There are few things in my recovery that have been more difficult for me to accept than the idea of self-compassion. Each time I was in the hospital, I felt like I didn’t deserve to be there. Whenever a nurse would sit down with me and talk to me when I was upset, I worried that I was wasting their time. Every day when we would talk, I would feel guilty about taking up Dr W’s time when he had so many other patients to see. Even when working with Dr C, I worried that there were other people who deserved or needed a therapist more than I did and I shouldn’t be bothering her. I felt like I was a burden to everyone who knew me, whether it was J, my family, friends, the staff at the hospital, or my therapist.
While on the ward, I would occasionally hear another patient crying or upset and my heart would break for them. I wanted everyone to get better and have a normal, enjoyable life. Nights were the worst for this sort of thing – sometimes I could hear a single voice crying softly somewhere on the ward and it was difficult for me to handle.
I met a lot of good people while I was in the hospital and some of them had been dealt a really bad hand in life and I would worry about what was going to happen to them once they were discharged. I shouldn’t say “would” – I still worry about them and hope they’re doing well.
I felt guilty and hated myself for being a burden when J or my parents or friends stopped by the hospital for a visit. They all had other things to do and the hospital was quite a bit out of the way for everyone. I really appreciated the visits, I just felt bad that people had to go out of their way to see me.
With all of the effort that I spent worrying about other people, I never spent any time extending the same courtesy to myself.
I was introduced to the concept of self-compassion early in my first hospital stay by one of the therapists during a group session. It seemed like something so simple, yet so strange: take time for yourself and be kind to yourself. The nurses and Dr W repeated the message over and over again. I don’t know how many times Dr W and the nurses told me that I was in the right place and if I wasn’t supposed to be there, they’d discharge me. They also repeated that I needed to be easier on myself and not berate myself for taking up a bed in the hospital.
It took quite a while but I finally started to go easier on myself. With lots of self-compassion exercises in the group sessions, the therapists were always coming up with ways to help people be nicer to themselves. Things as simple as taking time for a two-minute breathing break, to going off the ward for a walk outside, to understanding that everyone was supporting me and just wanted me to get better slowly made me feel better about myself and broke down some of the barriers to my recovery.
Nowadays, instead of worrying that I’m wasting someone’s time or being a burden, I do my best to make sure to thank them for their time instead. I also make sure that I take some time to sit down and try to clear my head and relax each day. I try to remind myself that I’m just as deserving of being well and happy as everyone else is, and I count my blessings every day. Sometimes more than once.
It’s easy for me to fall back into bad habits if I’m not careful, though. I still slip up, and on bad days I find it very hard to understand why anyone would want to help me or even talk to me. When that happens, I try to think about all of the people who I care for and what I would tell them if our situations were reversed. Of course they’d deserve treatment, caring, and love.
And so do I. Even if it sometimes doesn’t feel like it.