I’m fine

Not that long ago I’ve seen a post on Social Media asking ‘What’s your favorite lie?’ I did not answer at the moment, but I know that my favorite one has always been I’m fine. It is the lie I’m telling most of the time, and even if I know I should not, I keep telling it even when I’m anything but fine. Or especially then.

It is bad, yet a deeply rooted habit, and a costly one in terms of mental health and general well-being. But it is far from being something special. In fact, this is part of the factors leading towards what is known as The Caregiver’s Burnout. This is a common condition amongst the caregivers, manifesting as anxiety, depression, physical and emotional fatigue.

But here’s the catch: there are way more caregivers than we tend to admit. The caregivers are defined as persons caring usually for family members suffering from a disability or a chronic disease and are mostly associated with adults caring for their family’s elders. They are not.

A caregiver is also that friend who is always catching and trying to support and lift the others. That friend taking everyone else’s hand during their mentally challenging times and never talking openly about its own. It is that one person that always seems to have their life together, to know exactly where they’re going and what they have to do.

Because not every suffering is visible. Some of us face mental health challenges, others are facing losses, grieving times, there is a lot going on in every person’s life. And, every here and there, it is at least one person being the safety net of their social group. That one person who got the others coming to them for guidance in their tough times. They are caregivers as well, highly empathetic people that care and feel deeply responsible for those guided by them, even if not witnessed as caregivers by society.

And that leads them into a very dangerous trap. It makes them feel like the time for them to talk about their struggles is never now, always later. Now there are others that need their help and support, loved ones that need to receive their best in order to recover or get through the darkness. And this is how they get used to answering I’m fine when they’re asked about themselves. Because they are not a priority on their own list.

This also comes from a strong belief that places bad times as a thing to be kept private. As if, once admitted that you struggle as well, your ability of supporting others would vanish away, making you as weak as they are. Because the strong ones don’t make their dark times public while happen, but only talk about them later, when there are only the scars without the pain. However, truth is we all can struggle at the same time, but not in the same ways. We can (and we do) struggle in different ways, due to different reasons, and at very different intensities. That’s not what matters. What really matters is the ability to manage struggle, frustration and pressure. Because, as an informal caregiver, there’s a different kind of pressure on your shoulders: the thought that you’ve been trusted. That your close one, your friend, the person who asked you for help, did so because it knew you can deal with the situation without being overwhelmed. That you will lift them up, not that they would drag you down. When it comes to a family member that needs to be taken care of, there is a slightly easier burden to carry: you’ve had no actual choice, other than caring for them.

And just like that, the story of I’m fine begins to unfold: with the desire of not being a disappointment to the people which have seen the best in you, and with the belief that there will come a day when you will be free to talk openly about your struggles and allow yourself to ask for the help you need.

Because at the end of the day, what makes a caregiver fail those who trust them by failing themselves is the mix between empathy and fear. You know how it feels to be let down, so you fear that, by saying that you are struggling, you will let the ones that trusted you down. But you’re not. In fact, you would only be helping them more, as they see that it is fine to talk about your bad times. That you can only grow stronger when you learn to be honest. And, the most important lesson one could learn, that it is an act of self-care and self-respect, proof of generosity, as no one has ever been able to pour into other’s souls from an empty cup.

You’re toxic, I’m slippin’ under

…As a famous pop-song said, once upon a time during my childhood. One of the most common notions met in the mainstream mental health conversation is the one called toxic people. We are frequently told to avoid them, as they are bad for our emotional balance and mental well-being. That they are also victims, people with traumatic experiences, and so on. But one of the things no one talks about is the fact that every single one of us could, at a certain point, become toxic. For the others or, even worse, for ourselves.

Because no one is really clean and no one is toxic either. The oh-so-popular toxicity is a social label covering a very wide range of behaviors. In other words, being toxic is something one mostly learns, not an inherited feature of the individual.

Some of the most popular (and common) behaviors labeled as toxic are:

  • Jealousy

Even if it comes to jealousy in a romantic context, a professional one or a friendship, it is one of the most common toxic behaviors. It affects the quality of the relationship and it often brings unwanted drama.

  • Belittling

This happens whenever a person tries to diminish the importance and validity of other’s feelings, experiences, plans, and dreams. How many of you have heard that ‘You’re making it look like a bigger deal than it is!’? Well, that’s a sign of toxic behavior right there.

  • Attention Seeking

One of the easiest to notice warning signs is this. A toxic person looooves to make everything about themselves. You’re telling her about something that recently happened to you? No worries, she got it the same way, too! And, of course, it wasn’t such a big deal, I’ve just dealt with it! Or, au contraire, they’re drama masters. There seems to be some drama unfolding wherever they go, and they never get tired of it.

  • Lying

A toxic person will lie, and often, and will know how to do it.

  • Victim-blaming

This is the easiest to see when everything is over. You will see, at some point, that you were to blame for everything by that specific person. You never got anything right, ever. In fact, you’re to blame for every wrong in the relationship, every failure, every miscommunication. Nothing to blame them for, just you. In the long run, it often becomes tiresome to always be the guilty one, so don’t beat yourself up for choosing to give up on the relationship.

  • Perfectionism

Whatever is less than perfect, is a failure. Number two is the first of the losers! Does this kind of discourse ring a bell to you? If it does, then chances are that your toxic person was, as well, a perfectionist. And even it is a common trait, as I’ve previously said here, it makes you feel bad way more often than it makes you feel good around that someone. Let’s be honest, no one likes being around somebody who’s never satisfied with what they have at the moment. It just ruins the moment, as well as the other person’s joy.

