I never understood the meaning of self-love and self-care. The first time I read a book called, When Helping You is Hurting Me, I was eighteen years old and had just cut ties with my father who relapsed with alcohol. That was around the same time when a lot of friction and overall, tension arose within the family—both sides, to be precise. Over the years, I have come to know that discussing a lot of subjects, aka the elephant in the room, is common for many families. This goes for hetero, same-sex, single, marriage, divorce, with children, and without children households. In the end, can most of us agree that is hypocritical to judge and well, throw one’s health into their face?
It is why most recently, I have reflected a few passages I read in When Helping You is Hurting Me, after a series of incidents occurred this past week. My solution was to stop being a people pleaser.
It started with a producer shaming me a few days ago for me not getting back to their responses within a certain time frame, even though I gave my ‘heads up’ of being on two project preparation which would have me away from my emails and phone. I summarized with my, ‘will be in touch in a few days,’ response. Until I received their email where they called me a ‘fake’ mental health advocate, considering it was ‘ironic,’ in their eyes, how I advocate for both mental health yet cannot just dive on board with a project that deals with awareness. I responded as professionally as I could, even consulting with a dear friend and my manager on how to approach this situation. Instead, my email only triggered back more than twenty or so emails by this producer, forcing me to respond with not hitting me up, unless some form of proof of a budget and a contract template for the producer opening and if it was paid, copy/credit, or if there is some sort of backend fee.
Besides, on the entertainment or business side, in general, nothing is ‘official’ until documents are signed but even then, people can still drop out at any given moment due to other commitments or a loss of interest in a project. That is life, however, one should still be professional and not ‘shame’ or throw this sort of ‘punishment’ on others. Of course, unless something inappropriate is done, then the survivor can take further actions, including legal.
Yet is that not the irony in today’s world—how many people know when to separate art versus their own wellbeing, as well as from a business perspective. Most recently, I have given myself permission in saying ‘no’ more, which has taken me five-and-a-half years to do, learning to do so in therapy. This applies to all areas of my life, whether that be with family, friends, colleagues, and so forth. The reality is how the world can come off as supportive with groups and reasons for it to be ‘okay’ to discuss certain topics. However, there are also one too many individuals are the ones saying, ‘it is okay,’ yet use one’s mental health against them. That is forever the irony.
Ironically, going back to the day I received the mental health shaming email by this producer, I also had a meeting with one of my dear friends who is too, a mental health advocate. Another ironic moment was driving to this meeting when my phone started blowing up with text messages by a friend I talk to on and off. They were text messages indicating my friend going through a difficult time. As soon as I parked, I read and took another look at the text messages to see what was going on. Without disclosing my friend’s personal matters, I ended up texting them back how I am here and their friend, as well as support whatever they decide to do, however, I am in no position to provide any medical, legal, or consultation advice. I also apologized if I myself crossed a boundary in saying so but admitted of not wanting to say the ‘wrong’ thing to them because text messages can often become misinterpreted or misinformative.
My friend texted back but this time went into further details of a personal matter in which triggered my history with a similar situation, heightening my own anxiety. I will admit not getting back to my friend’s text as I was already running a few minutes late to my meeting with my mental health advocate friend. That was the moment I reckoned it is okay for myself to tell a friend, who is in need of help, to talk to someone or attempt to reach out to a professional. However, that was also the moment when I noticed how perhaps, even my own advocacy work for awareness, in general, can be misleading of how my life can, well, seem ‘put together.’
So, my conversation in the following minutes, which last around three hours, with my friend who is also a mental health advocate covered on the irony of advocating for something, yet still being honest on learning or even, getting help as we become more outspoken on our own personal journey. The truth is my journey recovery with my own physical and mental health is a process and will be ongoing for the rest of my life. But so, will everyone else who is in some type of recovery, whether that be therapy, rehab, hospital and so much more. Again, I now understand the message and ongoing themes of ‘when helping you is hurting me,’ which I have been open with some friends and family of putting a boundary when I feel it has been crossed over and can be triggery for me.
Concluding this piece on a more positive note, the truth is that there is never shame in turning down opportunities or situations, especially if one is going through a difficult personal matter or it is something, they feel of not being the best choice for it. I find if anyone shames someone for their own individual beliefs IS the problem to those ongoing stigmas, especially with mental and physical health. In the end, one should NEVER feel ashamed for setting those boundaries or being perhaps a bit ‘blunter’ by telling loved ones how they are feeling triggered themselves. People NEED to always put their own health first and if others cannot respect that, then do they truly need to be a part of your life?
Respect boundaries that are being set. People do so for a reason and if one is curious why, then do not be afraid to ask but also do not press the other person to forcibly to answer.