whatever they did I’d know they cared. So, where does this leave me?
Can I Be My Own Priority?
I’m trying to convince myself that I’m not as unloved as my current thoughts and feelings would suggest. I logically know that I am privileged to have people in my world that love. Even if they don’t show it well or at all. Or perhaps I’m at fault by not acknowledging it or feeling it. I also wonder what it says about me. That I don’t seem to be capable of being my own priority. Is there something inherently awful about me as a person that means I’m not worthy of my own love. Let alone the love of others? And whilst I am hesitant to believe this fact. Seeing it written down in this way does make it seem the obvious solution. Such is the insidiousness nature of negative thoughts and feelings to our mental health. Emotion concealed as logic and fact.
Again, I resist this conclusion but acknowledge that my confidence is likely a lot lower than other or even I thought. It’s easy to pretend that I have time for everything and everyone. Easy to fill my voice with laughter and be a part of the conversation. I’ve become so good at it, it’s second nature. Just like putting everyone else first and myself last. I don’t even notice I’m doing it. Even when I’m writing on the subject and trying to address it. I’d not scratched the surface of the problem.
Again, I don’t expect or even want to be anyone else’s priority, but surely I should be my own. So, where do I go from here? Because until I’m my own priority my confidence will continue to suffer. I’ll keep trying to be everything to everyone. Which quite frankly is exhausting. And unsurprisingly when the low mood sets in. The negative thinking and emotions ensue.