It’s been quite the month. Two collapses, one trip to hospital, and several “friendships” cut short. I use quotation marks because I realise now that I’d fallen foul of the belief that everyone who smiles is a friend.
Okay. Let’s start at the start. A few months ago, a friend of mine went through a trauma. We became very close as I supported them through the pain that followed, checking in with them every day, making sure they had money for food, gas, electric. I started putting them before me. I’d be having a rough night, struggling with my own mental health, and I’d still call them and spend an hour on the phone to make sure they were holding up okay. I’d listen to angry rants, I’d let them use me as a verbal punch-bag at times.
After about a month of this, I noticed my own mental health going into decline. My anxiety levels rose, my depression made a return, and in amongst it all, it became clear that I was suffering from ongoing trauma following an assault I experienced in 2015. This was compounded by two further assaults that were comparatively mild in nature, and one count of sexual harassment.
Suffice to say, I was glad to see the end of 2016. By now, I was struggling with night terrors as well as battling intense thoughts relating to self-harm. Before Christmas, I went to my Dr and asked for a referral back to therapy.
Fast forward a bit. January 2016, I began to realise that my friend’s drinking habits were becoming harmful. I didn’t recognise the person sat next to me. It would be a month before I realised that I was watching them drink themselves to death. Alcohol is a vicious substance.
Fast forward again, February 2016. I travelled to London to attend a mental health conference, and had the privilege of speaking on a panel on the second day. Things went really well despite my anxiety! When all was said and done, I called my friend who happened to be in London at the same time with another of their friends. We decided to go out for dinner and drinks when I got away from the conference venue.
Next, I ended up going for a drink with some of the team from the conference. I texted my friend to let them know I’d be roughly an hour later than planned. “No problem”. 45 minutes later I get a phonecall from an irritated friend, asking where I was. I made my apologies and left for a train to meet my friend and their friend.
We find a pub, we order dinner and a round of drinks. There’s a mix up with dinner. My friend is becoming visibly agitated. I glance at their pint. I compare it to my glass of wine. I bite my tongue. Dinner arrives. We eat. We talk. The other person goes for a cigarette outside. When they get back, I nip to the loo. When I get back, truths are unveiled. I begin to break. The last four months have consisted of deceit.
Eventually I say, “I’m done”. I grab my belongings, nip to the loo, and leave to go back to my hotel. They’re outside. The argument escalates. I become hysterical.
I open my eyes, there’s a man looking at me. He’s talking to me. He explains that he’s a first aider. I realise I’m lying on the ground. I’d collapsed.
The following day, I relapse. 2 years and 10 months of recovery, and I self-harmed.
It occurs to me I should cut ties with this “friend”. It takes another day before I say, “I’m finished. I can’t do this any more.” It isn’t long before I order lunch for delivery to my “friend’s” house. I wanted to know they were eating. They’d promised that they’d sober up. I figured if it were true, they wouldn’t be in the mood for cooking, and besides, they might not have any food in the house.
Soon, I go out for a drink with an acquaintance. I drink two pints, and we move to a club. I have one mouthful of my fresh drink, and I wake up in hospital. We don’t know why I collapsed that time, but I’m willing to bet it’s linked to stress.
You see, putting someone else’s wellbeing ahead of your own can have disastrous consequences. Even while I was aware of my mental health spiralling, I continued to prioritise somebody else, and in reality, I’ve been lucky. As far as anyone can tell, there’s no lasting damage, just a few scrapes and bruises.
The poor state of my mental health meant that I was more vulnerable than usual when it came to the potential for manipulation. As a result, I unknowingly enabled an alcoholic. I overlooked the fact that this person was drinking 10 bottles of beer each night. I shrugged it off. I nodded in agreement when they suggested that they ought to cut down on their drinking, but I didn’t make a fuss about it.
I was blind to the fact that the reason for them being unable to afford food was because they were spending every penny on alcohol. All the while I watched their eyes and skin take on a yellow hue.
I’ve finally cut this person off completely. I’m hoping that they’re going to make a full recovery, but for me the door is staying firmly shut. It’s time for me to be selfish.
Traditionally, being selfish is viewed as a terrible thing to be. However, I would argue that when being someone’s crutch drives you to breaking point, it’s definitely time to be a little selfish. That doesn’t mean don’t help people, but it does mean not making them your sole focus.
You are your own number one. Remember that. Cherish you and all that you are, you wonderful human.