I was raised to be responsible for other people’s feelings, in Psych circles it’s called codependent. Most of my relatives are extremely insecure and self-absorbed, the kind of people who feel genuinely rejected when a baby doesn’t want to cuddle with them. As a kid, your needs are not given the priority and understanding that a healthy parent would give you. You learn that it’s an exchange – If you want to be loved, you better be good.
Trading favors for attention is troublesome as an adult. I have a deep fear of what will happen if I ever put myself first, if I don’t drop everything I’m doing to focus on the concerns of those close to me. So I hold off until I can’t anymore and just start demanding things.
But the real problem is I genuinely enjoy helping people. Focusing my energy on helping someone else makes me feel like I have a purpose, and like maybe I am worthy of attention myself.
Helping others is great, but it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. It gets exhausting pretty quick. Too often I have been taken advantage of, either consciously or unconsciously, by people who also don’t know when to stop who suck me dry.
It keeps me from getting close to very many people. Unless I’m prepared to give all my energy to someone, I feel both afraid they will hurt me and not good enough. It’s a weird, twisted system that is embedded in the foundation of my personality. And it doesn’t help that we are all easy to spoil and come to expect any special attention we get.
I don’t always know when I am acting from this impulse. I expect those close to me to do what I would do, and when my friends or family need a break I can’t give it to them. I feel helpless and abandoned.
It doesn’t help that I have had plenty of other relationships along these lines as an adult. They actually felt normal to me. But if you have trained yourself to run marathons, it’s not fair to expect everyone else to do it too.
I don’t always know what the healthy reaction is. Or what to do if someone else is acting the fool. Should I do anything? I am not really responsible for how they feel, right? It’s almost impossible to relax when someone is upset with me.
Even harder is not scrambling for help when I am unhappy. Sometimes I just can’t think my way around something and I have to bite the bullet and admit that I screwed up. I need to believe that those who care about me will still be there after I clean up my mess.
I don’t know how to make this leap of faith. Why would the present be any different than the past? I live in fear of the fuck-up and tend to freak out when they happen. Which only makes it worse. The situation snowballs, I feel worthless and my mind scatters.
In my *post about anxiety* I mentioned needing to keep my old friend from interfering with my new one, and here we are. I worry that if I don’t take responsibility for my loved ones’ emotional maintenance, they will stop wanting me around. And recently I came to see that, disgustingly, I do the same in reverse! Husband does this thing where he just shuts down and it drives me up the wall! Validate me!!
Regardless of anyone else’s feelings, I need to stop spinning out. To be okay with my own existence as a baseline. I just want to be my best self. And I want to navigate the emotional waters with confidence and rescue my loved ones when they are stranded.
Maybe I need to accept that endings are part of life. Any relationship could end at any time, the important thing is to put your whole heart into them while you can. If I do my best I will sit comfortably with myself no matter what the future brings.
(Thanks to my good friend over at *anxiouslyimperfect.wordpress.com* for this spot-on pic of yours truly! Check out her safe space for us head cases!)