Remember Your Helper is a Human too

Taken from: http://buslist.org/phpBB/viewtopic.php?t=47409

Sometimes, people from Internet forums similar to this one send instant messages or emails to other people from here asking for help. I think that's kind of cool, but if you do this there are a few important things to remember.

  • The person you're talking to is human, just like you, and is allowed to have boundaries. No matter how badly you're hurting, you need to respect those boundaries.
  • If you're trying to help someone from the board, it's good to have an idea beforehand of what you can handle. You might want to consider setting some of these limits:
    • One of my rules is that I will not talk to someone who is actively self-injuring while we talk. If they can't stop long enough to talk to me, there's probably not a lot I can do except encourage them to reach out for real life help.
    • Another is that if I’m trying to help you, you have to be willing to help yourself. If we talk for half an hour and you keep saying "yes, but..." I am allowed to conclude that we're not getting anywhere and end the conversation.
    • Another huge one is that if you try to guilt-trip me, it won't work. If you threaten to commit suicide because you're angry at me, I will tell you that it's your choice and I can't make it for you, but that I cannot stay in the conversation with that threat hanging over me because I can't be of any help anymore. Same thing with threats to self-injure or actual self-injury; if you start that, the conversation ends. I don't want you to die and I will help you get help, but if you start threatening me my ability to be helpful to you ends.
    • If I am talking to someone and I feel overwhelmed or unable to deal with their problems, I get to say so and try to help them find a professional nearby to phone. My willingness to talk is a gift, but I get to decide how much I can handle and when I have had too much.

I have these rules, and encourage other people to have them, because it is impossible to help other people unless you're taking care of yourself. Gently but firmly setting limits is useful for both people involved.

Threatening to commit suicide or self-injure to keep someone talking to you is abusive. Hurting yourself because you're angry at someone and then telling them that you did so because of them is abusive, and sending them photos of the injury is beyond that. In an instance like that, I would let them know that I couldn't help them in future; I’m not willing to give them the chance to abuse my goodwill and willingness to help again.