Self Care and Relationships

My guess is that if you have good self esteem and a sense of self worth, then you’ll be more confident about when to step away from people. I’ve been paying attention to my own processes around this in recent weeks and have noticed some patterns I thought it might be helpful to share.

If something goes wrong and I express distress, there’s a small window where things can be ok. If the other person comes back with care and concern then I can work things through and it’s usually fine. Now, if I was watching a friend in this situation, and they expressed distress and the person who had caused it doubled down on them, I would have no qualms saying ‘get out of there, this person does not have your best interests at heart’. When it’s me, other things happen.

I think it’s my fault. I think I’ve done something wrong and brought it upon myself. I think it’s fair and deserved. Probably I wasn’t trying hard enough or giving enough. I should make more effort to be patient, generous, accommodating and forgiving. So when someone hurts me, if they don’t back off from that quickly I can end up trying harder to be nicer to them and feeling like a total failure while I’m doing it. I’ve got to the point where I can see myself doing it and I know it’s not good for me, but I still can’t stop the thoughts that come.

I find it difficult to step away from people. Even when I know they are harming me, a feeling of guilt can stay with me for years afterwards. I’m working on this. There are a lot of unhelpful places my brain goes when people double down on hurting me. It builds my expectation that any expression of distress on my part will be met with further punishment. I fight against feeling that people will hate me, blame me and want to knock me down for daring to say ‘ouch’. I find it really hard to trust people not to hate me.

Even when I’m not triggered into all the places this takes me, it remains in the mix. I’ve got to trust a person a great deal to express distress to them. I’ve got to value a person a great deal to give them the opportunity to double down on me. When it’s people I barely know, I just slink off – because I can manage that much self care, and the stress of raising discomfort with people is high.

When people respond to distress by telling me why it’s my fault, or justifying it, that sends me off to some really dark places. It brings up other, older, nastier hurts that I was told were my fault, one way or another. I can become unable to escape from those memories in the short term. Classic PTSD triggering.

I want to be someone who is reliably kind, patient and generous. I want to forgive everyone’s mistakes and shortcomings and I feel a deep sense of obligation to be nice to people who hurt me. I also know that this way lies madness, in a rather literal sense. I know that if I stay in there for too long with someone who keeps hurting me, I will end up in serious trouble. Self care means saying no to people around this stuff. If I put my own comfort first, saying no the first time someone doesn’t respond in the way I need them to would be the way to go. But the weight of the guilt is terrible.

I have a hard time accepting that I cannot be a good and kind friend to a person who triggers me and makes me ill. I feel like a failure every time I run into that. I feel like they are entitled to more from me. Even though I don’t have that to give. I want the people who care if I am hurt, and I want to feel entitled to only really deal with people who care about me, and not to feel obliged to care about who don’t reciprocate, but there’s a lot of old training to deal with here and it will take time.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

13 responses to “Self Care and Relationships

  • emberbear

    You have an excellent understanding of what triggers you. As you say, in your own good time, you will follow your gut and do what you have to do for your own sake. It’s not selfish to protect yourself from unnecessary hurt. Thank you for sharing. In the end, we all outgrow certain relationships and modes of relating. In my experience, every time I have shut a door on an unhealthy relationship, a much happier, healthier and less demanding relationship has sprung up to replace it. I hope the same comes true for you.

    • Nimue Brown

      We all have a finite amount of time, and the time that goes into people who are doing us no good is not time well spent. the less bogged down I’ve been in the dramas and manipulations of others, the more room I’ve found to spend time in much happier relationships. Definitely a thing.

  • emberbear

    You are absolutely right. So a thing!

  • Iva Didova

    Triggers can be amazing helpers if we learn to understand them. Thank you for this

  • eberis

    preventing temporum in plaigiary is how I’d put it in way of addendum to ordinance of designation and thought about same wording .

  • heatherjo86

    I too feel obligated to be nice to those that are not so nice to me. However, being cordial and maintaining a relationship are to separate things. Sometimes we need to distance ourselves from those that weigh us down emotionally and psychologically. At Romans 12:18 we’re directed to be peaceable with all men. But at 1 Corinthians 5:11-13 we’re encouraged to remove wicked people from our lives. Balance and grace are definitely needed but at the end of the day you have to do what’s right for you.

  • Robert Partington

    You sound like a really sweet lady! Might seem a little cliché, but I think healthy boundaries are one of the keys to all of this. Notice a lot more grieving posts in WP by folks with poor boundaries than those who practice the opposite. Getting healthy individually is one of the other keys. One always knows personal healing is an issue when the stress ratchets up a few notches. You sound like an awesome and sensitive friend. Lot’s of wisdom in your opening sentence. Really appreciate your writing.

    • Nimue Brown

      Thank you. I think what you’ve said raises in turn the question of how we develop good boundaries in the first place – no doubt family backgrounds and cultural experiences have a big impact in here.

      • Robert Partington

        Family backgrounds and life experiences definitely affect our emotional health, but I think developing healthier boundaries is simply a learned skill. I just don’t think it’s one of the life lessons many of us are taught along the way. I’m planning on doing a post or two on this much needed topic in the future, but in the meantime, I would welcome the opportunity to discuss. Thanks again for creating a blog that provokes great conversation!

      • Nimue Brown

        I think most things are learned skills,when you get down to it. Looking forward to seeing where you take this – do tag me on social media or somesuch.

  • zita666479

    What a great post! Less than a decade ago, I went through a massive transformation. I cleaned out my closet of all negativity plus healing myself. I placed my standards for friendship high; what I gave to a friendship is what I demanded back. My circle of friends is tiny, but the bond is solid. There is honestly, loyalty, and trust, the three things I will never sell!

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