A very dear friend of mine spent her life caring for others, always putting everyone else’s needs first. This beautiful attribute led to a long career in nursing. Over the years, it became such an engrained habit, that she forgot or never learned how to meet her needs and desires, or how to put herself first instead of last. Many years ago, a very wise woman taught me that if we expend all of our energy on everyone else, we don’t have enough left for ourselves. Once we are completely worn out, we certainly won’t having anything left for the ones we so dedicatedly devoted all of our time and energy. Therefore, everyone loses. What a concept!
Now, here I am, all of these years later, in similar conversations with this close friend who visits every year, repeating this same concept, listing one example after another from all my years of knowing her, desperately trying to help her realize no matter what the situation or how great the need of others (this time it’s her elderly parents), that she absolutely must put herself first. I insisted that she had to let go of the need to prove she can do anything and everything. I called it her ““superwoman syndrome” and told her to take the cape off and burn it.
Let me tell you why I was so adamant about having these conversations now more than ever.
After all of these years of her struggling to let go of these ideas, realizing how destructive they were, wanting to change, but still haunted by all of her old beliefs, life finally decided it was going to take something really drastic to wake her up enough to change things. She was crossing the street with a crowd of other people about to attend the Red Sox baseball game, when she was struck by a car. She went flying up into the air over the car and landed near the rear of the car. People rushed over to her to find her apparently intact, but dazed and confused, not bleeding and no broken bones. Of course, she was rushed to the hospital and every test was run to rule out internal bleeding and any fractures. She did have a concussion, but was alert and partially oriented.
Besides her being a medical miracle to have survived such an impact, she suffered incredibly extensive soft tissue damage, making every movement extremely painful. She could hardly turn her neck to the right, or lift her arms out in front of her, let alone over her head, and her ankle was so damaged she couldn’t bear weight on it to go up and down the stairs. She couldn’t bend over. Her wrists were very weak and sore from catching her fall, so she couldn’t lift or carry things. Well, it’s been over a year now and she is progressing slowly despite physical therapy, very intense acupuncture, chiropractory, and massage.
Now, I ask you, does this sound like someone who could take care of anyone else or run around helping others? Certainly not! This terrible accident finally brought her to a screeching halt. She had to start asking for help and admit she couldn’t do things. She has had to allow extra time to do the most basic things like getting dressed. She learned the secret to the power of healing is in focusing on yourself, listening to what your body is telling you, feeling your emotions; crying when your heart says to cry, sleeping when your body says to sleep. She finally needed to surrender and let go of the way she thought things should be or needed to be. She realized that the belief that we are in control of our lives is a huge myth. All that we are in control of is our response to what happens.
In order to heal, she not only had to ask for help, she had to learn to tell people “no”, and set limits. It had to be all about her. Over a year later, she still fights all of her old thoughts and beliefs and the guilt they cause when she chooses to meet her needs first. She was down here visiting and healing and we decided her new mantra had to be: “F— all of you, it’s about me now!
Don’t be offended, the “f” word is very necessary. Imagine if we said “forget” all of you, that doesn’t sound or feel the same at all because there is no emotion behind it. Anger is an essential emotion for someone to feel before they take action. If they are not angry enough, they will not do anything about it. Anger provokes action.
My friend went home feeling more empowered and more determined than ever. She finally gave herself permission to make it all about her and not feel guilty.
What is life trying to tell you?
Opportunities to learn a certain lesson are repeated with greater intensity until you finally learn it. Have you ever noticed that you repeat the same patterns or attract the same kind of people into your life over and over again? They are our teachers even though they may seem like the biggest pain. They are here to provoke us, to push our buttons, to test us…until we get it. One man attracts women who cheat, one woman attracts men who lie, yet another attracts addicts whom they enable. What relationships, bosses, or friends do you attract to teach you lessons?
What needs to happen before you wake up and get it?
Do you need to almost die of a heart attack before you change your lifestyle, or maybe have a really scary close-call accident, or maybe a crippling accident or a fatal one where someone else dies or is terribly injured? Do you need to lose your marriage and have your kids hate you, or lose your job or all of your money? What is it going to take to bring you to a screeching halt? What reality is going to be sobering enough to make you change whatever’s not working in your life? Don’t let it take a lifetime to learn one lesson.
Written by: Giselle Belanger, RN, LCSW (psychotherapist) Available for appointments in person, by phone, or by skype webcam. Contact info: firstname.lastname@example.org Mex cell: (322) 138-9552 or US cell: (312) 914-5203.