When I was about…15 or 16 years old, someone I was very close to cut me out of their life.
I’d become toxic and manipulative, and more than anything else, CLINGY. I would get super jealous and upset if we went one day without talking. It was awful. I was awful.
Fortunately, after we stopped talking, I was forced to just be on my own. The first few weeks and months were difficult. I missed this person who had been close to me, and I was also going through a weird sort of withdrawal. They had become less of a person to me than a tool for attention and validation. I’d grown emotionally dependant on them, and once I was cut off from the source, I had to find a way to deal with that need for someone to pay attention to me.
I wasn’t very close to anyone else so I couldn’t just replace this person, and my only option was to get over it.
That makes it sound so easy.
It really took me a few months. I spent the whole summer crying to myself, but also going out for walks or bike rides, or laying on the grass outside and reading. As time passed, I stopped crying as much, and the infinite well of self-pity within me started drying up. At times I felt happy, and some days I didn’t even think of this person who was long gone.
That was my first step towards learning to be by myself.Over the next few years I continued to build on that. My neediness didn’t disappear, and I still had bad episodes here and there, but overall I kept getting better.
First, I learned to be aware of when I began to spiral into that sort of behaviour. I started noticing certain patters of thinking, or behaviour that always preceded yet another go in the merry-go-round of needy self-hatred. I couldn’t always avoid them, but I slowly became better and better at recognising them early on.
Then, I started learning preventive manoeuvres. If I felt that I was turning to tilt slightly in that direction, I had a set of counter-behaviours.
For example, if I was talking to someone quite a lot every day, but they suddenly didn’t reply for a couple of days, I’d go out for a walk and leave my phone at home, or sit down and write at my computer for a while.
If I started to get jealous of someone having other friends, or having their own life, I’d stop myself before I got too involved in paranoia and insecurity, and invite myself to some ice cream, or my favourite team.
And so on.
There are a few names for that kind of thing. You could call it self-care. A phrase I always liked was to say you were dating yourself. It really helped lift my self-esteem because I was very intentional in spending time by myself, with myself. Valuing my own company. That started to fill some of the little holes in my heart that I always looked to fill with other people.
I’ve been having trouble with this lately.
Not so much the neediness. Though there’s still plenty of room for improvement, the difference between me now and then is night and day.
I’m still having trouble being by myself.
I’m not so sure what it is, but I’ve been dealing with a huge sense of loss for a while. I’ve tried to hide from it by reading, watching youtube, playing Pokemon… doing SOMETHING all day long. Even riding my bike, I’ll listen to music or a podcast.
So no matter if I’m by myself, I don’t have to be *alone* and don’t have to think about it.
That all fell apart last night. As has been obvious in my last few posts, I’ve started watching Steven Universe and have fallen in love with it. The new episode that aired last night is an excellent example of why I love it.
It was all about mindfulness, and grounding yourself. Mindfulness, according to my limited understanding of it, is about being able to BE yourself. Not just exist in your meat bag, but truly ‘be there.’ To be aware of your surroundings, and all your senses, and everything you’re feeling and thinking.
So after finishing the episode (and crying for a bit, because it was very emotional) I just sat in bed and meditated. And… something happened. I’m not sure what it’s down to, but as I focused more on breathing and being aware of my environment, something made me cry more and more. I eventually calmed down by playing some ukulele and went to bed, but then today it happened again. I was at work when BAM it started to happen again. I had to start meditating in the middle of a call.
It was ugly.
I was crying my eyes out, struggling to breathe, and calm down enough to keep going. Again, I eventually got it under control. Then I spent some time in the afternoon just relaxing and breathing.
I’m not sure what’s happening, but I think I’ve been bottling up a lot of negative thoughts and feelings inside of me. Now that I’m forcing myself to be there, I can’t just distract myself with music and TV and other people, and actually have to sort through everything and see how I feel about it.
The funny thing is, as exhausting as it is to have to deal with all these emotions all at once, I also feel the most relaxed I’ve felt in weeks. Clearly this was taking a toll on me I wasn’t even aware of.
This all happened because I forgot one of the most important parts of dating myself isn’t to just do nice things on my own, but to also spend time with myself. That means that if I go out for a nice meal I don’t read a book at the same time, and if I’m exercising, I turn off my phone. It means really being there in the moment, and allowing myself to think and feel what I’m supposed to think and feel, rather than shut my ears to it all.
You should watch the Steven Universe episode, by the way. It’s called Mindful Education. You can just google “Steven Universe Mindful Education watch.” If you’re in the US, I’m like 40% sure you can use the CN app to watch it. At the very least, watch this youtube video of a song from the episode does a good job of summarising what I’m trying to say.
Also, I may or may not be posting a cover of the song in the next week or two, so look forward to that 🙂