I learnt to put my needs on a side plate, like steaming cooked vegetables that slowly grew cold, uneaten.
I was the eldest of four children born in five years. I learnt to put my needs aside. If I needed something, and neither of my parents were free to help me with it, well, I either found a way to get the thing myself, or I found a way to not need the thing at all. Attention, love, comforting. Someone to listen to how I was feeling. For all the good in him, my father still has the emotional capacity of a thimble. Anger or a vague sense of a good mood are the two realms that he exists in. It made him an unreliable source of comfort for my needs. Business and the sciences reigned above all else. Money and academic achievements were always the most important thing in my childhood world. All of this was no match for my mother’s lofty statements: “I’ve only ever said you could be whatever you wanted to be. I always only wanted the best for you, and a home that you could come back to.”
As you can imagine, this has manifested itself terribly and dysfunctionally into my early adulthood, where I live in a different city thousands of miles away from my family. It turns out that when you try not to need the things that you need, they don’t just magically go away. You just continue on in a slightly depressed, confused state of being and there’s no progress made. For me right now, I need groceries, and a male, preferably with chest hair, to cuddle, and a job that doesn’t destroy me from the inside out every day. I need mentorship. I need help finding a literary agent. I need help with a lot of things.
I talked to my sister on the phone yesterday. It made me emotional. She said that if I ever needed anything, she knew my siblings would rush to help me. I always had a place to return to in London, she said. It was good to hear. But I haven’t felt that way in years. My parents have not had a bedroom for me in their home for the last 8 years. When I go back, I crash on the couch or sleep in one of my siblings rooms when they’re not there. I think there is a lot more residual shit that I need to dig up here. It has really affected me, probably deeper than I expected. I needed a room in my parents house. I need a room in my parents house.
Today, I started making a list of things that I need after my conversation with my sister. It’s a special, ugly kind of back draft. Kristin Neff, one of my favorite psychologists, says something similar about self-compassion: when we start to love ourselves, we suddenly remember all the conditions under which we were unloved. I feel that way now. Writing down and attending to my needs, I suddenly remember all the ways in which my needs have been neglected.
This whole independence and untethering myself has really backfired. I wanted to get away from the things that I hated as a child, the snobby people I grew up with, so I could see the world. But in pushing my support system away, I’ve found myself seemingly trapped on an island of population one. I’m not happy. I don’t want to go back to London. But I don’t know where I want to move forward to either.
Maybe my siblings can held tend to some of my needs going forwards. But even luckier, in my extreme diligence in being an adult, I accidentally overpaid my therapist, Barbara. I texted her, thinking I owed her more and asking her how much, and she said I overpaid her for 5 sessions. 5 whole sessions. Thank fuck for that. Thank you, universe. I feel incredibly lucky. Barbara can’t meet for another two weeks, so I’ll have to hold on until March 16th. But it will be worth. Perhaps I can start to unpack some of these things here. Barbara always pushes me where it hurts. When I start crying, she asks me why. She helps me get it all out. I have a lot to update her on.