It’s Okay To Be Selfish
“When you say ‘Yes’ to others, make sure you are not saying ‘No’ to yourself.” — Paolo Coehlo
The other night I was sitting on my bed looking past the television. It was playing some show I wasn’t paying attention to, all I wanted was the background noise so I didn’t feel so alone. My depression was deep that night, I had not eaten in two days, and I was a silent, numb, wreck.
I was simply trying to keep my head above water, yet alone actually be productive. I had no strength, whether physical/mental/emotional, to talk to anyone so that was out of the question. I just sat there, listening to some crime-drama, staring at my timber-wolf gray colored walls as the night stretched on.
At some point I didn’t realize my phone went off and I had a missed call from a close friend I haven’t spoken to all week, so I sent them a text and told them I’ll call them back later and that I just wanted to be alone right now. They responded saying they’d always be there for me and asked if I was OK, all I could say was yeah and I kept staring at the wall, eventually reaching over to grab my journal.
Five or so minutes later I get three more messages asking if I still wanted to be left alone, explaining that they feel horrible right now and that they relapsed. My response was a generic “I’ll call you in a bit”, as apathetic and inconsiderate as it may sound. A altruistic individual would have picked up the phone and called immediately. Or at least a good friend would have, right?
“A bit” turned into 20 or so minutes without me realizing and I walked to the bathroom to splash water on my face. When I returned I checked my phone and got another missed call from them, so I called them back.
I was monotone at first since, like I said before, I was not in the best mindset to talk to anyone, yet alone someone that was at my point as well. But this quickly lead to frustration which in hindsight is not advisable when talking to someone that just relapsed. But there we were, them outside their apartment building, and me sitting on my bed staring at gray walls.
We’ve always been each other’s arm when we needed to get dragged out the 6 foot rut we would both find ourselves in so this should not have been any different, correct? I supposed it’s because of the explanation they gave for relapsing (as if it made it excusable in that situation after returning from rehab), the extra effort I needed to exert just to get past my own state, and then even more effort to help them out of theirs was what drove me to frustration. Eventually I calmed them down enough to go inside and take a shower, and in the process of calming them down I felt more weights bringing me down as well. My head slowly submerge into the ocean of my depression.
Like I said before, we were always each other’s arm when we were in a rut. We’ve been each other’s life raft since we met that night Freshman year. Simply put, we understood what each other was going through. Our friendship is platonic, we don’t see each other in any romantic light, and we’d always be ready to go to war for each other. This in hindsight is what made my emotions feel so unjust and selfish, even if I was going through an inner turmoil myself that needed tending to.
When I stepped out for a smoke, I kept thinking whether this made me selfish, trying to get out of my depression before trying to help a friend. Were my actions justifiable before/after I found out what happened? Although I was able to help them regardless, and my depression subsided enough to get my first good night’s rest that week, I still feel I could have been more sympathetic and less harsh/blunt considering both of our mental states.
As I write this, I can’t help but remember Biggie Smalls’ quote “We can’t change the world unless we change ourselves”. Probably not the best of contexts but still very much applicable. I couldn’t help them until I felt I was capable of doing so, even if it meant still finding the little alone time I asked for prior to everything unraveling.
Nothing has changed between us, and I will continue to be there for them whenever the need arises, and vice versa. In this instance, however, when my loyalty to my friend was tested by my selfishness for the sake of my mental health, I felt I was able to do both. Thanks for the advice though, Biggie.