I saved a life once. Well, I almost saved a life.
I think I was about 5, my mum collected me from school and rushed me down the road to help save a bird she’d seen injured in a car park. Imagine my disappointment when we reached him, and he was gone. Not dead, he’d just upped and flown away.
Your prediction for the grown man that was little five year old me? flirting with the idea of someone suffering from some kind of Munchausen by proxy? Shooting birds out of trees just to save them? It would be a really sick take on the self fulfilling prophecy wouldn’t it? maybe a more interesting read? but no. What I did harbour was an incurable need to save everyone, everything, and always with complete disregard to my own wellbeing or preservation of my mental health.
I present to you.... The Martyr
So times changed, birds in need became people, people with bigger problems than flying into windows. I wouldn’t say I attracted people in need of help, firstly, because I’m not quite that level of self involved, and I also hate the thought that we attract someone just because they’re 'in need'. That preaches martyrdom more than I do! Nope, I actively hunted for them. The broken, the needy, and the ‘emotionally aware enough to understand I have a problem but I don’t know how to help myself’ These are the people I gravitate towards. My studies, my job, some pursuits of love, and many late night conversations with friends have always returned to this need to help people.
So somehow, with this nagging feeling in my over zealous mind, I ended up in a career that I love. I have worked closely with people who share a myriad of personal struggles with me. Survivors of sexual assault, sufferer’s of anxiety, people so lost in their depression that suicidal tendency’s have become 'as ordinary as weetabix in my life’ (I was allowed to quote them on this). Playing a small part in the lives of terminally children, aiding one particular person who’s bipolar symptoms were so aggressive that it became often difficult to really find any sympathy for them.
Throughout all of these people, all of these cases, situations, and experiences. I thrived the most when helping someone feel empowered. It’s important to point out that I am not a psychologist or therapist. The care and support I offer, whilst from a professional perspective, is not a qualified course of treatment. My training in that area is much less than would be required to be able to call myself ‘Doctor’ (which really pisses me off because Dr. Black is just about the sexiest thing I can imagine for myself) Nonetheless, I have been so incredibly fortunate to work with these wonderful, powerful, and mighty people.
What I have always tried to offer in the way of ‘therapy’ is a support network. I’ll be an ear to listen, a physical anchor point to draw focus, a mirror into your own thoughts or decision making. Whatever you need I can be it, my skin and my mind are malleable and in a moment of need then consider them your loaned extension. Whatever mould you have I can fit it.
Are you seeing the reason for this blog title yet?
Depressed? Describe it to me, tell me how it feels, sounds, smells, and tastes. Tell me what the nature of your beast is? If we give it a presence then maybe together we can spilt it. A wall is easier to climb if it has footholds and much easier still with a leg up.
This, my methodology has been lived by, and utilised within my work. Then around a year ago I found myself busier and more driven than I’ve been in any role before. I not only had the passion to help those around me, but also the authority to influence the business around me. Wellbeing and mental health awareness took centre stage for the organisation, safeguarding was my core objective and as employers we were delivering well. Whilst spearheading multiple campaigns I didn’t ever drop the ball, one to one time with people was still at the forefront of my mind. I refused to let that slip and risk missing an important sign of someone perhaps silently asking for help. (selfish/selfless?) I felt a passion for helping people, now more than ever.
The insidious flaw of my ‘care’ did come to light though, and it fucking winded me. Depressed? Describe it to me... but then I can see it, tell me how it feels then my fingers start to numb too, sounds? And I’m deafened by the empty white noise of the thing, the putrid smell, and dry taste of it ,now belong, in part to me. The nature of your beast has become clear to me. I recognise it, mine is an echo of it now. We did it though, just as I said, we split it together. Except this wasn’t a split, I think we multiplied it. Maybe this wall isn’t going to be so easy to climb after all, and the footholds are useless when our limbs are bound.
I’d accidentally played the martyr for decades. Splitting monsters with people, I don’t think I considered the little bastards might be clinging onto me like emotional lice.
So here I was, stores depleted, emotions exhausted. Every bandage I’d used to wrap your wounds had to come from somewhere, and the only place I knew and trusted was my own supply. So here I am, a self confessed martyr. Or some dickhead that forgot to cover up my own cracks before trying to help bind yours.
One year on, and I feel more in control of my own demons. I’m don’t see myself beyond reproach anymore, my own mental health and wellbeing is as unbalanced and tumultuous as everyone else's. Whilst I can help, and whilst I want to help, I've learnt and practice more around self help. I know now my bandages can’t be used on you or them. Through therapy, support, safeguarding, and caring together we are weaving new ones anyway. I don’t have to be martyrised in order to help someone, or in order to feel accomplished in my ability to care.
After all that, I did save a life.
It wasn’t the bird, he was likely eaten by a bigger bird that same day anyway (I was brought up in Australia so everything eats everything) and it wasn’t the people that I have met in life and cared for.
I saved a life that I’ve not yet encountered, no idea who, what or when it will be. I do know that if my own wounds remained as exposed as they were I’d be sod all help to anyone, so thank fuck for waking up to martydom before it was too late.