the drawback of being a “top feeder”




I’m trying to break this crazy habit.

Each morning, before I even open my eyes, during that time where you’ve just broken into consciousness, where you hear the birds outside, the air-conditioner kick on, the sticky feeling of humidity on your skin, I instinctively begin to think of what I need to do for everyone else.  The list goes something like this as my eyes scan the room, sizing up the day. Usually before I tend to any of my needs; food, water, time to wake up, I’m devising a list of what to do for my dogs, husband, friends, daughter.  Now while that doesn’t seem too extraordinary in itself, many parents do this, I can do it to a fault.

As a trauma survivor/mild BPD/ultra-sensitive person, my need for connection supersedes any worldy need such as food or rest.  My extreme neediness to connect is based on survival.  As a child, trauma and neglect can be so life threatening that the sooner we connect to someone who can help care for us the better.  And this is where it gets tricky.

By serving others, as in doing favors for them, being available to chat/pray/cook/etc. when they are having a rough day or one of my worst habits of over-mothering my animals, I get that much needed connection.  And as my therapist-extraordinare Cathy says, I become a “top feeder”.

A “top feeder” is her self-coined word to illustrate a person who is SO functional in receiving cues from other people’s needs, that their existence is the opposite of the less empathic, less motivated, parasitic by nature “bottom feeder”.  Uck, you know those nasty catfish that lay on the bottom of the river, who eat any garbage that sinks to the bottom, who don’t bother with trying to find a better food source?  Yep, that’s a bottom feeder.  And for the sake of this conversation, I’m grateful that my therapist feels that I’m on the other end of the spectrum here.

Here’s what we do.  We are so naturally tuned into our worlds and all its nuances that we essentially “know” what family/animals/friends/plants need.  That makes us a kick-ass person to be around.  We’ve developed this finely tuned, sensitive radar built on extreme hypervigilence that we often can’t turn off.  We are masters at intuiting information and messages.  It’s like stuck on being the eternal and forever cheerleader.  Still rooting everyone on, celebrating all their accomplishments, looking for ways to promote and lift up EVERYONE else in our lives.  To a fault. Until it makes us sick.  Until we crash really, really hard.

And that brings me back to my opening statement.  I’m trying to break this crazy habit now that I’m aware of it.  Thank you Cathy for nailing me on this.

Again, it comes back to balance.  Be that cool intuitive friend but feed yourself breakfast first.  Yes, mother that poor rescue dog but remember to shower.  Cook a healthy meal for your family and friends but remember to make yourself a plate, sit down and eat it.  Understand and help people in your world with…. their health problems/oppressive bosses/poverty/animal cruelty issues/the environment/addictions/homelessness/social injustices but make sure you’re rested first.  And ultimately and most importantly, come to grips with this fact as soon as you possibly can: others WILL NOT necessarily respond as well as we do.  You will probably be the best friend or partner that you know unless you are friends with other sensitive people.  It’s a very bleak and discouraging fact that often results in an intense feeling of loneliness and isolation.  BUT knowing and ultimately accepting this truth can bring a lot of peace to a situation that can be repeatedly heart wrenching.  

Most likely, we won’t receive the kind of nurturing that we give out unless we give it to ourselves.  It doesn’t mean we can’t have it, it just means we need to look to ourselves for the biggest part of our care and recognize with compassion the limitations of others.  While it isn’t ideal, Cathy states, acceptance will ultimately bring more peace. And I believe she is spot on.

I’m creating the persona of a more balanced, “middle feeder” kind of gal.  Rested, zen, creative.  One that takes naps on most days. One that enjoys taking the much deserved time to write.  After all, I can’t imagine being an old, worn out cheerleader at 57 years of age.  What a hysterical image. Besides looking really funny in my faded skirt, the image doesn’t fit me anymore.  I’ve long since given up gyrations where I put myself last and others first. 

I’m laying these pom-pons down.



About Rescuing Little L

Documenting the pieces of my journey...recovery from childhood sexual abuse and cruel ignorance...the effects of those incidious acts through adulthood... until the grace of recovery transcended the trauma and shame of my past, making it possible to return to Rescue Little L.... View all posts by Rescuing Little L

16 responses to “the drawback of being a “top feeder”

  • Randy Creath

    As one of your friends, I am glad that you’re trying to become balanced in your self-care. I appreciate your sensitivity, helping, and intuitive caring. I also want to count you as a friend for decades to come! Remember.., breakfast is good, so are books, so are naps, so is having some fun – just because! You are a beautiful, wounded, and shining human who deserves the space to wander the path of healing; finding hope, sharing grace (that means grace for you too), and enjoying the beauty of our world!! Be blessed, my dear friend! I’ll always need your smile but I hope you know that many of us are willing to help dry your tears, bar your fears, and make sure that we hear you heart!!

    • Rescuing Little L

      Hey there my friend! Balance is so elusive sometimes, isn’t it? You are a part of my world, now and forever…in fact, you were holding space for me as a child, don’t ever underestimate that! Here’s to naps, food and fun!

  • ☼Illuminary☼

    man, that’s a hard one… Another leap.. ( okay maybe not leap, maybe tip toe) out of the comfort zone… ((((LITTLE L))))))

  • Mandy

    The need to take care of ourselves is so easily put on the back burner. Your realization and taking action to change that sounds wonderful. It takes a lot of strength to nurture oneself. Great job!

  • Marilyn

    Did I see myself in that? You know I did. 😉 Am I trying to do better? Yes, ma’am, I sure am. Do I still stumble… uh huh. But I’m thankful… for friends… for your words/thoughts… for you…

    • Rescuing Little L

      That’s so insightful Marilyn…I think we all see ourselves in these types of behaviors…Still we can stumble and find a bit of comfort and humor as we plod along. Glad you are along for the ride!

  • sarahpotterwrites

    You take care of yourself, Little L. Keep that battery of yours topped up. You sound as if you’re doing great. Those pom poms — well, you could pick them up occasionally, just for fun. Just don’t over do it! Never too old, says me, who cricked her back a few weeks ago after trying to demonstrate to my friends some dance moves I used to do about thirty years ago.

    • Rescuing Little L

      ah Sarah Potter, you always bring a huge smile to my face…I’m plugging along in this crazy little world of my own…ours is such an isolated yet creative place, isn’t it? I’m betting that your dance moves are still pretty spot on! hmmm…feeling the urge to do a cartwheel 😉

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