It's Okay if They Can't Handle Us at Our Worst
You've probably seen that quote floating around the Internet, often attributed to Marylin Monroe: "If you can't handle me at my worst, then you don't deserve me at my best."1 People who like this quote might take it to mean that people who walk away from us in hard times don't deserve to be in our lives during the happy times. I agree with this sentiment, but the wording doesn't quite sit right with me.
At our worst, we can walk all over people, cross their boundaries, and disregard their needs. To say that someone who walks away from that behavior doesn't deserve the best of us seems to me to be a way to avoid taking accountability for our actions at our "worst."
Mental Illness Can Show Us at Our Worst
A loved one's mental illness can be tough to deal with. It can be emotionally and mentally draining to see someone you love in a crisis, at their worst, especially when you feel there is little you can do to help. It is especially difficult to be mistreated by someone you love during a mental health crisis, even when you fully understand and empathize with the reasons behind their actions. Supporting someone through the worst of their mental illness takes a toll on people, and they can burn out.
There is a critical difference between loved ones abandoning us in a time of need and setting boundaries to take care of their own needs. They might need to take a break or take some time away to regroup. They need to take care of themselves emotionally before they can be there for us, and it isn't right to ask them to sacrifice their own well-being to support us.
It is healthy for the relationship to refuse to allow themselves to be mistreated and to walk away from situations that are taking more of their emotional resources than they have to offer. It doesn't mean they don't love you, don't care, or don't want to help. It means they are human.
Do We Ask too Much of Loved Ones to Handle Us at Our Worst?
It's our responsibility to set ourselves up with support that does not rely on draining the people closest to us. I've heard people say before that they don't need to see a therapist because they have their friends and family to support them. It's not the same. (I could say so much on this topic alone, so I will talk about it in a future post.)
I am endlessly grateful for the people in my life who have supported my anxiety, but I also recognize that "handling" me at "my worst" doesn't mean acting as my therapist, putting aside their own needs for me, or putting up with mistreatment or violations of boundaries. None of those are fair requests, and it certainly isn't fair to claim they don't "deserve" you for not fulling these requests. In the end, my anxiety is mine to own and not the responsibility of everyone around me.
Do you agree with my take on this quote, or do you see it a different way? What do you think would be a better way to word this quote? Let me know in the comments below.
- Memes Dictionary, "If You Can't Handle Me at My Worst," Dictionary.com, Accessed July 18, 2021.
Sabatello, J. (2021, July 19). It's Okay if They Can't Handle Us at Our Worst, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, June 7 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/relationshipsandmentalillness/2021/7/its-okay-if-they-cant-handle-us-at-our-worst