I do not view my story to be the most shocking or the most troublesome thing anybody has ever faced, but, if by some chance my story can be related to by a reader and can touch somebody in some way, then this story has found purpose.
To begin, I have always viewed myself as a strong person. I was the one that people came to when they sought advice, when they needed a shoulder to cry on, and when they cried for help. I took pride in my “role,” it was something that was in my nature (and something that I am pursuing in post-secondary). But, what happens when the person who does the consoling needs help? That was a question I became faced with very quickly. It is easy enough to tell yourself “get over it” or “it’s just a phase,” however, when that phase shows little to no sign of stopping, what then?
I became so enveloped in the problems of others that I forgot one of the most crucial rules– self-care. I guess one can say my mental state started on a decline when myself and my girlfriend of two years parted ways. I contacted friends to talk, but eventually they became sick of the same old story and began brushing away my attempts at seeking help.
I found myself confining myself more and more to my dorm room with no company, but the surrounding walls. That is, until one day I met a girl over a social media app. For privacy reasons, I’ll call this girl S. S and I had a lot in common. We chatted for hours about the geeky things that I am into. Her taste in music was similar and most of all… she felt the way I was feeling. She knew what it was like to be alone, so in some ways we empathized with one another. For weeks we chatted, talking about life, talking about our problems, going on walks and watching movies. It seemed like the start of something new, something great. Then, S was not so well anymore. She began having really bad days, and immediately I went back to my old role. I did what I could to help her, sacrificing hours of sleep, just to fall asleep in class the next morning at 9 a.m. S’s mental state, however, seemed to do nothing but diminish in my opinion. Time after time, night after night, I would spend hours talking her out of manic states. During this time, somewhere, I lost what grip I had on my own mental state. The nights that she did not come over I lay wide awake staring at the ceiling, so angry that sleep eluded me. My mood heavily deteriorated, I went from happy go lucky to bland and emotionless. Then one day, after my workout, I was returning to my dorm room, I walked past my floors common room, which was full of people, not uncommon. Though, something was off, the mood was somber, so I just continued to push into my room. As I showered I heard a heavy knock on my door. This was very strange to me because it was not typical for me to have visitors. I opened the door to a pale faced Resident Assistant whom I knew quite well. He delivered the news, “S had passed last night.”
As cliché as it may sound, my whole world felt like it had collapsed around me. I had to brace against the doorframe to keep from falling over. I was caught somewhere between laughing and throwing up. I remember repeating “No” over and over as if he had told me some cruel joke. Like a one-two punch thrown by life I was brought to my knees.
One of my favourite quotes is actually from the movie Rocky Balboa (2006); “You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life.” Oh, how right that is. But, Rocky also goes on to say; “But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward.” I have taken that to heart. My low hit very hard. I was “sleepwalking through life” as some people might say. Some of my greatest interests faded to nothing, I distanced myself from my friends and I stayed away from social events I otherwise would have gladly attended. But, I always remembered that it was about how hard I could get hit and keep moving forward, I played that verse a thousand times in my head as a reminder that S would not have wanted me to continue down the path that I was headed.
Now, here I am. Writing this post as a hopeful voice for you. I hope you, the reader, can find some message out of my words. Whatever fight you are in right now, know that there are people out there who will help you, you are not alone no matter how much you may feel like you are. No, it will not be easy, it will be a daily struggle (believe me, I continue to fight my battle), but you will succeed. Fight hard my friend, if you ever need a listening ear, remember, it’s in my nature.
This is me to a T.
Taylor, thank you for sharing your story, I am sure it will help many people. I can tell you are a very loving and caring person. Some one who is empathetic to others needs and problems.
I also have had mental health issues and am now a peer support counsellor. I found that I was too empathetic to others problems which in turn put my mental health in danger. We take on what the other person is feeling.
There is nothing more important than your own mental health. I found that even though I seemed to be drawn to helping others, I was doing it in the wrong way. I had to protect myself from harm. I now set boundaries and limitations on how deeply involved I get involved. There are many other ways in helping someone that is healthy for us.
Protect yourself as well as helping others. I hope this has some value and might be helpful for you. I wish you good mental health.
I’m so sorry about your friend but I would like to think she is your angel now helping you to stay on track with your life. I struggle with alot of things I’ve had severe ups and severe downs I am lucky to be alive. The darkness can be a scary thing what I have learned is to try and do the opposite and try to always be around people the right ones of course. And if you are feeling suicidal always go for help. I can tell by the way you write that your smart and very good looking you have two really good traits don’t let mental illnesses be your trait and worry stay positive and get help you can’t do this on your own believe me it’s impossible.
I’m so sorry for your loss and your struggles. This was very well written and I can totally relate. It is very similar to parts of my life I’ll say. Thank you for sharing. I like to say.. ” hang tough”.. It’s my best response I’ve come to learn. Everytime I want to “leave”.. Run, hide, etc.. I have to “hang tough”. For me.. Who I always leave last as well, even though logically I know better..that I need to focus on self care.. And I need to be here for my children. I sometimes feel “they’ve trapped me here”…and I feel awful for those thoughts. But I don’t want them in pain like I have endured more than half my life.
Thank you Taylor. Hang tough .
Thanks for sharing this important story – I am going to share it with my teen son who fixes other people’s problems but sometimes while ignoring how it affects him. We all need help sometimes- and need to care for ourselves first and foremost.
I also live with mental illness, this post hits home in many ways. I too have been an ear for people on many occasions, often sacrificing my own mental health issues for the sake of others. As time has passed however, I have had to learn when to say “No” to others, (even close friends) when I feel overwhelmed by my own problems and can no longer help them bear theirs as well. I feel it is one of the most important things in dealing with mental illness that you learn your limits, and when to tell people, even the ones that you love the most, when you can’t be there for them because you need to take care of yourself.
I am sorry for your loss, Taylor. You have your future ahead of you. I was the same as you, early on. It’s good to know that at such a young age, you know what it is with which you are dealing. I was diagnosed with Bipolar I at 29. I’m on disability now. I worked 22 years plus in the cotton fields as a boy. I did Alzheimer’s, hospice and even, ironically, psych care for a bit(employee and patient). Age and noncompliance with meds exacerbated my disease. I’ve been out of the hospital longer now, going on 6 years, since I was diagnosed in ’92. 25 admissions, most for depression. My last three were involuntary, mania with psychotic features. Going on 6 years hospital free. My best friend, she has Bipolar II. I and she have a difficult time with our relationship. She’s up. I’m down. We meet in the middle. I had to set boundaries to care for myself. She has otherwise a poor family support system, and even though mine is good, I can’t make up for that. 53 now. So many dead over the years. Empathy is good. You have it, Taylor. I’m glad you have it for yourself now. Thanks for your story It touched me where I live.
Thank you for this – it is a gift to me. My sister and my nephew met the same fate as S. I realized a whole ago if I remained a caretaker I would sacrifice my children’s well-being. Don’t ever be ashamed of empathy. It is one of the better traits of humans, but we must utilize the qualified professional help that is available and improving every day. I spent years feeling guilty until I realized we need a qualified team to help with loved ones and sometimes, sadly, nothing helps. Now I work to diminish shame around mental health issues. I hope you can recognize that you helped alleviate the pain of others and take comfort.