There was a period after I entered therapy when it dawned on me that almost all of the people I considered myself close with were, surprise surprise, emotional vampires. I sort of hate that term because it sounds dramatic in a way that diminishes how desensitized our culture has become to its rampant narcissism. Look at influencers. Look at our president. But anyway, that’s really what dealing with narcissists feels like. They suck you dry emotionally. And for those of us that are empaths (sup Type 2 enneagrams!?) and perhaps haven’t yet learned how to rope in the endless well that is our attentive listening for those who actually deserve it, it can be devastating to our mental health.
Engaging in one-sided relationships exacerbated a cycle that kept me down and unsupported. I had almost no one in my life who cared for me in a reciprocal way, save for some lovely boyfriends, and thought the people who would talk at me about themselves without pausing to see how I am doing or ask questions about my life were a sign of social success. I also look back on other friendships and wonder if I mirrored those traits because this is what I thought friendship looked like. I had people who wanted to drink beers with me or told me they loved me sometimes if I behaved the right way. I don’t want to negate the love that developed in certain relationships in my life. Just because it was fucked up doesn’t mean it wasn’t love. We all have our own way of giving and receiving it. It’s just not always healthy.
Over time and with the counsel of my therapist I eventually phased out almost all of those relationships and, in the case of family, I learned better boundaries. I still get frustrated and don’t fully understand how to deal with wanting someone to fuck off because, I realized, not all emotional vampires are mean or ill-intentioned. Some people just need love in a quantity that is both exhausting and insatiable. I’m sympathetic to this scenario because I very genuinely see myself as someone who used to behave that way. This is where self-awareness and growth are necessary. There are people who don’t want to seek help and rather choose stay wrapped in their cocoon of safety, their vampiric lair.
You can learn appropriate ways to give and receive love and to take care of yourself so you aren’t constantly asking too much of others. Because it’s not up to others to satisfy an unending or unquenched thirst for love. Especially if you didn’t get that growing up. Seriously, it’s a deep well and it’s okay to need it filled up with love and support. It’s okay to ask for help from friends. It’s okay to need to be heard. It’s okay to find your support system. But it’s also imperative to consider the person of whom you are repeatedly turning to for support. The frequency. The emotionality of your support system. And it’s imperative that you learn to fill your empty well up by yourself instead of turning to others to do it for you. Because drying up a well is not just exhausting for the empath, it’s draining on the relationship that exists between you as well.