I was pondering on my relationships with other people yesterday and had a bit of a revelation. I feel very isolated and alone much of the time and I thought it was because not many people bother with me but that’s not strictly true. Over the years I’ve had quite a lot of people who want to befriend me but I have held back, the reason being that these people have wanted something from me that I wasn’t willing, or more importantly able, to give.
It feels good when you meet someone new who shares similar issues to you and the tendency is to then off-load all your pent-up anger, frustration and unhappiness on to this new person because you know they’ll understand and be supportive, but I don’t have the energy or emotional resources to take someone else’s emotional baggage on board. I strive every day to rise above my difficult life and to be as joyful and happy as I can be but it’s hard and takes every ounce of strength I possess – I simply don’t have anything left over to be someone else’s free branch of the Samaritans.
I’m a naturally empathetic person and I hope a good listener but in the past that’s meant that I attract people with problems and many of my friendships have become one way streets with the other person using me as an emotional crutch but not being interested in what’s happening in my life or wanting to listen to my problems. Initially it felt good to me to be needed which is how I got sucked in but in the end I’ve resented the inequality in the relationship, so these days I’m much more careful about who I get close to.
I’ve had long standing friendships in the past, particularly with people who are also ill, that have sucked me dry emotionally and then when I finally had enough of being there for them when they were never there for me and ended the friendships I was castigated as a terrible person! How dare I be “nasty” to X when they are poorly, but everyone and his dog seemed to forget that X had been treating me like shit for years and I am also ill! Not only that, I am single and under huge stress caring for sick elderly parents whereas these ‘friends’ were either married or in long-term relationships or still being cared for by their healthy parents – they already had strong support networks where I have none. I’m at the age now where I feel confident enough to tell energy vampires to jog on.
I’m very lucky in that my best mate is very emotionally self-sufficient and has her shit together. That’s not to say that we don’t talk about negative stuff, or our health, or our frustrations because we do………a lot……….but it’s a two-way street. She talks and I listen, I talk and she listens and although we offer each other advice we don’t expect the other person to fix us. It feels really healthy to have that in a friendship.
The upshot is that although I have far fewer people in my life that I would like, the people I am close to are good for me and I hope that I am good for them.