I’m polite, me. I speak softly. Carefully. I don’t want to offend or cause conflict or hurt so my aim is to say kind things as much as possible.
But what I’m finding in the depths of severe depression just lately; is that it costs too much!!! Not financially, but in terms of giving pieces of myself away to make someone else feel better. It honestly feels like tearing off a bit of my skin to patch up a hole in theirs…as gross as that sounds. It is painful! It is costly. It takes SO MUCH TIME to heal and recover from – and yet, this is where I found myself the other day – giving pieces of myself away to make my friend feel better.
In hindsight – my friend…let’s call her “Krystal” is one of the loveliest people in the world. She’s sooo thoughtful, kind and sweet and does so much for others. She highly values her family and will do just about anything to keep her children happy. Krystal is pretty amazing.
I know Krystal is busy being “Super Mom”, so I try my best not to bother her. But this one day – because I was so freaking distressed at being released by hospital when I desperately needed their help AND getting COVID on top of that – it was making my heart race and my thoughts were speeding up and leading to a really dark place.
The tiny bit of logic I had left whispered “this is the part where you call a friend for help, JD“
Have you been there? Where you are so desperate and out of control that logic and reason go out the window and you have to try to hold onto any tiny thing that does make sense?
Calling a friend for help – that made sense.
So okay. Who to call?
I don’t know why – but the image of Krystal’s kind face came into my mind. Krystal is pretty level-headed and has been there for me in the past with really great, logical, practical advice. In the past few months, she’s been struggling so I’ve been lovingly (and happily) supporting her and helping her through some difficult decisions and events in her life.
The last time we spoke, Krystal thanked me for listening (my absolute pleasure) and said she would love to do the same for me when I needed it.
Well…I needed it. Now.
So I texted “Hey you…nothing urgent but do you have time to talk with me this afternoon? I’m feeling pretty distressed and wanted to hash out a few things with you…is that ok? Totes fine if not“
and pressed ‘send’.
A few minutes later, Krystal responded “I’m so sorry, Janet – I have a lot going on just now“
And honestly? It really WAS okay. I have so many friends so this is where I just move on to the next contact in my phone list. Totally okay.
So I text back “Ok no worries, love you xx” and I think that’s surely the end of it, hey?
BUT IT WASN’T. It was actually the beginning of a descent into hell.
As I was texting a similar text to the next friend on my ‘call if you need help’ list, Krystal texted again: “It’s just that I’m helping a friend who is really struggling. She’s going through a lot and I’m doing my best to help her, otherwise I’d definitely call you so we could talk“
I sighed. It hurt to read those texts because I know that Krystal is feeling guilty for not listening to me and wants to explain why. I get that, I do. But now it means I have to respond. I have to then put aside my pain and I have to put Krystal front and centre.
This is where COST comes in…because my cup is empty so I need to find something else to give you, Krystal and I only have myself – so here goes the strip of flesh that I actually really needed…
With my heart breaking from the cost to respond to her text, I text back “You are such a good friend to so many, Krystal. It’s totally okay. I understand. You carry on, I’ve found someone to speak to“
And when I press send, a strip of my flesh gets torn off.
OMG that hurts so much!
Still, I feel like I sent a pretty good response. I encouraged and uplifted my friend in spite of the darkness I’m experiencing and I’ve told her that she can focus on what she’s doing as well as putting her at ease because I’ve also moved on to someone else. She doesn’t need to feel guilty now and that’s the end of that.
Tears well up in my eyes as my phone ‘pings’ and I read the next text from Krystal.
“As well as helping my friend, I’m really weighed down with some big decisions about one of my sons – this is so hard, Janet“
Oh Krystal. You are killing me here, because I have to send you ANOTHER text when I’m already running on empty, my friend. I’m struggling to keep this conversation going with you so I am trying to end this, yet you require more.
Now, I have to tear another painful strip from my flesh as I text back – tears flowing now – “I can imagine it must be a lot for you to go through, you poor thing. I know you will make the right decision, no one knows your child like you do. Love you xx“
I really wanted to text: “NOW PLEASE, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD – STOP TEXTING ME BECAUSE YOU’RE FORCING ME TO ENCOURAGE AND CARE FOR YOU WHEN I’M LITERALLY WEIGHING UP WHETHER OR NOT TO CUT MY WRISTS RIGHT NOW. I don’t have the emotional capacity for this!!! Please stop it!!!”
But we can’t text stuff like that to our mates, can we?
It’s not nice. It’s not PC. It’s not polite.
My distress is now even HIGHER and my anxiety is steadily climbing. Instead of sitting cross-legged on the sofa reading a pretty good fictional book about a crime by the sea, I’m now anxiously looking at my phone screen, pleading that no text comes back because now I’m bleeding from tearing these strips off myself and the cost is too high. Too much. I can’t keep doing this.
“Ping!” goes my phone.
UP goes my anxiety.
The kitchen knife I can see on the bench now looks 100 times more tempting than it did before I started this bollocks because I just want it to stop.
I CAN’T KEEP GOING ON WITH YOU LIKE THIS, KRYSTAL!!! THIS IS KILLING ME!!! THE COST OF RESPONDING TO YOU WHEN I AM SO FUCKING DISTRESSED IS TOO FUCKING MUCH!!!
“Also, my husband is away for longer than expected so I have to cook dinner on my own when I’ve already worked a long day. I don’t know how to cope with this, Janet” Krystal texts.
FOR FUCK’S SAKES!!!
I am raging now. I’m SO ANGRY. So incredibly distresed. SO desperate to keep myself alive, but every text from my friend is pushing me further and further away from hope.
Now instead of being ‘a little concerned about where my thoughts are potentially leading’, I’m LOSING MY FUCKING MIND. I’m curled in a ball, rocking myself in a mad attempt to calm myself in this darkness and the book I was previously enjoying is now discarded on the floor. I’m shaking, my heart is thumping wildly in my chest and tears are POURING from my eyes because this exchange is SO FUCKING DISTRESSING to me.
WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS, KRYSTAL??? WHEN IS ENOUGH GOING TO FUCKING BE ENOUGH???
WHY AM I ENCOURAGING THIS???
I know that if I don’t text back, Krystal will worry that I’m mad at her. Then that makes her anxious. I don’t want that for her. I know she needs encouragement and support and somewhere in there, she’s just forgotten my original “help me” text.
I feel like I’m being held hostage by own fucking phone. I want so badly to throw it across the room and have it smash on the wall BECAUSE I DON’T WANT TO RESPOND ANY FUCKING MORE TO THESE TEXTS.
But Krystal awaits a response.
And being a people pleaser and a good girl for all my life DEMANDS that I provide one.
So I unplug my life support and I instead plug it into Krystal’s extra port.
“You are doing an amazing job and whatever you pick for tea will be lovely. You’re such a strong person and you’re doing a wonderful job in spite of so much to have to cope with without your husband there to help“
Please God. I’m praying now with all my heart. Please no more texts. Please.
“Thanks” she sends back.
AND THANKFULLY that means THAT THE TORTURE CAN FINALLY END.
Trembling, I turn my phone off.
I don’t call ANYONE after that.
It’s not worth the cost.
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