I’m a Giver.
I’m the type of person who doesn’t know how to say no, who thrives on making people smile, who will run herself into the ground trying to do everything without asking for something in return. We take care of the unwell. We volunteer for all manner of unsavory tasks. We’re fixers, problem solvers. Nurturers. We’re natural-born victims, and there’s nothing we can do about it.
We do it all at our own expense. We don’t know how to say no. Seriously…if something is asked of me, my first inclination is to say okay, to take on yet another task or project (even if I’m already so backed up I’ll never see light again), and try my hardest to accomplish it not on time, but early. This mentality leads to emotional drainage and breakdowns.
Hence my comment about natural-born victims. We aren’t abused in the standard “you suck and you’ll never accomplish anything” way. We smile and nod and even though we’re dying inside, we continue to take on everything, because we live in fear of letting someone down. We allow ourselves to be abused.
Enter the Takers.
The Takers are the ones who give the orders, who make the requests, who feed on our emotion without returning the investment. They’re predators. Parasites. Many people don’t even know they’re takers. They don’t realize what they’re doing, that even though there’s a “thank you” attached to the back end of the request, it’s still a burden which has been placed on someone else. They don’t realize they aren’t giving back.
Some people are just selfish. Those kinds of Takers are the ones who generally inflict the abuse on the Givers. Takers will take until there’s nothing left, just as Givers will give until they’re empty. Takers – the chronic abusers – don’t care who they have to stomp on to get what they want. Don’t get me wrong, Takers can be generous. They can be extremely generous, but it’s done in such a way that it gets them something in return. They give just enough to get it back tenfold. They know how to work the system, to keep the Givers coming back, even if they do it unconsciously.
Takers feed on the energy of Givers to fuel their own selfish desires, to fill their own souls. Some of the closest friends I’ve ever had have been Takers. Those friendships flare bright and burn out fast.
Over the years I’ve learned to identify the Takers pretty quickly. I’m in a position now in my life where I know I need to distance myself from them, and if someone is only interested in what I can do for him or her, then that person is toxic. I’m learning to say no. I’m learning to balance my emotions with others’ expectations. I’m learning to stop apologizing. I’m learning to just walk away. But it hurts to lose friends, because I genuinely care about people. That’s the rub.
Givers will hold onto a dying situation until their light is fully extinguished. It hurts like hell to see I’ve been unfriended on Facebook, particularly by someone I’ve met in person. I’ve had episodes of emotional drainage that have thrown me into serious depression. I’ve contemplated hurting myself over it. I’ve cried so many tears over people and situations that don’t deserve them. But it’s a long game, and I don’t let it win. I know the rules now and I know I’m better than that, and I know that there are others out there who appreciate what I have to give and are willing to give back.
I love to cook, to test and create recipes, and see the satisfaction on the faces of my test subjects when something is good. I’ve taught myself to make all manner of delicacies and sweet treats because those things bring happiness. Even if it’s fleeting, the taste of a warm, flaky croissant with butter will put a smile on anyone’s face. From time to time I bring hand-made cinnamon rolls to work for everyone for breakfast. I like making people happy.
But I’m a busy woman – I have a day job and two little girls who depend on me for everything. I’m running an administrative office by day and a household by night, so there’s little time for just me. I’m pretty damned tough by anyone’s standards, but I can – and do – break. When writing becomes a chore, I know it’s time to step back and reassess. I’m at that point now.
Confession: I have not completed and published a new piece of fiction since October 2015, when An Improbable Truth came out. Last year I was very pregnant and very sick for a very long time. Subsequently, I only wrote the two short stories last calendar year, and one of those is currently dying in an anthology that was never really promoted. I love that story, and I’m sad that first publication rights were wasted.
I realized too late I was involved with a Taker. I was invited to submit a story to fill a hole in an anthology he was publishing, and asked to step in as a co-editor for one anthology and the editor of another. I jumped at all three offers, excited to be involved in something again. I solicited work from most of my literary friends. Then when the sickness started, I was offline for long periods of time because if I wasn’t at work, I was either caring for my older daughter or sleeping. I tried to meet my obligations, and for reasons often beyond my control, I failed. I lost touch with a lot of people last summer because of that, but afterward I got nearly every one of them back.
I found out through the grapevine I was blamed for many of the issues surrounding the press. I was used as a scapegoat for a failing business that had nothing to do with me. I wasn’t “pulling my weight”, I was told. Then I discovered one day I’d been unfriended. Now because these anthologies and the press itself have withered away into obscurity, I’m trying to get over the fact that I’ve let my friends down, and I led them into disaster. The unfriending just pissed me off.
A little of that guilt has been lifted, though. Another publisher friend has started negotiations on something similar, which gives me new hope and eases the pain in my heart. That offer gave something back to me. This same publisher friend has been a ray of light in my life over the last six months, and he will never, ever know how much I love him for his kind words and off-the-cuff encouragement. I need more friends like him in my life. We have the kind of give-and-take relationship we both need.
In closing, my advice for the Givers is this:
Learn to say “no”. It’s okay. It’s your right, and your only method of self-preservation. You don’t need to make the world happy, so stop trying. If you can’t do it, admit it and move on.
Stop apologizing when you fail. You’re human. Failure doesn’t make you a bad person. It doesn’t mean you’re going to lose a friend. And honestly, if it does cause a friendship to end, it means that person wasn’t a friend to begin with and you’re better off without them. It’s hard when it ends, but it’s even harder when you hit bottom and your giving gets gone.
Assert yourself. DO NOT LET A TAKER BULLY YOU INTO SEEING THINGS THEIR WAY. It’s unhealthy, and Takers need to be put in their places. Have your own back, because there won’t always be someone there to rescue you.
Accept Help. When someone offers, take it. It’s hard, yes, but accepting assistance will help refuel your soul. It puts something back so you can refresh and give more.
Just Do You. What we need more than anything is emotional balance. Surround yourself with people who care. Do things that invigorate and inspire you. Put yourself in positive situations with positive people. Enjoy yourself and your life. You are worth it, and you spend so much time making others happy that you deserve your own happiness.
About the Campaign
#HoldOnToTheLight is a blog campaign encompassing blog posts by fantasy and science fiction authors around the world in an effort to raise awareness around treatment for depression, suicide prevention, domestic violence intervention, PTSD initiatives, bullying prevention and other mental health-related issues. We believe fandom should be supportive, welcoming and inclusive, in the long tradition of fandom taking care of its own. We encourage readers and fans to seek the help they or their loved ones need without shame or embarrassment.
Please consider donating to or volunteering for organizations dedicated to treatment and prevention such as: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Hope for the Warriors (PTSD), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Canadian Mental Health Association, MIND (UK), SANE (UK), BeyondBlue (Australia), To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.
To find out more about #HoldOnToTheLight, find a list of participating authors and blog posts, or reach a media contact, go to http://www.HoldOnToTheLight.com and join us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/WeHoldOnToTheLight