mental health

Sometimes I have to remember that not everything is my responsibility

One thing that my therapist and I talked about is how I feel like I’m solely responsible for managing everyone else’s emotions. My parents, some of my friends, my family, etc. But you know what? This doesn’t all fall on me. If not talking to me for one day causes someone to have a bad day, that’s not on me. For example – apparently not speaking to me for a day causes my mother anxiety. That’s not my fault, it’s not my issue, and it’s not up to me to manage that for her. She’s an adult. She should be able to go a day without speaking to her adult child that has her own life. The fact that me not calling her can cause so much anxiety is not my problem, and I shouldn’t feel the need to not do things that I want to do so I can talk to her.

Another friend of mine, to give another example, was recently laid off due to COVID. He’s not getting out of the house much, and is really only socializing with a handful of people. It has somehow fallen to me to have marathon phone conversations – which I don’t mind, don’t get me wrong – but I end up feeling bad if I have to go do something or go to bed or whatever. I love him dearly, but sometimes these conversations are exhausting. I get what it’s like to need to have some kind of human contact, even over the phone, but I need to stop being that person for almost everyone that I know.

These are obviously not the only examples of instances of this, but I have to ask myself – why have I taken it on myself to take responsibility for other people’s emotions?

I am very much a carer. I’m one of those people that will do anything for a friend, even if it puts me out or makes things difficult for me. I had to mentally restrain myself from telling a friend that she could crash here for a few days while she sorted some things out with her boyfriend. Nope, nope. NOPE. But the intent was there. I do not have to care for everyone I meet like I’m the Mother Teresa. It is not my responsibility to take care of everyone, and honestly, I think this is another one of those things that stems from that good old Italian Catholic upbringing. This is one of those things that in small doses isn’t a bad thing, but the degree to which I seem to (want to) take it just isn’t healthy.

Ever hear the phrase “light yourself on fire to keep others warm?” Yeah, that’s me.

And as absolutely stupid as it sounds, this is what gets me in trouble sometimes with men. They take me being probably overly nice and concerned and caring and see it as me having feelings for them. And yeah, sometimes I don’t know how to handle the situation, especially if we’re friends because then I do care about them, but they don’t seem to understand that it’s only platonically.

In some ways I am very much the 2020 independent, strong, woman. In others, I am totally a 1950s housewife. And which personality is in control in different times. When it comes to Mike, I am in many ways the housewife first. At my job, I’m the strong woman. But the line between them blurs constantly. Anytime someone is having a bad day or a problem I want to feed them cookies and have them tell me all about it. But I also want to tell people to stand up for themselves and pull themselves up by the bootstraps.

But it’s time for me to learn the hard lesson: the only people who’s emotions should really matter are myself and Mike’s. I don’t need to take care of everyone. I don’t need to be everything for everyone that I know. I shouldn’t feel like I have to sacrifice myself to make other people happy. I need to learn how to put myself first. I need to understand that I have to manage my own emotions and mood before I do other’s, if I do other’s at all.

Looks like I’m back in therapy.

Stay safe friends!

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