as a heads up, this post mentions suicidal ideation
Once upon a depression many years ago, I laid sobbing into the ever-empathetic center of my pillow, aching with anguish and emotional growing pains. I wasn’t quite wishing for the kiss of death, but I was wondering about who would miss me if I expired. I wondered what people would say when they found out. This is what I came up with, in brief:
“Molly always listened to me when I needed someone to talk to.”
“Molly always made me laugh.”
“Molly always liked my posts on social media even if no one else did.”
Ok so, those seem like really fuckin’ nice things to imagine people saying about you. A legacy of giving, of laughter, of Facebook likes. Also–isn’t that pretty balanced insight for someone who couldn’t take a shower or feel anything other than self-loathing?
I’m not worthless! I mean something to someone! Someone would miss me when I’m gone!
And yet there I was. Crying into fabric, now feeling like a Grade A Asshole for not being “grateful” enough for how much people valued me for the support I gave them.
There it was! A click! The flickering on of a lightbulb! I wailed.
“The only reason people love me is because of what I can do for them.”
To be fair, I’m sure that even at the time part of why I felt this way was a result of some all-or-nothing thinking. And like, as a currently non-depressed person, this doesn’t feel as deep a wound. Because well, right now, I’ve got enough positive feelings of self-worth to keep me going. But as Molly in their Depths, this fucking hurt. And in truth, it didn’t matter how objectively “true” it was. I felt it, and for reasons more than just Bad Brain Chemistry.
I’m willing to bet this resonates with a lot of others, too, which is why I’m sharing this. It’s not a very flattering look, right? Because it sounds ungrateful. It makes me sound like a difficult, uncooperative mentally ill person rather than one that can be Saved by someone’s Good Graces. It’s not a very appreciative response to the attempts at helping people who are at the edge of their life or otherwise deeply hurting.
“There are people who love you.”
“Think of everyone who would miss you if you weren’t around.”
“Think of all the lives you’ve touched by being in this world, and all the lives you’ve yet to.”
Beyond that, a reaction of despair to knowing you are valued first and foremost–in some cases exclusively–for your capacity to give? Well, that runs deeply against cultural expectations of human relationship. Mainly: 1) how we’re taught to value people–especially femmes–and 2) the expectation that those people are fulfilled by this construction of their worth.
It’s supposed to be an honor to be told that you are giving, that you are helpful, that you are willing to drop everything to take care of your loved ones, that you’re willing to sacrifice your happiness to make sure someone else is OK. It’s supposed to be flattering to be told time and time again, You helped me become a better person.
The fact that you give without regard for what you get in return, this is supposed to be evidence that you are worthy. It’s supposed to be affirming to know that what you give away to another person is appreciated.
All of this together? This is supposed to be enough to know that you deserve to love yourself. That you deserve to keep on living.
Well, call me ungrateful. This is not enough.
When I want to die, it’s almost always because I am completely depleted. I have given away all of my energy and have nothing to show for it in my own life but someone else running around feeling like they’re on top of the world. And hey, I really do love that I can help people feel even marginally better about the human experience. I do value the fact that I can help people heal. I mean like, lol, that’s literally why I made this site.
I want to help people. I want to guide people.
But here’s the thing: I’m not a fucking eternal spring of energy and love that I can give away every day. Neither are you. Neither is anyone.
Part of how I heal this? Boundaries. Saying No. What happens when I say no, though? Well, the title of my site didn’t come from nowhere.
Either I give my time & energy away to others, ignoring my own needs and thus want to die–but at least I get to be called a good person!
or I set boundaries and get called a selfish bitch.
A classic femme conundrum, no?
But what’s the alternative?
How do we see value in people beyond their capacity for selflessness?
Start seeing people not as a means to your own self-improvement.
Start viewing those in your life not only as people that you can rely on to guide or mentor you, but as people in and of themselves.
Start recognizing that people are more than how you benefit from their presence.
What does this look like?
First and foremost, this looks like identifying people’s passions and expressing interest in them.
And hey! Maybe someone’s passion actually is listening to people’s woes and helping them sort through them. Mine is, sort of.
But riddle me this:
If someone’s passion is cooking, do you call them up and ask them to make you dinner?
If someone’s passion is collecting rocks, do you ask them to give you a hunk of lapis lazuli?
Eh, maybe you do. But probably what you’re more likely to do is ask them about it. What got them interested in it? What do they like about it? What’s your favorite food? What’s your favorite stone?
Also likely is that you might think to buy them some saffron or a slab of labradorite, because you know it’ll make them happy. Because you’re supporting their passions.
Maybe you encourage them to open a restaurant, or encourage them to become a curator at a rock museum.
Support your healer friends in this way, too. Learn about their passions. Give them mementos of appreciation. Encourage them to pursue their passion. You’re not a passion project for your healer friend any more than you’re a good carbonara recipe for your neighborhood chef.
Another idea: notice the ways that people exist for themselves in private, and offer appreciation for this.
Notice the way they decorate their bedrooms. Notice the way they organize the shelves in their bathroom. Notice the art they’ve created, the way they write poems. Notice the way they raise their eyebrows whenever they say the word “Yellow.”
Tell them that you are amazed at how exactly representative of themselves these tiny things are. That they are material evidence of the incredible, whole, and powerful soul that lives behind your loved one’s eyes.
Tell them that you love hearing how they wanted to build a media empire at age 9, and that they probably still should because damn–you’re like, really good at cinematography. Have you considered getting a grant to make a documentary?
And finally, remember that there is value in ways of being beyond selflessness and sacrifice
Especially when it comes to valuing femmes.
As someone who seeks to exist in service of others & the world of spirit, as someone who envisions a world where people recognize and aim to collectively meet everyone’s needs–I am an ardent lover of giving. I believe in the power of service.
All of this is not to say that we should stop valuing giving.
It’s to say that we should start valuing other qualities, too.
Giving boundlessly is not an action all of us have the capacity for, nor is it something we all should strive to do. And we sure as fuck should not punish people for living with boundaries on their giving.
Value people’s power. Value people’s passion. Value people’s quiet observations. Value people’s loud declarations of their truth. Value the whole fucking range of human experience and expression.
Even if someone’s way of being does not fulfill your needs, or help you achieve your end goals: They are still worthy of love and life.
If you found value in these words and would like to give back, I welcome any & all sized tips. You can send the exchange via PayPal at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Venmo @Molly-Meehan-1. Thank you.
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