At the beginning of my therapy journey, I had a conversation with a friend. She was telling me about her sister's therapy.
She said, "I know my sister is probably a lot happier now... she doesn't feel like she has to do everything everyone asks of her... but I just miss the way she used to be. She did whatever I asked her to do whenever I asked her. I know she's probably healthier now, but I miss the sister that didn't care about herself."
Her words didn't anger me, like they do now, they scared me. I was afraid to start this process of finding what I want. I was so afraid that people would hate me if I stopped being the super self-sacrificing, people pleasing, caretaker that I have tried to be. I was afraid that my sister might say the same thing that my friend said. I'm glad I didn't run away from my fears, and I kept fighting for ME, because a beautiful thing has happened in the past year or so. Because I have expressed and shared my struggles with my family and friends, the way they speak to me has changed dramatically.
They used to applaud me for smiling all the time. For my kindness. For my willingness to serve and sacrifice. They thanked me for doing things that helped others, but hurt me. (They didn't know I was hurting. I never told them.)
It's not that way anymore. I have heard all of these things in the past couple of weeks:
"What do YOU want?"
"I don't want you sacrificing what you want to make me happy, what kind of a friend would want that?"
"Please just take care of you. Stop trying to take care of me or anyone else."
"You're calling because you want to be sure that although you know you need to take care of you, you also feel like you have to make sure that doing so would not adversely affect me or anyone else. Is that really the way you want to live your life?"
"Don't try to make ME happy, that just makes me confused and frustrated."
"You don't have to do that, I just wanted to know if you wanted to."
(after calling my name, and I ran up the stairs) "You don't have to come running just because I call. I just wanted to know where you were."
"It's okay for you to sit on the couch too."
"I love you. I want you to be happy. That's what love is."
They applaud me when I tell them that I want something. (Or laugh at me, which is equally wonderful. My mom recently called me her "perfectly normal goofball daughter", because it turns out I'm totally human, and that's perfectly normal... I just thought I wasn't, which is what makes me a goofball.)
They thank me for telling them 'no', because they want me to be honest.
They don't push me to do anything, and respect my boundaries, even when I struggle to define what those are.
I have almost no one in my life that would expect me to sacrifice myself to make them happy. In fact, sacrificing myself (if they know about it) makes them UNhappy.
I still care deeply about others. I still struggle to not take care of others, which is apparent, because people are saying the above things to me often. There will come a day when I am adept enough at not trying to anticipate everybody's needs and wants, that I won't need people to say stuff like this to me.
Until then, I'm very grateful for the people who are helping me to find my way.
(Although, actually, maybe I don't want to change that about me completely. Maybe it's just wonderful to have those who love me who are aware of ME, and will help me to take care of me.)