Early last spring, life smacked me and those close to me in the face with a horrible news: a close, very dear friend’s cancer had gotten worse, and she was told she was terminal. At just about 25, she got that news. On the day she received it, me and my brother just knew that something was wrong. I lost count by the end of the day of how many messages, both through texts and FB were left unanswered. As worry turned sour in my gut, I texted her mother, to be told that whatever was going on my friend would want to tell me herself. So I sat there and waited, checking my phone every few minutes until I finally could no longer take it and rang her.
In between sobs, and tears, I finally got the news. So the B1O3 gang got on chat together and started to try and handle the situation. We were willing to give our all to the one person who we called family, to be there for her no matter what, to put ourselves last.
We were willing to do all that because never in life are you given a manual on how to deal with terminal illness. Had I been through the course on which I have since studied, maybe I would have been wiser, more aware of the mistakes I was making. But I hadn’t, and I thought I was doing what was best. Not best for me, mind, best for her. Because that is what you do, right? When somebody close to you is ill, you put them first, right?
But let’s add the context, I live two hours away by car from said friend, and I am already taking care of my brother who is disabled and chronically ill. Add to that the fact that when all this started I was going through one of my worst periods of depression and had just dropped out of uni because I couldn’t take the pressure and lack of help I was getting. Here we start to see the problem. It’s hard to be there for someone when you don’t live near them. Sure, you can send texts and answer calls and give all the moral support in the world. But you can never be there quite in a way that will let you do what you would want/need to do.
Not only that, but not being there in person means that it is by far harder to be kept in the loop. So I spent countless days just waiting. Waiting for a text, a message, something, to let me know what was going on. Communication became so broken and sporadic that it became an issue, a cause of tension and upset. And with that my depression got worse. Still, I wasn’t looking after myself, I let days go by, losing myself in Final Fantasy XIV where I could imagine being someone else for days on end and not have to feel all the upset and hurt and everything else that was going on. I thought I needed to be strong and that the only way to do that was to push everything down and never show anything.
Doing that is the most exhausting, soul draining thing ever. But I only learnt that recently. At the time I thought I was doing it all right. But I had the energy to do precisely nothing of note. I stopped writing, blogging, reading. I stopped creating. I lost myself in a game where I could just not have to think too much. On the one hand it saved me, because without that game I don’t know what I would have done, but on the other, losing myself to it like I did, was not the best way to look after myself.
I think for a long time, I thought I would never get out of the rut I had become stuck in: get up late, game and game and game, take out food in the evening, with doing the bare minimum around the house in between.
And then one day it hit me: I had stopped living and started merely existing.
I was horrified I had allowed this to happen. So I stopped, and took stock of the situation: communication with my friend had gone to hell at points, but I had met new people through FFXIV and made at least one amazing new friend. I was also feeling so stifled I felt like I was going to choke. At the same time, my emotional therapeutic counselling course had just started, and it was, in more ways than one, the hand that pulled me out of the rut I was in.
Sure, I still wasn’t doing much, but I was working towards something. Two sessions in and I knew this course was right for me.
And then Christmas and New Year happened. I’ll leave it at that.
I started the new year feeling a wreck and ready to give up on anything. It felt like I had taken one too many blows and that the last year had been so dreadful and too hard for me to keep pushing. But I guess I’m not someone who gives up, ever, no matter how much I think I’m going to.
And sure, the last few months have been rocky as hell. But I wrote some last month, and it made me feel alive. And I finished the first part of my course and learnt so much about myself that I can now face 90% of the mood swings and other emotional stuff that happens to me with a cool head and a capacity to understand the whys and hows and the what I need to do.
I’m now standing in the middle of March, looking at the trail from last April, wondering where all that time went. Behind me lay the corpses of wasted days. It hurts to look back, and I’m bitter still about what happened. But now I understand, all those days went into me trying so hard to put someone else first, when I couldn’t help that person in the way I was ready to. Distance and communication issues turned my offered selflessness into a poison that slowly tried to rot me from the inside. I felt unworthy, unwanted, rejected. And it very nearly destroyed me.
But through all that I at least learned two very important things:
- sometimes I need to come first. Because if I’m not ok, then how can I hope to help others.
- and I can’t save/help everyone.
I learnt the latter during my course, during dream analysis and ever since I came to that realisation, the nightmares that were plaguing me have gone.
So to anyone out there who is watching someone going through terrible things and has put their own lives on pause for them, remember you matter too. Remember you need to come first and love yourself and make sure you are ok. Because at the end of the day, when all is said and done and over, you will be the one suffering the most.
I learnt that, the hard, long way. And I lost a year of doing anything I wanted in the process. I lost a year of creating the stories I love. But a year is nothing in long run when I have learnt what I have learnt. So here I am now, ready to blog, and write, and be myself like I have never been before. Because I’m stronger now. Because like my dad always said ‘What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger’.
Somehow I made it back from losing myself of my own doing, and that’s hard. But it’s do-able. Anyone going through the same out there, for one reason or another, remember this: no matter the reasons you are losing or have lost yourself, you can always come back from it!