Balancing taking care of yourself and caring for loved ones can be hard and confusing. Sometimes, taking more me-time or giving a friend space, versus being there for them, can lead to a heated and tearful argument or feelings of guilt. Other times, doing so creates an outcome of a healthy and strong platonic or romantic relationship.
So what is the balance? Have people faced my same struggles in finding this middle ground? How different is everyone’s preference on how to be cared for when they’re sad or angry?
We interviewed a few of our closest friends to hear what they think, and answered these questions ourselves <333
Below are a few of our favorite responses our third question!
3. Tell me about a specific example where you faced conflict in helping someone because of your own self-care needs. What did you do in that instance and how would you have changed it if at all?
I had a really positive experience with a friend about this. I had been planning to take her out for her birthday. We had set a day and time that worked, and I was going to pick her up after work. However, the day came and I had a really terrible day at work, I had a headache by the time I got off work, and I couldn’t stop thinking about going home to a shower, cup of tea, and a nap. At first I thought there was no way I could reschedule. I felt guilty about even considering that. But I also didn’t feel excited or happy to do it.
I called my friend, apologized profusely for being a shitty friend. I asked her if she would possibly mind if we rescheduled for a day or two later. She said of course we can reschedule, told me I wasn’t being a shitty friend, and she actually said that she was happy I was straightforward. She said she would prefer we both be present while we hang out instead of doing it out of a sense of obligation.
- Janie Contreras Johnson, 29, Colorado
I have a friend that keeps herself in a negative state of mind, almost always. She comes to me with her problems sometimes and usually I take the time out to listen and try to help her ease her mind, but one time in particular I was going through the toughest time in my life and couldn’t muster up the energy to pep talk her into a better mindset. I did my best to be there for her as usual, but found myself incapable of giving sound advice. In talking to her, I began to feel animosity toward her, wanting to release my frustrations out on her. I kept my cool, but felt horrible that I couldn’t help her like I’m used to doing. In order to keep a clear head, I had to turn to another friend to vent, and they told me that it’s okay to distance yourself from people for awhile and that sometimes people are draining. I ended up doing just that and deciding to focus on myself by responding to her only minimally. I wouldn’t change that decision because it was a lesson in understanding that others aren’t my direct responsibility.
- Georgia St. Jones, 26, Lancaster, California
When I was dating my ex, he was facing some major mental illness issues, and I entirely devoted my time/money/mental space to trying to help him while closing myself off to most of my friends (partly through his demand). I definitely lost a sense of living for myself and during this time, lived entirely for him. I would definitely balance myself more by telling him I would absolutely not be isolating myself like he wanted me to. I would have made more time for myself and friends and been more insistent on my request of him to get a therapist.
- Brad Krautwurst , 27, Colorado
In high school I had a friend who I was very close to and who would feel comfortable telling me about their daily life, their struggles at home, and anything in between. It felt good, of course, to have someone open up to me and feel like they can trust me, especially since it seemed like I was helping by talking to them or even just listening. At the same time, I was going through my own personal struggles and daily stresses, and honestly, carrying their emotional baggage along with mine was beginning to be exhausting. On top of that, the thought of not being a good friend and actively choosing not to be as accessible and understanding was stressful in itself. Despite the guilt, I knew I had to let go and not be so involved in their problems. I put myself first, and while I don’t regret that, I do wish I would have been mature enough to recognize exactly what was going on at the time and be able to express it correctly.
- Kim Flores, 26, Los Angeles, California
Interviews by Georgia St. Jones, Janie Contreras Johnson and Kelly Duarte.
Intro words, featured image and edited by Shannen Roberts.
*Last name omitted by request of interviewee.
Shannen Roberts is a Peruvian-American writer, musician and yogi.
Learn more about her here.
Georgia St. Jones is a California broke girl using music, art, and literature as a way to be universal and staff contributor for The Strange is Beautiful.
Follow her here: Instagram, SoundCloud.
See her latest posts here.
Janie Contreras Johnson, The Strange is Beautiful’s Staff Community Outreach, is a Mexican-American feminist working constantly to overcome sexual and childhood trauma.
DM her on our Instagram @TheStrangeisBeautiful.
Read her posts here.