Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Need To Matter To Someone

I haven't written here in ages, and it's because I've had an archival temp job that's kept me very busy! It's been really nice to be working, even though it won't be for too much longer - doing what I love and being paid for it feels wonderful.

It's also a bit odd to be working on a blog entry around 3 in the morning, I know. I'm fairly nocturnal as it is, but I'm up late working on NYCC cosplay stuff with a friend (it's a Saturday so it's okay) and I had a realization about myself that I felt like I needed to write about.

As I've occasionally mentioned on this blog, in late 2011 I ended a friendship that had become unintentionally emotionally abusive for me due to the other person's struggles with themselves and things that had happened to them. I know my friend didn't mean to take things out on me the way they did, but it got to a point where I knew the best way to protect both of us was to get myself out of there. This friendship unequivocally changed me as a person and made me grow in ways that have been both positive and negative. I had a realization about one of the more negative things that has happened to me tonight and I'm currently sitting here typing this out so I don't cry as my friend sews next to me.

Growing up, it was difficult to find full acceptance from my peers. People would sometimes hang out with me and drop me or even hang out with me out of pity until I got to high school and developed a set of friends (who are still my best friends today and are amazing). I was able to be myself around my friends in high school and that was so important for me because normally who I was wasn't acceptable to other people. In college, I was also initially rejected by my peers because nobody at the preppy liberal arts school wanted to be around the weird baseball girl. I did find some friends, though, one of whom became my college roommate. She'd lost her mother not long before she met me, and I tried to make sure I was a good, supportive friend because nobody deserves to lose someone they love to cancer. Eventually, though, her depression caught up with her, and she desperately sought to plug the mother-shaped hole that had been left behind. The problem was that to fill the hole, she began to unconsciously use me as the plug. This put pressure on me to be constantly strong and supportive and eventually triggered my 2009 OCD mental breakdown, which I don't think I fully came out of until 2011, when I ended the friendship and had time to mentally recover. Her mental illness plus my mental illness ended up being a really bad cocktail, so being roommates for two school years probably wasn't the best decision for either of us but we didn't have too many other options and I didn't have many other friends at school. We were both trapped until I graduated and slowly weaned her off of me because I knew she wouldn't be able to recover herself any other way. I did what I did to protect both of us, and I hope it helped (a mutual friend informed me recently that she got happily married, so I think I did the right thing for her).

The realization I came to tonight as I was sitting here was that I'm still stuck in a certain pattern that combines my early lack of acceptance from my peers and my desperation for approval that developed during the emotionally abusive friendship. I often go far out of my way for my friends to help them with things and generally try my best to be a good friend (a thing I have to put a lot of conscious thought into to make sure I'm doing it socially acceptably). I'm willing to put my own well-being and even my health aside for my friends sometimes, and that's where things can get a bit dicey because I'm not good at drawing a line between taking care of myself and helping other people. I actively choose to be kind because I want to be kind and help others - it feels right to me to do. The problem is that I also feel this nagging desire in the back of my mind to do as much as I can for others so that maybe someone at some point somewhere will think I'm important and treat me as such. I do so much more than I have to in a desperate quest for validation, and I'm not sure it'll ever succeed because it's self-defeating (the more I do, the more people are willing to ask me because they know I'll do it because I want to help). I want to matter to my friends the way I've rarely felt that I do, and yet I go about trying to earn that importance in a way that's so exhausting and ineffective that it's never going to happen that way.

And yet after all that, I feel selfish saying that I want to be acknowledged in some way, so I don't even tell people that I want to know I matter. I feel like bringing it up is asking for something that I shouldn't be asking for, that it's something my friends feel that they already give me. Implied acknowledgement doesn't exactly work when your friend is autistic, however - I'm going to need occasional blatant confirmation that yes, I'm an important friend, too, and my needs matter just as much as everyone else's.

I just need to break out of this cycle because tonight I realized just how detrimental to me it could potentially become. I'll work my way out of it like I work my way out of everything, but just realizing that I feel selfish for wanting acknowledgement that I and my needs matter to my friends is concerning enough to me because it reminds me that although I've moved on from that emotionally abusive relationship, I still haven't healed all the scars.