*Once again, I feel the need for a disclaimer. I’m not a professional in this subject, but I do have personal experience that might offer a helpful perspective. This advice is not gospel, nor is it a professional opinion, but it’s real life. Please remember to keep yourself safe first and foremost; if you find yourself in an unsafe situation where you can’t advocate for your best interest, please seek out a trusted professional who can offer you a sound plan of action for your situation*
In my mental health conversation earlier this week, I talked about the fact that we need to be our #1 advocates. I certainly believe this to be true, however, I don’t think it’s simple or a single-facet concept. When I think about it myself, I think of pursuing my greatest depth of education, making sound financial decisions, challenging social constructs that put me down, or seeking the best medical/professional help when I need it. Those are all things that are ultimately up to me, meaning that those are pursuits in life where I need to make the choice to move toward. However, advocating goes beyond even these fundamental things. While these things are very important, I want to express that they aren’t all that there is within advocation.
Often, the need to advocate for ourselves comes in a time when we need to stand up to someone in particular about a way in which they treated us poorly. These are often the most difficult advocations to make, seeing as they will reside within a personal relationship. However, these are also some of the most important. So, in the spirit of highlighting this form of advocation in the sense of how it furthers our journey in mental health, I’d like to share a brief narrative.
This story begins last year, at the end of winter 2018. Quite appropriate, now that I’m thinking about. I’d recently been broken up with (that’s always fun), and this person told me that they would need to take some time to think about whether or not they’d like to get back together. Okay, in retrospect, I see how unfair and messed up this was from the start. However, in this time, I was still healing from the end of my past engagement (long story, check out the Healing Series for more on that), and probably shouldn’t have been in another relationship to begin with. I was vulnerable, and in that state I was also gullible.
All of that to say, this wasn’t just someone I’d met and dated for two months; this was someone I’d been friends with for years before. I trusted this person. I spent a massive amount of time with this person. I lived with this person. This should have been the last person I had to stand up to. But here’s the thing: sometimes people get comfortable in a relationship. While this isn’t always a bad thing, it’s good to be aware that sometimes they find this to mean that they can treat you any way they want to and get away with it. That shouldn’t be the case in a healthy relationship.
Anyway, I spent the next two weeks going to my special place to reflect, feeling defeated, and even trying to do things with this person to sway him to take me back. Ugh. Just saying this makes me cringe. But I say it to communicate that someone who you hold close shouldn’t make you feel as though you need to buy their love, or that you might not even be worthy of it.
After those two weeks, I got fed up. I finally sat on my bed and wrote something out in my notebook (I’m really going to have to look for that…). Then I stood up and walked into the other room where he was. And I said,
And he said, “I haven’t decided yet.” And I replied,
“You’re right. I did.”
That was the moment. The one that I’d feared for so long because then I would have to face singleness and just be alone without any “prospects”. But wow, can I just tell you something? I’d never felt more free and I’d never felt more weightless than in that moment when I finally advocated for myself. I told someone that the way they were acting toward me wasn’t okay instead of ignoring it and putting on a smile. And I survived. In fact, I felt so much better. I took that moment and the underlying message of those statements was: “I’m worth more than this.” I was so afraid of being alone. But being surrounded by that dynamic did more damage than being by myself ever did.
We need to advocate for ourselves even in the moments that scare us, because we are worth more than what we’re settling for. We can’t be pursuing our “best life” only when it means advocating for our well being toward concepts but not for our place in relationships (of all kinds). I’ve found that my mental health is affected in depth by two things most. The first is what I spend my time doing (i.e. learning instead of social media, or yoga instead of binging on Netflix). The second is who I spend most of my time with, and what I expect from them in terms of treatment. These things are equally important.
I’ve learned how to approach the latter in a better way through this situation. My hope is that it gives you an insight before you have to put up with something like this. Let’s advocate for ourselves in all things, so that we can then advocate for others in those things, too. Making a positive difference in the world starts with making a positive difference within ourselves. Cultivate you.
Oh, and by the way, I still wish the person from the story all of the best. You can advocate for yourself all while remaining kind and letting go the burden of resentment. I truly hope that he’s grown since last year; I know I sure have.
Much Love, Quinn
Crazy cat lady. Exploratory writer. Much love.