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.