I read this somewhere. It was probably one of those annoying memes on Facebook. They irritate me because I feel like most of the little quotes are cliched and patronising – especially the ones relating to mental health. But the concept of being what I need interested me.
Caring about vs caring for
As adults, we expect to be fairly self-sufficient. I don’t mean we can exist and thrive without having people who care about us around. But there is a difference between caring about and caring for. This is a subtlety that has for a long time been lost on me. I’ve never believed that I am being caring unless that caring amounts to an act or a gesture. It’s hard for me to see that I can care without trying to rescue people. Even harder is feeling valued just because I care.
That notion is a struggle for me. I can’t see how people value me without my doing something for them. For as long as I can remember, I have felt insecure in most of my friendships. I’ve never got my head around people wanting to be around me just for who I am. Something J said to me in therapy once has really stuck in my head; that she values me for who I am, not what I do.
The victim role
I can also recognise that in recent years I have cast myself as a victim. In that role, I don’t feel that I can give myself what I need, and I look for others to come in and make things better. I’m always looking outside of myself for a solution to all my problems.
I know I’ve had that unrealistic expectation of therapy and I’ve felt angry towards J because she can’t fix everything for me. And I think it’s part of the reason I was so devastated that the police dropped the case against my brother. It was like another option for an external answer was taken off the table.
Being able to self-soothe
What I see in my friends who are further along the road of recovery is an admirable ability to take care of themselves. I don’t mean getting dressed and making meals, I mean emotionally. We’ve all got our vulnerable child parts that need nurturing and protecting, and those people have figured out how to do that. They parent themselves and give their more fragile parts the love and protection that they need.
That’s something I aspire to. Because when I’m in that young place, I feel inconsolable. Nothing feels like enough to comfort me. So I see that ability to be self-soothing almost as a holy grail in recovery. It would be so incredible to have the tools to feel safe and secure when I’m so devoid of resources. To be able to give that hurt little girl the love and protection she didn’t get as a child.
I am not sure yet how to get myself to a point at which I am willing to be kind to myself. But if you’d like some tips on self-parenting, I asked my fellow bloggers for advice a while ago and you might find their responses here interesting.
Photo: Hamed Saber, Creative Commons.