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It was a Monday afternoon and I was completely off schedule. I hadn’t worked out, I hadn’t written, I hadn’t even had a cup of coffee. Instead, I was staring at a blank Word document, thinking about all the pieces. “Pieces, yes. Shambles, no. I will not claim it,” I said to myself, while wondering where the hell the tears had come from. It didn’t make sense. The night before I felt so relieved. I’d decided to remove myself from a situation that had turned a not-so-appealing shade of gray. I’d also decided I should spend more time working on my own life instead of being consumed by the well being of others. Sunday night it felt freeing; Monday morning it felt overwhelming.

For weeks things in my life had been unraveling in one way or another. For weeks I’d been putting it off because there was something more important. For weeks I’d been worried about friends, family, any and everything except myself. My closest homies noticed the problem and would check in.

“How are you,” they’d ask, and I’d reply good. Sure of the uncertainty in my voice they’d ask again, “No, how are you? Are you taking time for yourself?”

“Yeah,” I’d trail off. “When I can,” I’d pick up. The stare my friends would give was always telling.

At some point I started feeling drained.

“You need a vacation,” by best friend told me. But, more than a vacation, I needed to figure out why I kept ending up in situations that took my all to manage. So that weekend I decided I would cut out, or at least limit, what seemed to be the most draining situations. I debated that my friends needed me, that if I wasn’t there during their times of need, I wasn’t a good friend. I mused that my guy situation had been the one thing keeping me sort of sane. But in the end, I knew playing therapist while trying to create something awesome out of a dead end was just plain old unhealthy and foolish.

Monday’s combination of too many tears and not enough motivation meant I needed to do a little digging. I realized I was overwhelmed because I’d gotten rid of all my excuses for not working on me. Faced with the reality that I had a bunch of personal mess to sort through had me craving another distraction, be it a temporary boo or a stressed-out friend.
Maybe unavailable men and needy friends had become a way for me to hide. If so, why the hell had it taken so long to self diagnose?

When it comes to helping friends a little too much, my guess is that a good trait morphed into a serious problem over time. I’m an oldest child. I’ve always felt everyone around me was my responsibility. I grew up around women who were selfless to the point of martyrdom and always viewed it as an ultimate sign of strength. Recently, a friend who was advising me to take a step back said people came to me because they knew I would help no matter what. I wear that as a badge of honor. She was concerned it opened me up to being used. I feel where she’s coming from, but I don’t think people stay in situations they hate. Me included. As many times as I’ve accused friends of being attracted to damaged goods, maybe I’m a big fan as well. When you’re super busy with other people’s problems, yours don’t seem so big.

On the guy front, it isn’t that complicated. I have some things I think should be in order before I commit. I also have some traits that honestly need to be changed. Things that, I believe, relationship-minded men would call me on and force me to work through. Situations allow me to work through them at my own pace, or not at all, while still having some companionship. It’s a lack of accountability that’s freeing — until it isn’t.

Of course, the big question is after knowing I’m using folks as a shield, do I stop and work on myself or do I refuel enough to empty myself all over again?

I know what’s healthy. But I also know the power of comfort.

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  • J to the Da

    Definitely could have been written by me bc it hit so close to home! This is exactly what I do and what I’m trying to change about myself!

  • Netta

    12-steps helped me a lot in dealing with my codependency issues. It’s an ongoing struggle but fighting for YOU is never a futile battle!

  • classyblacklady

    I can relate . stop playing that martyr role that so many of our older female relatives have played for decades and got them little to no appreciation. maybe a card on mothers day, whoopty doo. They’ll let everyone eat before them and end up with an empty plate. put yourself first and help those who truly deserve your time (usually the same ones who will be there for YOU in your time of need). peace

  • Berry

    Take some time to be selfish. Now is the time. There is plenty of time in your future to give in to the demands of others. Namely when you are married and have children.

  • Marisa

    I cant deal with needy people because they drain the hell out of you, there comes a time when folks need to rely on themselves for a change. When you play the Mother Teresa role either willingly or unwillingly people will feel the need to bring all their crap to you. I have ended being the Dr.Phil and had to stop that ish fast, I emotionally dont rely on people because when decisions have to be made and lived with,only we can make those choices no matter the varied opinions. Some how that translated into my friends acting like OMG your like so wise and can solve all my problems, um no lol. I will be there for people but I wont be taking on all their stuff. To the author it doesnt seem to me that your giving nature has been reciprocated by others, support is a two way street. If people wont be there for you like you are for them, their not going to have your back when things in life really go left. Clear out all the messiness in your life and get right for you