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  • Writer's pictureErin Clark

Needy Needful Needs

I had a rough winter. I had a lot of anxious days. Nights where I caught myself thinking: I’m a little worried that I’m alone right now. And I love my solitude. My uncut swaths of raw time to ponder. I love my solitary qualities and solo adventures and sometimes, I even love my loneliness. I didn’t love this. I would be having a normal day, with normal thoughts and then my thoughts would be so bleak and my feelings so raw my skin bruised at a flush of air. it hurt to move. From nothing happening. I would think of people I could call in the middle of the night if I felt like I shouldn’t be alone one second longer. I dismiss the list because the whole idea was so dramatic, because I might pick the wrong, most unavailable person. I could get through it on my own. It would pass. And I did. And it did. A dangerous precedent for any of the following nights that hurt and raged and swallowed me right up.

I don’t exactly know what this idea of being strong is supposed to be for. Who does it help If I don’t reach out? If I don’t set up support I can rely on? If it’s not part of my life that I give myself the best possible chance at happiness, fulfillment and peace in every way that I can when I need help? I don’t tell myself that If I want to enjoy my experiences or my accomplishments authentically that I must get out of my wheelchair and crawl through them. So why, when I feel anxious or lonely or sad, I tell myself that there must be a good reason for needing someone. There must be a good reason to feel overwhelmed. There must be a good reason to not want to be alone. And that there are no good reasons. There is only me inconveniencing people for no good reason. And if I want to be deserve love, I can’t do that. So I won’t. I don’t. What have I proven to who?

I started to see my therapist again this winter. I started to notice how I instinctively isolate when I am unsure of myself. Which is ever-so-slightly different from my natural and needed love of solitude. I noticed that I had survived the worst of my life by deeply believing I didn’t need anyone, I couldn’t be let down or disappointed or neglected or abandoned, not really, because I didn’t really need anything from anyone. I noticed that I didn’t have to survive the worst anymore but I was still believing that. I noticed that believing I didn’t need anyone also meant that I didn’t think anyone needed me, either. Which is a straight shot to a nagging sense of purposelessness. We all liked each other a whole lot, sure. but we could go ahead and just get ourselves through. I noticed something suspicious about this. It had never been true. I had needed people the whole way, I just had to learn which people would come through for me. I have been needed this whole time, I just had to let myself be needed, and then come through for those who needed me. I practiced when the stakes were low. When I felt meh, I said so. When I was overthinking, I revealed it. When I was unsure of myself, I showed up.

And then the other day I felt that weird spiral dive feeling - like the sink of an elevator in your stomach, but in my thoughts. That starts off nearly almost kind of pleasant and then is suddenly all gnashing of teeth and unending darkness. It has always been like this. It will always feel like this. If I always feel like this, how on earth can I manage? But i’d been practicing. I had told a friend in a casual conversation about my terrible, anxious winter and he had told me that he was home a lot in the day, writing a book, available to turn on Skype and just hang out if I felt like it. That was what I felt like.

“Hey, does your offer to turn Skype on and hang out still stand? because… I think today I need that.” I messaged him.

“Of course.” He messaged back. And then asked, “How are you? Are you feeling lonely?” when he could see my face. I didn’t even know what I was feeling. and I actually wanted to talk about things that I was happy about once I got started. Which is the most illuminating part of the whole thing for me. I wasn’t sad when my brain went for a dive. I just needed to connect, and when I felt like I couldn’t - or shouldn't, the system designed to protect me from exactly that - the sense that I don’t need anyone - kicked in. Which made the need to connect stronger and more hopeless. Cue self-destructive loop that you can just hunker down and bear and desperately hope it will pass leaving you intact, because it has before.


Connect with each other. Need and be needed. before it’s agony. for no good reason. The whole messy unresolving. even if you are thousands of miles away and don’t actually talk that much on average, but can tell each other this kind of truth about your mental state or mood. When someone tells you to reach out to them. Believe them. And do it. You might be saving them, reminding them they are needed, as much as you’re saving yourself. Strength is useful, and wonderful and be proud of your strength. But we all have needy needful needs. And in the gorgeous paradox of human interdependence getting our needs met has a weird way of meeting other people’s needs when we come open and asking.

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