There is such a thing as being too selfless.
You’re the epitome of selfless. In fact, you’re constantly doing so much for others that you lose yourself in their problems. You want to be the best friend, child, sibling, and partner that anyone’s ever had.
You put other’s needs before your own so often that you lose sight of the issues in your own life. You’re everybody’s rock, confidant, savior, but you can’t be everything to everybody just for the sake of their happiness.
You wonder if you tell someone no, will they still care about you? Will they still want and need you? You try to be strong so they have someone to depend on.
You’re solid, trustworthy, and will do anything to help someone you care about. But who’s there for you? Who can you depend on?
If you put all your energy into saving someone else, eventually you’re going to be the one drowning.
The thing about problems and difficulties is that if you don’t deal with them, they don’t just go away—they get worse. If all your focus is on helping your friend who makes the world’s worst decisions and constantly drinks too much, you don’t have to deal with the fact that you’re overdrawn at the bank or that your boyfriend is cheating on you.
You have to put yourself first, and be there for you. Somehow, your mess of a friend or relative will survive. And even if they don’t do as well without you, your priority has to be yourself or you’ll both flounder.
When I was in middle school, I had a troubled friend. Everything that could possibly happen to a 13-year-old happened to her. Her mother died, she did drugs, she ran away, her father wasn’t her father, her fake father may have been inappropriate with her—it was one thing after another, and it was tiring.
I wanted to be a good friend, so I was always there to help her out. I was her anchor, the person she could depend on when there was so much drama in her life. But the problem was that the craziness never stopped; it escalated.
One of the reasons for all her drama was that she created much of it by not telling the truth … ever.
It got to the point where I didn’t know what was true and what was a lie.
Being my friend’s support was exhausting and the stress was making me sick, but I was determined to be there for her, no matter what the cost was. I would’ve stayed friends with her forever, but luckily for me her family moved away, and I was free.
Not everybody is lucky enough to have a problem person physically removed from their life.
You can’t sacrifice yourself to be there for someone else. It isn’t selfish to step back and distance yourself from someone who’s in the middle of a sh*t storm.
You’re not an awful person to want to put yourself first—you’re wise, strong, and capable. Save yourself first or you’ll both drown.
Christine Schoenwald has had pieces in The Los Angeles Times, Salon, Purple Clover, Your Tango, XoJane, and is a regular writer for Bustle. In her spare time, she performs in spoken word shows all over Los Angeles.
This originally appeared on YourTango. Republished here with permission.