I remember sitting there, the scent of sage pluming through the air, the pair of eyes across from me unable to fully focus, when I heard the words crystal clear:
He can’t be saved.
My heart was free falling, landing with a thud in the pit of my stomach. A ball started forming in my throat, like rolling of a snowball, and it just kept growing. All of this because it was true, what she said. Never mind that I have no clue how she knew, but she did, and for the first time I realized it:
You can’t save everyone.
Now, the fact that the woman I was speaking to was a psychic doesn’t really matter in this instance. Whether I believed in her abilities or not, what she said was still profound.
All of my life, I’ve felt the need to help people. Specifically, this came in the form of listening. Since the beginning, I’ve sat quietly and listened to each of my friends, at some point or another, talk through their issues while I waited with advice sitting on the tip of my tongue. Not once did I think:
This is not my problem.
But maybe I should have. Somewhere along the way, I forgot to put myself and my problems first. I let the complications of my friends’ lives overrun my own and it ate me alive. I felt their pain. I cried their tears. Too much empathy is a real thing, let me tell you, because I’ve suffered from it.
I’d do it all again though, because I look at myself and I know I have an unrealistic need to be a hero. I don’t know if that’s what gives me a sense of purpose or if it makes me feel powerful, but I’m sure of one thing: If I don’t get this little problem of mine under control, it could easily kill me.
Because nothing twists your insides and punctures your heart quite like failure does.
And I have known failure.
Of the friends I’ve parted with so far, I know that some of them are not doing so well. I remember sitting up with them into the early hours of the morning, listening to them frantically search for the answers that could grant them peace, but resigning into sleep when their prayers weren’t answered. I remember feeling that I failed because I couldn’t give them the truth they were seeking. I remember feeling like I failed when I walked away.
It all got to be too much, though. I couldn’t keep going like that, sacrificing my own mental well-being in an attempt to help improve their own. Finding out they were using drugs and refusing to go back to therapy was the final straw. If they didn’t want to help themselves, why should I? Finally, I learned to say no.
And that’s my point, here. It is okay to say no to people who are struggling if they don’t want to help themselves. If you find yourself in a similar situation, there is no shame in putting yourself first. Even though you can’t save everyone, that doesn’t mean you can’t save yourself.