[To listen to an audio recording of this blog please click here: https://soundcloud.com/user-231831520/put-on-your-own-oxygen-mask-first]
"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.