I Don’t Know How To Live


My morning started off with my dad and stepmom fighting. Or should I say, he was fighting with her. Which is normal, couples fight. But he has a tendency to become verbally abusive. His words are harsh. I personally felt the weight of those words myself throughout my life. As usual, I became extremely anxious. Despite the fact that I detest conflict, I stood by my bedroom door, listening. Not because I wanted to hear what it was about, but in case it became more than just verbal (it’s happened before). That’s the way it’s been for as long as I remember. When he would fight with one of the women in his life, I’d be on high alert, not wanting to be too far from what was going on, despite the fear and anxiousness gripping me. While my body wants me to run far away and hide, my greatest concern is making sure he doesn’t physically hurt them. But what can I really do? I’m just one small person and he’s a giant of a man. A man who scares me. All I know is that I feel ready to jump in and protect. This morning though, I decided I’m not going to continue listening. I don’t want to care anymore. I’m too tired. They still thought I was sleeping. I went to go sit outside on the balcony and just shut down. Lost somewhere, but nowhere at the same time. When they eventually left for work, I felt so guilty. What if he had hurt her? I wouldn’t have known. I would be responsible.

I realize, rationally, that’s not entirely true, that I can’t be responsible for other people’s actions, but my emotional mind just can’t grasp that.

Throughout my life I’ve felt responsible for others. Trying to take care of them. My stepsister, half sisters, parents, my grandmother, even friends. Now I’m at a point where I don’t really have anyone to ‘take care of’. Of course, there are people I still feel responsible for, that I wish I could protect and save, but I don’t have the power necessary to do anything about it. For example, I can’t help my mom who’s in a bad financial, physical and emotional place. I’m not a superhero, I’m just one person.

I realized that I don’t know how to live when I’m not living for others. I feel like a ship just floating around on the vast ocean, with no destination. Nowhere to be. I feel lost. Empty.

Of course, I’m no saint. I have my moments of selfishness, where I want certain things, and things done my way. But they’re few and far between.

Why do I feel this excessive need to take care of others, even if it means neglecting my own feelings and desires? I don’t know how to live for myself. I feel shame even just thinking of doing that. I feel guilty. Why? Am I subconsciously compensating for something? I don’t know.

In an email my therapist sent me on Friday, she wrote “take good care of yourself”. I loved those words. To me, they represented that she cared. But I found myself thinking, “how do I do that?”

How do I really live, and not just ‘exist’? I’ve been trying to figure this out since leaving my relationship and moving to this new city a few months ago. I have this opportunity for a new life, yet I feel stuck. I don’t have the answer. And it’s damn depressing.

10 thoughts on “I Don’t Know How To Live

  1. AnnaMechelle

    I can relate to this post so much actually! In my case, I’ve realized much of my guilt and needing to take care of others stems from having bipolar disorder. Because I inherently have felt so terrible about what I’ve put others through while trying to get a handle on my symptoms, I tend to make up for all those past transgressions with intense caring (to the point of ignoring my own comfort and stability at times). Of course, learning how to live for oneself isn’t easy, especially when you’ve fallen into a pattern over the years, but it can be achieved gradually I think.
    From what I’ve read so far, you seem to be a strong and intelligent person who happens to have a disorder. To me, we all just happen to have a disorder. That disorder doesn’t determine who we are as people, it just throws us off with symptoms sometimes. There have been times I decided to be selfish and chose not to care, only to feel guilty later. My true self needs to nurture and protect, but I can’t do that if my bipolar self is in turmoil, so I tell myself that to heal others I need to be sure my own soul is healed first. It isn’t selfish then, it is necessary and to the benefit of the people around me.
    I didn’t mean to write such a long comment (haha) but this post was relatable and I couldn’t help but share my thoughts. You’re certainly not alone in how you feel, and I wish you the best in everything of course!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for taking the time to leave such a thoughtful reply. 🙂 I like what you said, and definitely see the truth in it: “My true self needs to nurture and protect, but I can’t do that if my bipolar self is in turmoil, so I tell myself that to heal others I need to be sure my own soul is healed first. It isn’t selfish then, it is necessary and to the benefit of the people around me.” ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Taking care of yourself, when you’ve always lived for others feel unnatural at first..With practice, self-compassion and asking yourself ‘What do I need’? it gets easier..I know that guilty feeling very well but try to remind yourself that you deserve to put yourself first..that it is ok..
    I can also understand how hard it is to watch someone you love struggle, but you are right..It isn’t your responsibility..hugs ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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