turning away from narcissism

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.

Does real love exist?

Does real love actually exist? Like the kind that everyone is always waiting for. Or is this just a long wait in vain and a never ending string of filtering through people that for some reason or another start to annoy you or disappoint you or you realize you’re the fucked up one and you leave to head off the entire mess? But you don’t actually ever leave when you should, in the beginning, because the bandaid would hurt to rip off fresh so you have to wait until it gets dirty and is already peeling around at all the edges. But here’s the thing: I don’t want to stop filtering through people because being alone is scary and boring and sad. It’s sad. It feels sad. Instead I want to keep connecting with people and believing that they’re the one and that I’m going to be happy with this person and that they’re the answer to every question I’ve ever had about whether I’m good enough and deserving enough because they are actual living, physical proof, an embodiment of how good I am and how lovable I am and a guard against anyone who thinks anything otherwise. I am lovable. But that’s really a form of using someone and not actually loving them, isn’t it? That’s fucked up. That’s what I do. I am fucked up. The story I tell myself about myself is that I am fucked up. I am not good. I am bad. I am spoiled on the inside but my packaging is nicely designed and so it fools everyone into investing in me and then I’m really just rotten to the core and will make you sick.

But what are the facts? The facts are that I fall in love easily and that love feels tangible and whole and like life should be and safe and beautiful. The facts are that I connect deeply with others. The facts are that I fall in love with everyone I meet. The facts are that I have good intentions. The facts are that when I am with that person the feelings are real. The facts are that romantic relationships are the only sustainable way for me to receive as much attention and love as I need in order to feel connected and to survive without sucking everyone else in my life dry. The facts do not make ripping the fresh bandaid off any easier.

I believe I have become a person wholly incapable of commitment. I cannot bear to pin myself down to one person forever right now. I don’t want to because then I have to be disappointed by someone. Or more honoestly, because then I have to disappoint someone. I cannot cuddle anymore for fear of sex. I hate sex. I love sex in the beginning when I am in love and then I hate it when all the sparkle fades and it’s just two people’s wetness spilling out everywhere. I don’t want to have sex. But of course I do because admitting that I don’t want to have sex all of a sudden is shocking and scary and hurtful to my partners. They take it personally and think they are the faulty factor in the relationship, when really of course it is me. It is always me but people never assume it because the packaging is so delicate and beautiful and how could anything be ruined when I am so good and give so much to others?

Last night I dreamt that I birthed a child. I was swimming, at one point, in a pool of my own placenta and fluids and it was wet and disgusting and I had to get out. Then I remembered I had this child. It was clean and dry and warm and sexless. And I kissed its head but didn’t really want to hold it. My partner was some vague amalgamation of every person I’ve ever shared romance with and they left, angry, disappointed, the baby a burden to them, turning their back to me and bowing their head and strutting off to some corner of the world where I would never see them again. And alone I realized I had to tell everyone I had to give this child up for adoption. So embarrassed to disappoint everyone who I had told about the child that I actually didn’t love it after all and that I was going to have to give it away because I was leaving for school and school is my number one priority, I’ve been saying that all along, so obviously I can’t keep this child. It was sort of really someone else’s fault because I’ve always had these plans to leave for college and I made that very clear so it’s not really my fault. Please don’t hate me.

Then my shadowy partner returns, on his knees, crying. I am heartless to lump these people together, even subconsciously, every tender person who has ever given themself over to me, and here I am, leaving again, because I feel I have to. Because I cannot stay for this reason or that. I am tired of hurting people. It has become a responsibility, or perhaps it always was, just one I could never see or comprehend before, to abstain from hurting people. So I can’t commit. It has to be my responsibility. There is so much at stake. I am sorry for giving the baby away. It takes two people to care for this thing. But I can’t hold up my end of the bargain. I feel sad. I look for solace in other people’s approval of my actions.

The Fire

In all the parts of self-growth and discovery, being honest with yourself has to continually be the most difficult piece. It never gets any easier. It always evades you, even when you want to see it. Even when you open yourself to it. Even when you’re asking for it. And then half the time it blindsides you.

I was walking along Highway 37 last night. There were hundreds of other people walking with me. We were escaping. The hills around us were on fire. It was closing in on us all, hundreds of us shutting down the highway without a car in sight. My mother was in front of me when I realized the fires were going to engulf us. I asked her what we were supposed to do, and she moved forward into the crowd and gently let go of my hand. I was alone. I felt a deep sadness knowing my time was over. I pulled out my cell phone to text my ex. I told him I would never see him again, but I wanted him to know what a deep and aching love for him I still had. That feeling of needing to touch but you’re just too far away to reach. It’s an inexplicable sadness that aloneness creates. It’s shattering. It’s so quiet. I couldn’t tell if my text was going through.

After I awoke I laid in bed this morning for a while realizing that my relationship was over. I spent all day trying to feel anything. I can’t tell if I’m heartbroken over the idea of us not ending up together or whether I’m actually facing being alone now for the first time, even though it always feels like the first time and I’m always still just running away in some form or another. I convince myself I’m doing the work and then it hits me from the back. I never see it coming. There’s been a numbness to my sadness these last few weeks. To my life, really. Am I ready to move on? My life here has become a small blossom of beauty, but mostly I feel adrift. Always at sea.

In the beginning, there was sadness

There is a sadness that underlies all things I do. It is my dominant emotion. Somewhere, maybe, there is a universe or a parallel where I am whole. I don’t want to be living my life overrun with emotional strife or conflict, yet here I am, embroiled in it once again. Living with mental health issues really is a battle. Each day is a fight. Whether it’s getting out of bed to face the world, to connect with myself, to fight off a panic attack, taking a look at my behavior, hovering over a toilet, deciding whether or not to overeat, taking responsibility for my actions, deciding to meditate, talking myself out of suicide (again) as an option, or reminding myself that I am still breathing and there is nothing really to be worrying about, there’s always a thing. And it’s exhausting. When I am spiritually connected, I don’t struggle as much. But ever since I started being honest with myself about how much I battle with suicidal ideation, I haven’t been able to return to my baseline level of sanity. It’s slowly driving me crazy. There’s always been a place in my brain that’s convinced someday I will do the worst, but a bigger part of me that knows that isn’t who I really am and it sure as hell isn’t my legacy. We all need to feel something. My something is relationships. They make me feel connected and needed and loved. So not being in one is hard. Difficult. Impossible. But here I am and here I will remain. Single and off to college to get my degree and along the way to try and be open about what it’s really like to struggle with mental health. Because it’s not pretty. It’s draining and sad and frustrating and no one wants to talk about that part of it. Of course I want to be normal. But maybe normal isn’t an option for some of us. Those of us that are just trying to stay alive. If you’re reading this, keep on fighting. I promise I will too.