Being Selfish or: Protecting yourself

Hi everyone,

I’ve had an interesting incident over the weekend which brought something back to my attention that I feel I should share. It’s the subject of “being selfish” as a defence mechanism. Firstly, I don’t think that occasionally removing yourself from social situations which trigger you is a selfish act at all. Or, perhaps, if it is selfish, then zero fucks shall be distributed henceforth.

Let’s zoom out for a minute.

The world has never been smaller. We are all connected far more than we ever have been. This blog, for instance, has been viewed by people from all over the world (thank you, everyone). That’s on the entire opposite end of the scale from if I had just blurted out my opinion on living with depression to a few friends down the pub.  We are dependent on social media to keep us in touch with the world and that has changed the way that we exist. We are constantly awash with Facebook birthdays and event invites, tweets and things that we have to watch and have to experience, or be left behind in every conversation that goes on around us. It’s a social imperative that we can not switch off.

Zoom back in.

Whatever little corner of the planet you live in, there are social circles that you move in. Family, friends and work colleagues being the main three categories, and often they’re interconnected. Those circles are filled with other people who have circles of their own and so, completely out of our control, we occasionally come into contact with people that we haven’t chosen to spend time with. In these situations, we often get along with those new people just fine and we even invite them into our own circles on occasion. Then, there are the other times.

I’ve experienced this in the past, where people with bigoted opinions (I once lost my shit with a woman who said that the 2004 tsunamis in India were “essential for reducing population”) and then there are people who enjoy putting others down, or people who are just horrible people in general. I have had a similar experience this weekend.

These kind of people are real triggers for me. This is because, deep down, I believe that everyone has the capacity to be a little nicer, with the world being a better place as a result. It isn’t that I can’t handle them, because I can and I do. It’s afterwards. When everyone else has gone home and moved on and forgotten about the incident. Because of the way my brain works, I get into thought-loops that have the ability to degrade into depressive periods. All because of some idiot that I would have probably never come across.

Here’s where we get to the selfish thing. For years, I have said nothing about these people. When I know that I’m going to come across them again, I’ve kept quiet and avoided them as much as possible. But I’ve also been stuck in conversations with them, which obviously end in the same way; they walk away and I end up in a slump due to their subhuman behaviour. The thing is, I won’t do it anymore.

If I come across someone who triggers me, then I’m not being around them again. I’ve had this conversation with so many people over the years that it’s becoming a real theme. But I say that I don’t want to be around a certain person, and I’m told that I’m being awkward and making life harder for someone else. Apparently, according to society, it isn’t ok to have an opinion when it comes to dickheads. You have to shut up and smile and put up with them for years on end, triggering all over the place and making yourself into a depressive wreck just so that other people can avoid the slightest social discomfort. Just because other people don’t have the guts to say “no”.

Is that right?

Should I end up with my head spinning, arms wrapped around my knees on the floor, hands clutched to my temples, my mind screaming at me, just so that someone else can avoid a modicum of discomfort?

Everyone say “Fuck that” on three. 1…2…3…

Damn right!

This may seem selfish, and I understand that others don’t. But I’m not doing it anymore. This is about more than social etiquette. This is about my mental health. I’m in such a shit place right now, I have no idea how long it will last, or if it will ever get better, but I’m trying my damnedest to heal. If I had stitches in my arm, I wouldn’t keep cutting away, making the wound deeper and expecting it to get better. Similarly, the mind can not repair itself if it’s still subjected to the very thing that exacerbates the problem.

So yes, I am protecting myself. I am applying stitches to my tattered mind and hoping to all hell that the scars aren’t too bad when I’m through.

 

Thanks for reading, everyone.

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8 Comments

  1. Well said. And you know, i don’t think it’s even slightly selfish, I think it’s a powerful response to say ‘I am not taking any more of your shit’. Every time we let someone comfortably be an asshat, we empower them to continue with it. Every person who says no and walks away makes it that bit harder for the people spouting toxic shit to feel supported in so doing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s a hard lesson to learn and even when you think you have acheived it you let some bugger in who screws with your equilibrium again. But, you have to keep trying and remembering that actually you can only look after yourself first and everybody else 2nd.
    I’m a mum and my kids have been a source of both joy and heartrending misery. I made the decision that my mental health has a direct affect on those closest to me so I have to be healthy to help them be the sort of human beans that I would like to be friends with. (Eventually!)
    So that means remembering me! and liking me!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What is wrong with protecting yourself? If you had a low immune system, people would be understanding – I hope! – about you avoiding people with colds or flu. If someone was pregnant, surely people would understand that woman wanting to avoid people with measles or mumps or the like.
    Likewise, if someone is diabetic, to say “No thanks” to something sugary” is them looking after themselves.

    Sadly, I think I know someone with immune system problems who would say “People don’t always understand”; likewise with pregnancy, diabetes, you name it.

    Looking after oneself does not equal selfishness. Take care, Craig. Hope the clouds lift soon.

    Liked by 1 person

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