I don’t know about you but one of the things I’m very bad at is asking to be comforted. I don’t know if it’s just a product of my BPD or being raised in a society that says it’s not okay to show “weakness”, but I suspect it’s both. I’m very bad at asking for help. Asking for help is tantamount to admitting failure. Letting someone know that I’m feeling a little vulnerable or that I just need someone to lean on a little bit… it makes me feel like somehow I’m being too needy. Like I’ll instantly be perceived as being too high maintenance. Needing too much. Asking too much.
Showing vulnerability is scary. Even if it’s something perfectly justified and natural to want comfort for.
Instead what I find myself doing is pulling away from everyone. I lock myself in my room and don’t let anyone see that I’m struggling. Compounding the problem. Making it worse. What I need, is exactly the opposite of what I allow myself to have.
And it is all me. Because at this point with the friends I have now, especially with my family, everyone in my life is more than willing to give me a shoulder to lean on if I let myself ask for it.
Often I’ve noticed we tend to fall into the mindset of, “Well if they love me they should know that I need to be comforted.” And when they don’t, our minds spin out and run away with themselves convincing us that our loved ones don’t really love us the way that they might actually love us.
This is something that I’ve noticed a lot from Zoe and my ex-friend Riot (both BPD). They fall into the ‘shoulds’ A LOT. Instead of actually expressing what it is they need, they have an automatic assumption that the people in their lives should just know. And the longer that those people don’t notice, the angrier and more hurt they become. Until it ends in a puddle of tears and/or trauma.
There there are the times when we know it's utterly unreasonable, but we still feel hurt and the inner shame just piles on.
Mind reading is a skillset I think many of us subconsciously desire in our partners. It’s a skillset that is UTTERLY unreasonable. I think where this comes from is a desire to have someone that is as hyper vigilant to the concerns of everyone else, as we often are when we’re in our caregiver mode.
Part of the problem with this though, at least for me, is that I very rarely show on the outside, what I’m feeling on the inside… which is counterintuitive to that desire to have those around us notice that we have a need that may need attention. We need a certain thing, want people to pick up on it, but what we allow ourselves to show people makes it utterly impossible for them discern what it is we need. We are the ultimate in inconsistent messages.
I don’t want people to feel obligated to help. I want them to /want/ to help. Ironically, the people close to me usually do, but they don’t actually know. What I need to work on, what many of us need to work on, is conveying accurately what it is we’re feeling, and what we need. This is so much easier to say than do though.
There’s one other “should” that gets in my way. It’s the self-should, or should not… “I shouldn’t feel this way.” This is usually a product of a lifetime of being invalidated and told that how we feel is wrong or inappropriate. Being shamed for feeling the way that we feel. Feeling shame because of how we feel. There’s so much to overcome from our own negative self-outlook, a lifetime of negative input, and a lifetime of deeply ingrained defense mechanisms designed to protect us from being vulnerable… that learning how to express even the smallest, most seemingly inane desire for human comfort, is anathema at times.
One of the things that I think is so misunderstood about us… is that it’s assumed that small things are just small things. It’s assumed that because something doesn’t seem like a big deal, naturally it is easy to get over. Except it’s not. Many of us have grown up being told the exact opposite in fact. Small things, can trigger a multitude of deeply held beliefs or traumas that set off an avalanche of anxiety and emotional fallout. Seemingly small things are often the needle that broke that camels back when it comes to triggering our bigger responses.
In that respect, we tend to worry about everything. At least I do. I worry that if I show that vulnerability for a moment (and inevitably I do), that it will negate all of the strength I’ve shown previously. This is that black and white thinking I find myself falling into at the time. It’s very difficult to hold onto the other side when the feelings of the moment take hold. And once I do, the comfort I feel when I receive the attention I do need, I simultaneously feel a deep sense of embarrassment or shame.
It’s difficult. I’m 32 years old and I’ve just begun this idea that it’s okay for me to feel how I feel and that it’s okay to not be perfect. It’s okay to let other people be there for you. While it’s okay to feel embarrassment and shame because those are valid feelings, it’s also good for me to recognize that this is a product of my personal dysfunction. No one that cares about me sees my need for human comfort as anything to be embarrassed about. This is a product of my overcompensation and counter dependence…. A product of my desire to be close, but fear of allowing anyone to actually be close.
All I know is that in the moment I feel awkward and kind of ashamed. Figuring out how to acknowledge these feelings as valid, but also work past them and express how I feel in order to achieve a more functional relationship with myself and with my friends and family… it’s a lot. This is also where I think a lot of that limited reparenting that Therapist does comes in very helpful. At this point I feel safe enough expressing when I need things (not from her, but in general) and she’s capable of helping me see what is perfectly acceptable and when I’m being too hard on myself.
Cuz really, sometimes all I really need is a hug or to not sit in the living room alone. I had “Be Independent” ingrained into my psyche really hard. Learning that asking for comfort or companionship does not equal no longer being independent, is not such a straightforward path for me. I’ve noticed that people tend to assume that things can and are straightforward in therapy. People/Love Ones get frustrated that things don’t go quickly enough or that issues aren’t being addressed directly… there’s a reason for that. That reason is because things are not the straightforward thing that people assume they are. Everyone has different experiences and different methods of healing. Figuring out what works for us, developing a relationship with ourselves and with the people that are willing to help us (loved ones, therapists, psychiatrists, etc.) is a path in and of itself.
Asking for help, asking for comfort, it’s a big thing for me. It helps that I have people that are aware of my struggles. It helps to ask for the small things and see how people respond. Still to this day though, I’m not really sure how to ask people to just come over and hang out without simultaneously making all kinds of crazy food or special treats to feel like I’m giving back, literally, for the comfort I find in the presence of my friends. I always feel like I have to provide something, give something, make it worth their time and energy, to spend time with me. Cognitively I can guarantee that my friends think this is nuts. I have a quick, witty, sometimes raunchy sense of humor; I’m extremely knowledgeable in conversation, I’m happy to just sit and listen when they need to talk and vent…. I know how to be a friend, but I’m not so certain when it comes to allowing other people to be my friend, just my friend. I still have that voice in the back of my mind that says that me, for myself, isn’t good enough and I need to provide something to compensate for my shortcomings as a fully functional human being.
|These are my cats both trying to squeeze onto my lap. |
They love me more than I can stand some days, haha.
So to ask for company AND someone to listen, or to ask for company AND someone to curl up against… it feels like I’m taking AND taking without giving back… even though I’ve had friends and family tell me that that it’s not actually taking, because I’m providing them company and comfort at the same time as I’m receiving it. It’s such a foreign concept to me though. It doesn’t seem like something that should be such a struggle, but it is. Something so seemingly small. Something I see come so naturally for all these other people… I struggle with. Comfort.
Giving comfort is easy. I like being able to provide that for people. I feel bad for receiving it. Though to receive is a part of the process of giving. I know how good I feel sometimes when I’m able to give something to the people I care about. It’s not unreasonable to believe that maybe, just maybe, other people find a sense of joy in doing the same for others, even me.
To give is a gift. To allow yourself to receive, is also a gift.