Secure Your Oxygen Mask before Helping Others

This is an on the whim topic that came up in a casual conversation today with a friend.

This is the scenario:

A friend of mine has had a rough week that was taking a toll on their mental health. It’s Wednesday and they’re exhausted (totally justified, not that it needs to be). They had a date scheduled for tonight but with everything going on, really didn’t feel up to it. They felt bad about cancelling, so made up an excuse to avoid hurting the date but it ended up backfiring after the date put together the contradictory statements and subsequently called my friend out. The date sympathized with them and all they are going through but decided they did not want to reschedule or continue moving forward. This was a first date, they had never met.

After this all happened, my friend reaches out very upset. Not because their date didn’t want to reschedule, but because they feel they hurt the other person by lying. The whole reason they lied in the first place was because they didn’t want to hurt their date by putting their mental health first.

My friend and I have both been through years of therapy and understand each other very well, so naturally we had a conversation talking through everything that just happened. When we were talking through everything, honestly it’s what inspired me to write this post. I feel that we worked through these problems that people who don’t struggle with mental health would feel is pretty straightforward. For those of us who do struggle with mental health I really feel that the discussion we had will be extremely beneficial, so I wanted to share.

First off, taking care of your mental health before prioritizing others is not being an asshole. If you are struggling you cannot support, help or even engage with someone else unless your needs are being met. This is spoken like a true introvert, but it’s true. It can be as simple as feeling that grabbing drinks would be too much for you, and asking someone for a rain check.

Being truthful and honest and straightforward about what your needs are is important in all relationships even friendships. if someone can’t handle that, they do not deserve to be in your life.

I personally think that dating is such a scary world to navigate, because people are afraid to express how they feel, or making someone upset when prioritizing their needs. On both sides of every relationship, each individual has needs that need to be met. And I’m talking from like the Maslow‘s hierarchy of needs model. (food, water, safety, Etc.) For anyone who deals with mental health, this would fall into safety. You cannot take care of yourself until your mental health needs are met.

I am not perfect and I have never claimed to be perfect. I have my own shit storm of relationship issues that I’ve written about on here. It is so much easier said than done but I think it’s important to continue to talk about it in order to make it a priority for ourselves.

So many people are more concerned with making others upset and hurting others, that they will put everything over their needs. If they don’t do this or if they stand up for themselves or communicate what they need, it’s an instant feeling of guilt. This scenario is a great example because my friend really does need to take a night for themselves, and I truly don’t feel that if they did go on this date it would positively benefit them. I think it would continue a spiral of anxiety and spike their depression, which is the last thing that I want for them, and what they should want for themselves. Now given how it turned out they are feeling extremely guilty. However I think no matter what the result was they would still feel that guilt just for who they are as a person. It’s a continuous cycle.

So how do we move past this? How do we grow from this point to being able to differentiate taking care of yourself and being an asshole to other people? I think it’s very important for us to prioritize what it is we need to be able to function. And this is coming from again years of therapy. I think it’s important to say am I being lazy or is it actually get a trigger me if I don’t take this time to spend for myself. What is my body telling me? Every person is different, every scenario is not the same, but it’s so important to be mindful of every situation. Take a moment to really think through what you’re feeling physically, emotionally, and mentally. Listen to what your body needs.

Positive and constructive comments welcomed below!

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