“He kissed me. One Christmas Eve. And for one special moment my own little life was…as big as I could ever want it to be. To have someone so close to you, they’re inside you, when you’re feeling small, and scared, and just so…disappointed in yourself.” – Aunt Gladys, Home for the Holidays
This quote came into my head two nights ago, while I lay in bed with tears running down my cheeks, feeling small, and scared, and so disappointed in myself. I was unemployed and not getting any offers for work. I was tired of waiting, and tired of feeling so unappreciated. I mean, I know that I am talented and have a lot to offer, but no one was paying any attention to that. And no one was kissing me either.
I was working as a freelance writer, barely making ends meet, racking up the debt on my one credit card and hoping for no major emergencies. I didn’t have any health insurance and hadn’t been to a doctor in almost two years. I needed new contact lenses, and was scared about some new health symptoms that had popped up. I was shaky, I had no appetite, and I had a mysterious bump on my lady parts that appeared and disappeared.
And I so desperately wanted an hour-long hug, someone to tell me that they loved me, some pot, some peace of mind, and some life security. I didn’t even know if I’d have a place to stay in the near future because my roommate was going to sell her house. I couldn’t even smoke the pot that I had because I had to be able to test clean for a job. How did single people even handle this emotional loneliness? When would I feel safe and loved again?
I had only been single for about two months and I was already dating, but I didn’t feel like I was getting my emotional needs met. And the shittiest part of that was that I knew that I alone had to be the one to fulfill my own damn emotional needs so I could stop being so dependent on others to fill my emotional bucket. But I was feeling like my emotional bucket had a hole in it.
I was crying, and shaking, well, bawling is more like it. And even though I was staying with my sister at the time, and she clearly cared about me, and I had just talked to a friend yesterday who clearly cared about me, and my dad had sent a wonderfully inspiring text message to me that he was proud of me, I felt just so damn disappointed in myself. I was 44 and unemployed. I was 44 and unmarried. I was 44 and unhealthy. I was 44 and unhappy.
This felt like the start of a depression. It felt like a hole that I wasn’t sure that I could climb out of. But I knew that it was part of a healing process too. I had to be able to comfort myself in order to be able to be a self-reliant adult. I was seeing a therapist and it was the one health care product that I felt like I needed more than anything. I was self-diagnosed as having PTSD, generalized anxiety disorder, trichotillomania, and dependent personality disorder. My mother was a narcissist, my ex boyfriend was a narcissist, and I was trying not to be a dependent child. My therapist calls it “Lost child syndrome” because I never got my emotional needs met as a child, so I keep trying to get them met by someone else, rather than doing it for myself.
What I came up with for self-love is a lot of things that I can do to give myself the care that I need for when I feel like my emotional needs are not being met. Like eating good food, getting exercise, being outdoors, expressing myself creatively by writing, having faith in myself and in God, practicing mindfulness, and a desire to continuously learn and improve. But I felt like I was doing all of these things and so why as I crying like a child who was lost?
Another reason for the tears is that I am also an empath. I tend to take on the stress and problems of others, even if they never ask me for help. I feel their pain across the divide. I could tell that a person I have never met was suffering, so I reached out to him, and yes, in fact, he was dealing with a horrible emotional experience. And someone who I am growing to love was also suffering, but suffering silently, and still I tried to reach out to comfort him.
I not only feel my own pain, I feel that of others. I absorb emotions like a sponge. I try to help where I can, but I also try to help, even when I shouldn’t, because I need to tend to my own emotional needs first. Before I can give of myself, I need to be whole. I am not whole, and yet I am trying to give of myself. Hence, the hole in my bucket.
My therapist told me about a book called The Wizard of OZ and Other Narcissists, and I have always loved the story of the Wizard of OZ. It makes for such wonderful metaphors. For example, neither Glinda, nor the Wizard were able to help Dorothy when she needed it most. It was Dorothy who had the power to go home all along, she only needed to realize her power and act on her desire.
So, being the Dorothy type that I am, I took control. I tried some quick eye movements looking at the trees (EMDR). I went outside, and I did some tapping (EFT) for my feelings of disappointment. That plus a face washing from the emotional therapy dog Edith, and writing all of this down, put me in a much better mood.
I may never be whole hearted, but I’m trying. I may never be healed completely, but I can stop the bleeding with some first aid. I may never stop being empathetic, even when I should take care of myself first, but I can recognize that I am digging a hole and stop going any deeper until I backfill a little first.