These are the main clues to be looked after, but, from my experience, the thing is pretty simple. It all begins and ends with the way that person makes you feel about yourself. If you, and that’s the key-word here if you constantly feel bad about yourself if you constantly feel like you’re not doing or being good enough for that person, leave.

It might sound harsh, even selfish, but don’t feel bad if reading the lines from above, you’ve recognized a loved one. A relative, someone from your family, perhaps… It’s not you, it’s them. Toxic attitudes have no bloodline, they just happen. 

Of course, there are different shades to it, some people are not even aware of their toxic behaviors, or the ways they affect you. And this is where you come- a calm, yet firm talk about how their behavior makes you feel could work wonders, especially if you will give them alternative ways of doing or saying things that hurt you less or not at all. Because not all the toxic people are evil, some just don’t know that they are acting wrong. And you might have a chance, if you won’t lose your temper during the talk, to actually improve those relationships.

It won’t be easy, but it would definitely be worth it, especially if those connections are important to you. But, and this is huge, having a talk with your dear ones about what harms you coming from them, and tolerating the same things over and over, these are two very different things. It is, indeed, their right to know what they are doing wrong and how could they possibly change this, but if they will just keep going with their old ways, feel free to put up new boundaries in your interaction with them.

At the end of the day, there’s not about relatives, family members, friends or even lovers. It is about your mental health, one of the most important things. And it is so, so important to be your own safe place in a toxic environment. What good could possibly happen in a world where you’re being toxic for yourself? Choose wisely, and if it happens to be the toxic person from your life yourself, just sit with yourself a little and ask yourself how much of your toxic behavior is internalized during your life from somewhere else? Because more often than not, the root of one’s toxic attitude about itself has external roots. Find the root, seek professional help, and remove it, as simply addressing the immediate effect won’t help.

#tot ce vrei

tot ce vrei e de partea opusa

a fanteziei, a linearului, a disperarii.

a trecut de mult gardul fricii

si hoinareste mut pe taramul

pitit in umbra sarmelor ghimpate

poti avea tot ce vrei,

dar asta e doar ce-ti zic ei.

si poti avea tot, orice, dar…

stii ce vrei?

intreb si eu si zic sa

te feresti cat poti de zei

claditi din minciuna si chirpici

ce s-au spoit cu auriu si se vad zmei.

de le dai timp, nici colb nu ramane din ei…

pare frumos, dar adevarul nu-i aici.

poti fi cine vrei, adica oricine,

dar e si aici o intrebare:

ce stii despre tine?

una din marile-ntrebari,

de n-ai grija la nuante,

o sa te trezesti sub un curcubeu de sperante

poti fi ce vrei, asa se spune,

d’aia sufletul meu tot umbla prin lume.

tot d’aia te uiti la mine de parca

sunt Frida Kahlo la crasma din colt, direct de pe Arca.

umblu si tot umblu, din noaptea fara nume,

eu nu sunt nici vorba, nu sunt nici pronume.

sunt tot ce-am vrut,

dar nu-nseamna nimic,

sau nu mare lucru de cand s-au risipit

in penumbra de rascruce acei ochi

ce ma priveau jurand ca nu se vor duce,

la gramada cu promisiunile unui timp pierdut

puteam fi tot ce vreau,

asa ca m-am decis sa fiu eu.

pare putin, trist, dezamagitor,

dar nimeni n-are sa traiasca-n locul meu;

cata vreme respir si simt, am valente de zeu.

daca pot fi orice,

voi fi emotie pura.

necenzurata, muta, dura

ca aerul muntelui cand iei prima gura.

abia asta e ce da dependenta,

si cand nu exist te duce-n prag de dementa.

tot ce vreau e ludic, intens, n-o sa neg esenta,

nu cata vreme asta i-ar periclita existenta

tot ce vreau pot sa fiu si nu-s.

caci la tot ce vreau se ajunge-n doi

iar oameni vechi n-o sa ma-nvete drumuri noi.

eu vreau drum nou, vreau sa ma-nveti,

si-apoi sa-mi dai drumul inapoi in lume.

nu te speria, pastrezi o parte din mine

si poti oricand privi cum ma gasesc

si regasesc umbland mereu pe-alte carari,

mica Alice din nicaieri, cu ceva mai multi de ieri

in plus la numarare. si, sa vezi eroare:

tot ce-am vrut m-a facut prea mare,

sa pot, de vreau, sa ma suprim.

ma porti la gat, asa pot fi putin,

altminteri orice-i mic e chin.

pot fi orice, asa ca-s eu

nu o regret, nu zic ca-i rau,

dar se dilata spatiu-n jurul meu

si, uite, vad cum se latesc peretii

cei albi de spaime-n gerul diminetii.

sunt tot ce n-ai habar ca vrei,

pierduta-n asteptarea cetii.

astept sa ma gasesti, sa-mi vezi

tactil cealalta perspectiv-a vietii.

de pot fi tot ce vreau,

raman ce-mi sunt,

caci mi-s destul, pe drept cuvant.

sunt eu cea care sunt, pot fi

a lui, a ta si a oricui

sau pot ramane-a nimanui

si viata tot nu va durea

caci mai intai de toate-am fost a mea

iar asta stiu ca nu se va schimba

nici cand pe trupu-mi vested o sa port pamant,

caci am trait si-am hoinarit ca mine;

eu cea care sunt. si-am insirat

cuvant dupa cuvant intr-un colier.

e-averea mea, esenta-mi diluata

ce-o las oricui prin testament in vata

sa-nsire amintiri de nopti de vara

dureri plimbate-n lung si lat

de impletit cu sfoara.