Self Preservation and Stress

The moment I made the decision to preserve myself, at the risk of possibly abandoning my friends who need me, I was again asked to help one of those friends. Perhaps this is my lot, to care for others at the expense of myself. If this is so, then the fates have been kind to me in their curse.

It goes without saying, I believe, that it is very much so against my nature to think of myself first, or, sometimes, at all. I’m not saying that I don’t buy myself things or spend or do for my pleasure – I freely admit that I do. What I am saying though is that when I am asked to choose between buying dinner for a friend, or knowing I’ll have enough money for the rest of the week, I will always choose buying dinner for that friend.

When you do something that’s in direct conflict with your personality, it’s fair to say that there will be stress associated with that action. For me, that stress is present even when I have to tell someone I simply don’t have the money to treat them like I otherwise would, let alone when I do and have to say I can’t because I need to hold onto it for an upcoming need. My situation in my life, however, seems to have dictated necessary adaptations of late, as my financial situation grows ever worse.

I have a natural desire to take care of people, even though I’m also terrible at caring for myself. This has its effects on everything – my cleanliness, my finances, my social life, my physical health, and obviously, my mental health. I come home to a house that’s a mess, and I’m too tired to do anything about it. When I buy things for friends, pay a bill for them, or even just house them for a while, I usually end up putting out of pocket for it. The rest follows naturally from these things, and I just end up wasted.

I have always felt as if I have some debt to the world which I can never repay, and so I work to do that by helping people wherever I’m able. Sometimes that’s giving someone a ride, sometimes it’s helping them with a few dollars for a bus fare, or buying them dinner. Occasionally, it’s even a ten or a twenty to keep as pocket change, to make sure that they can care for themselves in the time until I see them next.

A few months ago, I made a breakthrough during a bit of a breakdown with my psychiatrist. I don’t like myself. I really do not like myself. Where does it come from? Who knows when there are so many good options of potential reasons – child abuse, psychological abuse inspiring a feeling of worthlessness, or a host of other traumatizing events from my early years. I never cease to find it amazing that, though deep down I never stop disliking myself, questioning my decisions, actions, and words, I also can often find a certain amount of strength to be confident… from time to time, anyway.

Undoubtedly, it is this sense of self-devaluing that inspires, if not my kindness, then my self-sacrificing nature. My life isn’t worth much to me. My concern with my comfort ends at precisely that point – if I am minimally comfortable, I am good enough, so sit down, tell me about your problem.

I feel that my life in a movie boils down to one perfect scene – the end of Saving Private Ryan. Captain Miller (Tom Hanks) lays dying against a tank on the bridge the men are there to defend, and Ryan (Matt Damon) comes to carry him off the bridge. Instead, Miller, knowing he’s dying, tells Ryan simply “Earn this.” Earn this sacrifice, be a good person, live a good life, and live up to the hope that your life will count for more than another’s.

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