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Put on Your Own Oxygen Mask First. Wednesday January 25, 2017

[To listen to an audio recording of this blog please click here:]

"Don't worry," they said. "Things could be worse."

So I didn't worry and sure enough, things got worse.

Sometimes you can do everything right and still everything goes wrong.

Sometimes you can look back and, when you ask yourself, "Where did I go wrong?", you have to answer, "I never went wrong. If I had to it all again, I would do it all again, even knowing where it leads, because I believe I did the right thing."

When we try to help others, with the best of intentions, it can still go horribly wrong. Sometimes we end up helpless, watching from the side-lines, as the situation goes from bad to worse to worst. Our hearts are broken; we feel angry and betrayed.

I believe that many of us who suffer from depression, also suffer from an overdeveloped sense of responsibility. If we could, we would shoulder the whole world. Somehow we feel responsible for every human rights abuse, for every human inadequacy in the face of disaster, for every tyrant voted into power. We grieve.

We feel the inadequacies of our national health and justice systems lying heavily upon us. When something goes wrong for someone, especially someone we know, we take it personally. We are concerned out of all proportion. We do not know how to let go.

I am sure that some of you reading this are doctors. You know you cannot save everyone. And, if you could treat everyone successfully, even then, death has to have some route by which to collect us when it is our time to go. You can work towards the dream of everyone dying peacefully in their sleep at age 99 or more, but once you have done all you reasonably can, then it is time to stand back and let go.

Whether we are in medicine or not, that is a lesson for us all to learn. When we have done everything we reasonably can, we have to let go.

The key word here is reasonably.

Because we don't want to be reasonable. Our hearts and passion are engaged. We want to do everything possible (and indeed impossible) to right wrongs, to heal, to restore. Reasonable does not come into it.

So we expend ourselves totally and leave nothing. A fine passion is a fine thing, but it comes expensive.

I am not talking about money, although that can come into it. I am talking about emotional engagement.

We cannot and should not stop loving. We cannot and should not limit our compassion. But, just as we are instructed in the safety talk on aeroplanes, we need to put on our own oxygen mask first before we assist others.

Self-care is not selfish; we cannot serve others from an empty vessel. We need to show compassion to ourselves, just as we could to a friend. We need to comfort ourselves first.

When it's time to let go, we need to let go.

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.

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Ursula Wed, Jan 25th 2017 @ 5:25am

This really resonated with me, thank you! Pulling down the oxygen mask for me today was deactivating Facebook - one less source of anxiety, grief, hopelessness. I am in a caring profession, an animal lover and a vegan - my grief can feel limitless - every creature needs me! I need the mask!

Jane Wed, Jan 25th 2017 @ 6:27am

Thanks Mary. Self care is something I've been trying to teach myself and I'm determined this year to get better at putting myself first. I'm always looking after everyone else and a bit of a people pleaser. I can't continue like this, I'm exhausted. I took time out yesterday for a whole 45 mins to myself. Bliss! Will keep working on it Mary. Have a lovel day full of self care! Xx

Molly Wed, Jan 25th 2017 @ 6:44am

How true this is Mary, I have never heard of it put this way before. It's a feeling of wanting to control everything, make it all better, but we can't. What we are left with is pure frustration. Yes, help others, within reason, let go before we hurt ourselves even more, to which then we are no use to anyone anyway..... I'm with you about Facebook Ursula, it has caused me no end of grief! For many reasons! 'When it's time to let go, we need to let go' is significant in many areas, and a great thing to remind ourselves of. Thanks Mary x

Paul Wed, Jan 25th 2017 @ 7:29am

Hi Mary what a fantastic blog I would say one of the best if not the best.
I listened to the audio version which I think are brilliant it is far better then reading it for me as I read it with a boring tone if that makes sense. And to finish with a great and very apt song is simply brilliant.
I awoke feeling very glum as usual but after listening to that I feel a great deal upbeat. I allways feel responsible for things going wrong and allways take on everyone else's problems as though I don't have enough of my own.
Many thanks Mary.

I am going to finish with a joke.
My Wife said go and get a chicken to make some sandwiches.
I went off to the market and got a chicken I put it in the kitchen with a fresh loaf and some butter. When I returned the chicken was just running round clucking absolutely know idea how to make sandwiches.


LP Wed, Jan 25th 2017 @ 8:06am

Lol! Nice one Paul :)) LP xx

Jane Wed, Jan 25th 2017 @ 4:37pm

Ha, I like it!

Molly Wed, Jan 25th 2017 @ 9:50pm

Haaa :-)

Hopeful One Thu, Jan 26th 2017 @ 6:37am

Hi Paul-Love it. I have previously asked Caroline if Moodscope could consider creating a section for humour where other Moodscopers can contribute . Can fellow Moodscopers suggest a title for this section? I would call it " Laughter-the best medicine".

Eva Wed, Jan 25th 2017 @ 8:04am

Hi Mary, how lovely to hear your voice :). This is the story of my life! I have been working through my past with my psychotherapist and we have come to see that emotionally my sibling and I have been unsupported by our parents pretty much from the get go, due to their own traumatic childhoods. I have not learned their trick of hiding or disposing of their emotional baggage. I am open, hopeful, exposed, disappointed, raw and do take on responsibility to make things work, facilitate social engagement and fix problems both in family, for friends and further afield. It's been exhausting. I am wearing my mask now though. Thank you for the reminder of how important this is.

