Don’t Burn Yourself Down To Help Others


“You don’t have to set yourself on fire to keep other people warm.”

I saw this quote online, and it pierced my soul. A lightbulb went off in my head. Afterward, I realized that I’ve been supporting my friends so much for over 14 years, yet completely neglecting my own needs. If you burn yourself down to help others, what’s left for you?

Just two weeks ago, I unfriended and unfollowed a lot of social media accounts that are acquaintances of eating disorder treatment. This also included people I’ve only met online who either have service dogs or chronic illnesses. I didn’t unfriend everyone–just the people who ask for more support from me than I do from them. 

Recently, I spent two weeks in a hospital to get medically stable due to my chronic illnesses and eating disorders. I was “severely malnourished” according to the hospital, and I had been neglecting my IV nutrition and fluids. When they  admitted me, I was so dehydrated that the doctor called me a “raisin.”

During my hospital stay, I still took care of my friends back home. I did give myself a break from social media, which was necessary for my mental health. But friends going through hard times still reached out to me, as I told a few they could. I also got a lot of texts from people I just couldn’t support while I was in the hospital. Therefore, I had to set boundaries around my time and energy. 

It’s always been my job as a friend to help people. 

If anyone reaches out to me, whether I know them or not, I feel obliged to help. This comes from a place of true caring and wanting to aid people struggling with similar things that I struggle with. But I’ve gone too far, and I’ve set myself on fire to help others. And when you burn yourself to help others, you suffer the consequences.

I don’t expect my unfriended social media friends to be very pleased with me. Honestly, I wished I had the energy to reach out to each person and explain that I needed to set these boundaries. But, due to the condition of my brain and body, as well as the number of people asking for my support, I simply couldn’t do that. 

It is not my job to help everyone who reaches out but to take care of myself first. 

I do want to help those closest to me, and I don’t have to set myself on fire to care for these friends. They’re the ones who give back the same amount of support I offer them. It’s balanced and feels mutual. You don’t burn yourself in those kinds of relationships.

This change in my boundaries has made people angry at me, I know. But I can handle that. I’ve received a few angry messages, as well as a few friend requests from friends I had to unfollow/unfriend. 

I cannot save the world if I’m burning to the ground. 

My only job is to save my own life. And I don’t mean just take care of myself. I’ve come so close to dying because I give every last drop of energy to others–to the point where I have nothing left for myself. This is actually what landed me in the hospital for two weeks.

When I have no energy left to care for myself, and I’m on the verge of losing my own life, I am no help to my loved ones. Instead of giving away everything I have,, I need to focus on a smaller circle. This will get me more in balance with what is healthy and mutual. Nobody should ever neglect themselves for others, even if it’s a trauma trigger when people reach out in need, as it is for me. 

My only responsibility is for myself and my dog. If you have kids, they are also your responsibility. But extra energy can go to whomever you choose. For me, that’s my family and a few close friends, but it can look different for others. 

Don’t burn yourself to the ground trying to save someone else; nobody is any help when they are dead or compromised. 

Photo by Kyle Broad on Unsplash


  1. The quote, “You don’t have to set yourself on fire to keep other people warm,” resonates profoundly. It’s a reminder that while empathy and support are invaluable, they should not come at the cost of your well-being.


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