This question has been on my mind for quite a while. Like you, I'm trying to help others by listening when an ear is needed, and giving advice if that might give the other a better life. This probably stems from my past, which I won't elaborate too much on; it might suffice to say I've been mistreated/abused as a kid with nobody around to stop it, because "children make up funny stories.”
While I've definitely helped some people quite a lot, I've also hurt my closest friends thanks to my inability to cope with life from time to time (and other reasons). My past is to blame; I keep getting nightmares (even at daytime) and it causes very bad and rapid mood swings. Thanks to those, I can be a horrible person to my friends and actually mean every hateful word I say at that moment, but regret everything the next and want to help everyone again. It's easier for the acquaintances and strangers I help because when I feel bad I simply won't talk to them, whereas my friends... This gives rise to my question: should I keep helping others?
From my (dis)position, it's easier for me than for those who have never suffered abuse to relate to some of the people who ask me for help. When I help, I do so assiduously. When I'm in a bad mood, my emotional instability will cause me to say things to my friends that have cost me some permanently. I love helping others, but I fear they'll end up in worse shape than they were prior to talking to me.
An example: my closest friend. I've been helping him to get more happy, get rid of his depression and get better self-esteem. Not long ago, I said things that weren't directly insulting but manipulative enough to make him resort to cutting himself again and make his suicidal tendencies return.... It'll take a while to tend the wounds—physically and mentally—and even longer to get back to where I was with him on a social level, or even almost a romantic one...
Am I one who can help others, or am I the one to be helped?
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A fascinating question, and thanks for writing to me. The biggest reason why I started writing “Ask Papabear” is because I felt that my experience, both within and outside the fandom, would be a benefit to other furries if I could share it with them. In 48 years, I have been through a lot, experiencing, in my life and in those who are close to me, divorce, love, death, suicide, cancer, sexual experiences with both sexes and living in both the hetero and gay communities, and on and on. I am familiar with emotional and mental illness on a personal level. I’m also versed in the ins and outs of the furry community, and I use this experience to help others.
You have experienced personal tragedy, as well, and I admire your desire to use your knowledge to try and help others. But because you are still not emotionally stable and have not, apparently, received therapy or counseling for what is bothering you on a very deep psychological level, it is causing harm to others.
No one is entirely sane, I should note. And no one is without at least some prejudices. I try very hard to be objective when I write to my readers, but I slip, too, now and then. This is why I keep the Comments option “on” on this site, because I appreciate my readers’ feedback; they often catch things I forget to note, and, occasionally, call me on it when I slip up (probably the most memorable example being the case of the furry who fell in love with his aunt). I am extremely conscious of the fact that I could cause serious harm to someone if I said something hurtful to them, no matter how unintentionally. This is why I often spend considerable time on a reply before I post it and email it to the writer. I read and re-read what I have written, revising several times. It’s also why I will never do a call-in radio show, because I don’t like giving replies off the cuff. It’s too easy to slip up that way and say something wrong. (This can be true even in instant messaging; I have a friend with some very strong right-wing thoughts, especially about gun control, and debates with him can get me quite angry and cause me to say unkind things, so I have to be careful.)
Likewise with you. Because of your emotional hurt, you are a bit like a minefield in a beautiful garden. If one is cautious, the walk along the path can be splendid, but a misstep could be killer.
Therefore, I think it would be best if you took care of yourself first before trying to help others. You’ve already seen the consequences, so you should learn from them, take a step back, get your emotions under control through some therapy or whatever works best for you, and then reevaluate yourself and see if you are okay to once more counsel others.
If you wish to talk with me more about the psychological trauma you suffered in the past, please feel free to write again.
Good luck! (Hugs tight!)
A note on comments: Comments on letters to Papabear are welcome, especially those that offer extra helpful advice and add something to the conversation that is of use to the letter writer and those reading this column. Also welcome are constructive criticisms and opposing views. What is NOT welcome are hateful, hurtful comments, flaming, and trolling. Such comments will be deleted from this site. Thank you.