I want to talk about a couple of realisations that have been playing on my mind recently. Firstly – the fact that it’s ok to prioritise yourself and your own mental health over others. Secondly – that small lifestyle changes make a big difference.
So let’s kick off with number one. You might remember the post I wrote about toxic friendships a few months back. I spoke about the importance (and difficulty) of letting go when someone isn’t good for you. Something I didn’t talk about then was what happens when the person in this toxic friendship hasn’t really done anything wrong. When it’s more to do with the things you can’t deal with. (The old ‘it’s not you, it’s me’). Toxicity doesn’t have to mean someone is an awful person, but it does mean that taking a step back is just as important as if your friend was secretly bullying you.
And do you know what? I also completely understand why certain old friends decided to cut me off. It wasn’t necessarily that I did something. I just wasn’t good for them, for their mental health.
Take trigger warnings as an example here. If you know that you’re triggered by suicide for example, you actively avoid it. If you’re having a chat with a friend and they suddenly start talking about killing themselves, that’s a very dangerous thing for both them and you. Obviously, get them help, but if you’re not comfortable in dealing with that for your own sake, maybe you shouldn’t discuss it. Personally, I’d find it difficult to cut off a friend who spoke to me about that, but it would be at my own expense.
I think too many friendships have this toxic layer, whereby people become more like therapists than friends. I have had friends who actually referred to me as their therapist. That’s a lot of pressure to put on a person with literally 0 experience or training in therapy. This pressure just constantly builds up and up until it’s not the friend who cracks – it’s you. And I’m also guilty of treating friends in this way. There’s a very fine line between giving advice to a friend and becoming someone’s lifeline.
And I don’t mean to be callous, but I can’t do it anymore. Right now, the only thing it does is make life worse for myself. It’s something we need to be selfish about sometimes. If a friend needs help, I should be helping them to get help, rather than sacrificing myself.
The second realisation – that small lifestyle changes make huge differences, relates closely to this. I decided that I should regain control. By stepping back from my ‘therapist’ lifestyle (but remaining attentive/sensitive), I feel like I’m getting my own ducks in a row.
I also really needed to stop using food as a comfort and start learning how to make myself feel better without stuffing my face. So I gave up a range of the junky comfort foods that I relied on and forced myself to tackle my issues head on.
As well as losing a nice chunk of weight and feeling good about the way I look again, I no longer feel the need to turn to sugar to resolve my problems. In general, I’m a lot less indulgent in my emotions, in favour of doing something proactive. Of course, my sadness is a whole different thing to those who suffer from depression, but nevertheless, I have found myself overcoming those moments of sadness faster and more effectively by addressing the issues, dedicating time to cooking a nice (healthy) meal, having a refreshing shower, seeing and speaking to friends…small, totally normal activities that take a lot of motivation to complete when feeling down.
I think both of these realisations have taught me that control is important. It is so easy to let the emotions of others become your own problems, or to let your problems mount to something way bigger than they need to be. For me, finding ways to regain that control has been incredibly important to my growth.