Feeling Irritated for Always Being There

Whenever I find out that someone suffer from the same kind of mental illnesses that I do (anxiety, depression, ADHD), I automatically become inclined to talk to them more because I know how difficult it is to feel all alone and helpless. I would almost reflexively tell them that I’m there for them to talk if they ever need to. I do it, not only because of my protective nature, but also because I know that not many people care to talk to someone who is suffering from depression or anxiety or ADHD.

I have found few people to talk to other than S (which is why I spend so much time in his office and have been spending so much time in his office lately) so I want to offer that crying shoulder, and the comforting ear.

That said, I sometimes think that maybe I’m overexerting myself because depending on who I’m talking to, sometimes I end up feeling more distress myself because I’ve taken on the person’s burden on top of my own already-very-heavy one. I can’t seem to help it though – I always just would rather hurt myself than let others hurt.

Case in point, I have a friend who would message me whenever they’re down and despite all the encouragement, one doesn’t simply get out of being depressed – a fact that I know full well. Lately, I’ve been feeling stretched thin by my own struggles with the issues of abandonment, grief, confusion over trying to reconcile my faith with my identity, and overwhelming stress from school. So, every time I hear from my friend, I feel irritated.

I feel bad about it of course because I feel that this was my own doing – after all, I was the one who offered to be the empathetic friend who will always be there to listen and to help. Yet, I can’t help the exhaustion I feel. I don’t know if I am allowed to feel that irritation or not. In some cases in my life, my anger is justified and deserved, even. In some other cases, it’s not so clear – this being one of it.

I want to be supportive, helpful, and a comfort for all who need it from me. But I’m also exhausted. What do I do?

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12 thoughts on “Feeling Irritated for Always Being There

  1. Mutuality instinctively comes to mind when I read your post. It’s a little something I picked up in my IPS training. We can get so used to being the person to console, the person to be that “helper”, and as a result disregard how we feel and our own struggle for the sake of theirs. It’s very easy to get burned out that way.

    Mutuality, then, is a way to bring the relationship about “we” and not just “them” or “me”. Essentially, it becomes about sitting down and telling that person “You know, I’m really struggling right now with my own issues of e.t.c, e.t.c, e.t.c, and I understand you are too because I’ve been there, but sometimes I it’s hard for me to listen/console/[enter whatever you consider yourself to that person], and I was just wondering if we could some how make this relationship/friendship work better for the both of us”

    Something along those lines. The point is to let that other person know how YOU feel as well. And I know it sounds like you’re saying “your problems are making mine worse” but people respond surprisingly well (most of the time) when you come at them with positivity, with team work, and letting them know how THEY affect you directly. Often they don’t know how they’re affecting you.

    It’s something we use where I work, as things can become very intense, people will basically start using you as a door mat to lay their problems on and it can really get to you. So anyway, that’s just my two cents on the subject. I’m sure if what I said above doesn’t work well for you, some kind of mutuality between you two will come about however you decide to pursue it whether or not you choose to continue the friendship, as long as you can be open about how they make you feel.

    As always, wishing you well.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Wow! Thanks!! I’ve never heard of that before but it’s such a cool concept! And you’re right, I do feel like other people’s issues are more important than mine and that I don’t deserve to say anything about myself. I’ll give this a shot! It might work and then we’ll both feel the better for it!

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  2. You are allowed to feel exhausted in your relationships. You are allowed to feel overwhelmed. I think its natural to reach out to those that need our support or that share a similar diagnosis to us. My best friend and I lean on eachother, often quite heavily… but one thing I’ve learned is to be open about what I need, and to assert my needs and my own boundaries.

    Sometimes I’ll warn that friend early in the day and be like “hey, just so you know I won’t be available tonight, but lets have a coffee date at xyz time” — that way, if they message, there isn’t that anger or disconnect for them and they have a future time to hold on to.

    Whatever you do, take care of you – I like the oxygen mask analogy. I once called a crisis line at 12 and the lady told me I couldn’t fix my family – I couldn’t help them breathe until I had my own oxygen flowing, and I try to remember that in these situations 🙂

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  3. Does this person only lean on you? Or does s/he have other sources of support as well? If you are the only support, maybe it would be good to encourage him or her to think about developing additional support. It could be CAPS. It could be a friend or family member.

    Of course you don’t want your friend to feel rejected (not that depressed people are ever overly sensitive, HA!). You can also approach it though as concern that there be additional supports not because you don’t want to help but because something you are working, in class, sleeping, out with friends. Or sometimes you are caught up in your own challenges. It genuinely is helpful for there to be multiple sources of support.

    “It takes a village” not just to raise a child but also to surround an adult with the love and care and friendship we all need.

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  4. Hmm…. As far as I know, no. She said that her husband thinks that she’s being silly whenever she talks to him so she didn’t bring it anymore…. And, she’s actually all the way in Malaysia so, we have that challenge a. Well… But, I see wisdom in what you’re saying! I think in my own experience, it was helpful to have multiple people help and support – not only does it help to have more support, it also means that if one person is unavailable, then there’s someone else I could lean on. Good idea, Q! Thanks.!

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  5. I actually recently wrote a blog entry asking this very question. How can someone who is clinically depressed and in a bad rut possibly reach out to others if they can’t help themselves? There is no easy or fair answer. All I know is that if I do try and help someone else out when I’m depressed myself, I am not sincere when doing so.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh cool! I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one who has the same question about it! You’re right, it is complicated – especially, when you’re in a downward episode.

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  6. I like using “The Spoon Theory” – https://butyoudontlooksick.com/articles/written-by-christine/the-spoon-theory/

    I’m not a Peer Educator like you, I just do peer support on an informal basis.

    When I need support, I say very briefly I’m struggling with X, and ask if the other person has bandwidth to listen.

    If I’m the one supporting, I support when I’m able, but explain I’m out of spoons if I can’t. Then I’ll say I’ll check on them tomorrow, next week etc.

    Certain topics I inform people (when everyone’s in a good place) I can’t handle eg active suicidality.

    I used to give and give even when having suicidal ideation myself and neglected my own well-being.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, that’s cool! I’ve read the spoon story before but never really thought about it as me having spoons too! Thank you for the idea!! You’re right, I should be able to say that I’m out of spoons and that I’ll have to help later. 😀

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      1. And if they care about you and aren’t just using you (though I do understand how pain, and abandonment issues can flood one with great desperation), they’ll understand even if they can’t support you 🙂

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