The Good, The Bad and The… Selfish?

By Ani

“Hey guys, I’m almost recovered now!

My episodes only happen three times every one-two months, and when they do happen, I don’t really hurt anyone around me emotionally and no longer engage in any destructive behaviour.

I’ve learned to self-soothe, a really good lesson for me – my quality of life is awesome! I watched a cool movie last week, I cancelled a meet-up with my best friend, but I’m sure he understands. I broke the television and my dad flipped out saying it was the only thing that would help his insomnia, which was really hard for me, but I forgave him. I promised to pay him for repairs six months ago, but I use my money for meds and other things, but I will pay him back, eventually. I’ve got a job at my dad’s shop, but I just stick to the cashier, anything more than that is uncomfortable. Dad’s stressed and the other part-timer is new, but he knows my situation, so.

I don’t keep in contact with my therapist because she triggers me, she thinks I need to get out of bed and do something productive to help my recovery, but she doesn’t understand me. Basically, I’ve mastered the art of not giving a crap about the problems around me. I’ve learned not to care about anyone, besides me, because it’s part of my recovery. I don’t need anyone any more, so yeah, I’m recovering! Thank God for self-care!”

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(Did anyone squirm?)

  • Don’t get me wrong, guys.

Focusing on my needs when I was triggered helped me get through my BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) episodes. Which mostly had to do with my low self-esteem, self-destructive behaviour, self-loathing and distorted sense of identity.

Yeah, that’s a lot of self, and a lot of me – which is what this entry will be discussing. (Read my other blog “I am me. Not BPD” if you want more on identity versus mental illness).

  • When you get sick. Really sick.

Mostly, people don’t criticise you for complaining about your pain, taking time off to feel better (no matter how long). Or just doing things you want to do. Being ‘selfish’ becomes more of ‘self-care,’ as they say. But at what point does ‘self-care’ go back to being ‘selfish’ and not at all helpful to your recovery or the people around you?

So, say you are now in better control of your symptoms. You are able to recover from episodes/attacks on your own. Mentally, you feel in control of the steering wheel, driving along. But you are headed towards a mental car crash, if you don’t balance the self-care with being honest and diligent in slowly testing and pushing your boundaries. Balancing the ‘I want’ over ‘I need’ and recognising when you are confusing the two. Because there’s a difference between ‘I can’t handle this’ and ‘I don’t like this.’ Some people will recognise the difference after practice, time or recording a diary. For me, recognising which is which was the easy part, changing it however, was the hardest.

Using self-care to rebuild your self-esteem, confidence and happiness does not automatically make you selfish.

It’s when you start to use your mental illness as an excuse for doing things you might be ashamed of, or to not do things that you (for various reasons) just don’t want to do, but you know that you can and should.

Like not taking care of your hygiene, not saying sorry, refusing to clean up, or refusing to listen to someone, refusing to help a loved one when you know they need it or are asking for it. On and on.

Before you bring out the torches and pitchforks, I’ll dig my grave first, eh?

I wanted to recover. But I didn’t want to do the things that recovery would mean. Which is where my least favourite words and sentences come in: consistency, discipline, confronting my past, changing my bad habits, taking responsibility for my actions – even if I’m triggered. Opening up my heart to people who might break it, and getting up after every failure, even when it’s so exhausting, so embarrassing, so unfair and all I want to do is just stay down in my comfy zone.

Avoiding uncomfortable, difficult or scary things will make life with mental illness seem less difficult, but it’s not exactly helping and at the end of the day you are injuring yourself. Or rather, the person you have the potential to become, and the future you are shaping with every choice you make now. Because despite what people think, and what people would like you to think, mental illness might be a part of you, but you decide how big that part is. It does not have to dictate your choices. It has no right to. Because you own your body, not the other way around.

So yeah, sometimes it pays to not care what people think when you have a panic attack at the mall and people are staring at your awesome reddish “Jabba the Hutt” eyes.

It’s good to put your needs first, in that business meeting when you feel triggered and you need support ASAP.

But there is so much you can do to contribute to this world.

Your world.

My world.

Our world.

But if you only think of you, where are all the amazing people in your life, or about to come into your life, gonna fit?

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