Good joke Paul.

I wonder how Hopeful One is, no. Jokes for a wee while, HO I hope all is good with you.

Hopeful One Thu, Jan 26th 2017 @ 6:28am

Hi Eva- So kind of you to inquire. I am OK just too busy .Normal service will be resumed soon.

LP Wed, Jan 25th 2017 @ 8:36am

Hi Mary,
I can identify with this too. I have had a tendency to make sure. My " responsibilities to others are taken care of, out of caring deeply yes but also I think to avoid any guilt if things go wrong and I feel to blame. Then my needs can be met and if there's no time at least I wont be blamed.
I think it goes back to being made to take my my mothers problems and negative emotions on board. Also the fear of getting into trouble meant that I felt it didnt matter what happened to me as long as I avoided being blamed by her. I dont dwell on looking back, much now though.
So it takes effort and reminding to change that mind set and get a better balance. I take better care of myself these days, but still often push myself too far, give too much and put myself last.
My oxygen mask must have been working well last week. I felt so calm and happy everything seemed to be going well and I could enjoy seeing the beauty in things. I appreciated every moment. This week I'm back to what I'm used to. Feeling pretty groggy and reluctant in the morning and getting through the day to day "stuff". If only I could bottle what was good for me last week!
Thanks for the reminder to let go when it's time Mary. Good wishes to you and all. LP xx

Orangeblossom Wed, Jan 25th 2017 @ 8:41am

Thanks Mary. Recently I've been challenged with the idea of the importance of self-care. I'm wondering if I'm being told something important to pay attention to?

Jul Wed, Jan 25th 2017 @ 8:46am

I think I try to help everyone and feel responsible for my family's well being as a way of compensating for lack of energy, lightheartedness, cheerfulness etc. So I do the only thing I am capable of which is solving or attempting to solve problems, helping out when I can and often changing my own plans so that I can step in to help. It's a feeling of not valuing myself or rather feeling I am lacking in many ways because of my low moods. I know that when I'm happy, I am able to stand back and say no. However fatigue, low mood etc depletes me of my self confidence and I find I get even more tired in my efforts to compensate. You are right Mary and this is timely reminder to look after my own needs as well as the needs of my family (now grown up). Julxx

Maurice Wed, Jan 25th 2017 @ 8:51am

Hi Mary. You've hit the nail on the head there. This resonates with me. I wake up every day, wanting to solve the problems of Trump, Brexit, the NHS, Putin, climate change, world poverty, blah, blah and another billion things. No wonder I feel frustrated and overwhelmed before I even get out of bed! Lukcily I don't do anti-social media, so I'm spared that source of malcontent. However, I do wake up to the news each morning, and it makes me want to just hide back under the duvet. Best thing would be to avoid all news, even though it would mean being uninformed. What good does being informed do me, when I can do nothing about everyone else's problems? This also ties in with a previous excellent post about hyper-sensitivity. Being HSP concentrates all the doom and gloom, as if through a magnifying glass. It would be great to wake up to lots of positive news instead. Someone should create radio/TV/websites/apps that only report positive stories, real or imaginary. Today on Fanstasy Radio, Donald Trump and Vladamir Putin both resign and handover power to rational, informed, unbiased nice people, whilst scientists have solved climate change using nothing more than loo rolls and sticky tape...

Jul Wed, Jan 25th 2017 @ 10:03am

I couldn't agree more with you Maurice about the awful news. I think Mary recommended a good news website once ages ago. Mary? Julxx

Mary Wednesday Wed, Jan 25th 2017 @ 10:27am

Yes. I used to write for a website which only reported the good news. Sadly, it proved so difficult to find good news which wasn't just "fluff" that it closed down. A great shame.

A View from the Far Side Wed, Jan 25th 2017 @ 4:05pm

Try this one:

A View from the Far Side Wed, Jan 25th 2017 @ 4:07pm

Maurice, I love your fantasy radio. One day I hope it comes true.

Maurice Thu, Jan 26th 2017 @ 8:32am

I missed it this morning, waking up to Radio 4 instead and talk about Mexican walls, torture etc. In the absence of Fantasy Radio, I switched to Classic FM instead, but it still had some news and annoying adverts. It's a shame that radio station that only played birdsong stopped...

Julie Wed, Jan 25th 2017 @ 10:44am

You can find reports of good news at goodnewsnetwork. Org or just google good news network.

Maurice Thu, Jan 26th 2017 @ 8:34am

Thanks Julie, I'll give that a go. Lots of fluffy kittens and puppies!

Brum Mum Wed, Jan 25th 2017 @ 11:11am

Mary, I have been thinking along similar out for a blog called "Simple pleasures".....

Freya Wed, Jan 25th 2017 @ 6:48pm

Excellent blog Mary, thank you, helpful and timely! x

Becky Fri, Jan 27th 2017 @ 6:19pm

Loved hearing you Mary

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