I have about six people in my circle. Six people that I can truly count on to love me, accept me, and fight for me. Six people whom I can trust with my heart and soul.
I used to have a bigger circle. I used to be less guarded, less hardened by life. I used to be the girl who put everyone else’s needs ahead of her own and apologized when I was forced to take care of myself.
I was codependent. A rescuer. A fixer. A people-pleasing, kiss-the-ground-you-walk-on kind of girl. I was blinded by my own heart.
Like many people, we’re taught that putting yourself first is selfish. If I put my needs ahead of others, I was rude, uncaring, and self-absorbed. Until one day, after years of codependency and avoidance of taking care of my own mental and emotional health, I had a complete and total breakdown. I couldn’t do it anymore.
Over the course of my life, I had developed a special bond with my aunt. When I was a child, I would always look forward to her coming home so we could spend time together. I remember the days when I would countdown the minutes until I could run out of school and talk to her. We could talk for hours on end and never run out of things to say. It was that unique aunt-and-niece relationship that I thought would last throughout the rest of my life.
As I grew older, our relationship turned from that childlike aunt/niece relationship to more of a friendship. I’d ask her for advice and prayers, tell her my dreams and hopes for the future, and so on. She would often turn to me for advice as well – albeit, at my age what she was looking for, was advice I simply had no experience with and couldn’t give.
It wasn’t until the last year or so that our relationship started taking a downward spiral. Little by little I would notice subtle changes in her. She was more cold, distant, manipulative, and compromising her own self-respect, which she had never done in the past. It started to bother me, but I sat in silence, listening to her talk about her problems and ask me how to solve them.
I loved helping people, but in this case, I couldn’t help her. I didn’t know how and mentally was draining myself trying to figure it out.
Between battling my own struggles of anxiety and depression, and trying to rescue someone – who I would eventually come to realize – didn’t want to be rescued, I felt like I was drowning.
After speaking with my counselor, who has been a beacon of light on my journey to healing, I understood that I had to begin taking care of myself. I recognized that my mental state was in deep distress and I was losing my sanity on problems that weren’t my own.
So, gradually I began to slowly distance myself: not out of maliciousness, but simply because I needed to regain some peace in my life.
This decision did not sit well with her. I was blamed for every little thing. I experienced her wrath that I didn’t even know existed. I was punished for putting my needs ahead and was told that in turn, I would now be cut out of her life. She told me how much my decision hurt her, how I shouldn’t have listened to my counselor, how I was the one ruining the relationship. The whole conversation tossed me into a sea of depression, resentment, anxiety, panic attacks, and guilt.
I had reached a significant point in my healing journey where I started to feel like I could breathe, but fell back down the rabbit hole.
In a state of complete shock at how these events played out, I found myself apologizing. I found myself begging for forgiveness, basically groveling at her feet. I found myself slipping backwards into the old codependent state of mind, where I started to believe that I didn’t deserve healing. I didn’t deserve to take care of myself. I had a job to do and that was to take care of her. And for the first time in my life, deep down in my heart, I knew that was wrong.
My eyes were opened. A lightbulb went off. I didn’t like the old me. I didn’t want to be that person anymore. I saw a glimpse of who I could be if I continued to heal, followed the guidance of my counselor, and followed the path God placed me on.
Flash forward to this moment: I made the decision to continue my healing and let go of this toxic relationship. It hurts deeply. It’s a loss. It’s grieving what I once had, the longing for the past. I don’t miss the toxicity at all. Actually, I’ve been more at peace than ever before. I’ve found a strength I’ve never known, and I swear it’s all by the grace of God.
“As bad as it was, as bad as it hurt, I thank God I didn’t get what I thought that I deserved. Sometimes life leads you down a different road, when you’re holding onto someone that you got to let go. Someday you’ll see the reason why, sometimes, there’s good in goodbye.” – Carrie Underwood
Friends, let me be the first to tell you: stop apologizing for putting yourself first. It’s not selfish. It’s not wrong. You deserve it. Let me repeat that: You, above all else, deserve your love and affection. Do not let anyone take that away from you or make you feel unworthy.
As hard as it might be, you need to start putting yourself first and stop apologizing for that.
If you don’t take care of yourself – physically, mentally, and emotionally, how will you be able to help others? You need time to rest. You need time to cater to your own needs. Start saying no. Start cutting out anyone who doesn’t serve you well. It’s not easy, but trust that there’s a reason, a plan and a purpose for your pain. Wash yourself in tender kindness and compassion. Clothe yourself in grace, comfort, and acceptance.
Be the person that you need. Open your hands and heart to God and be ready to embrace the next season of your life.
Featured Image Credit: TONL