You know those people who get way too attached to other people and have a hard time letting go? That's me. If you instigate a conversation with me, share something with me, or show any sort of interest in me--I'm hooked. You are officially my friend and I will never want to let you go. Here's where it gets complicated, though: I may become attached very quickly, but I will also ignore you for hours, days, weeks, etc.
Pretty weird, right? Right.
However, this isn't just some quirk of mine because I have a big heart or something--this is a huge side effect from childhood neglect and some pretty extreme Generalized Anxiety Disorder. The former almost certainly influenced the latter, but together these experiences have dealt me a difficult hand in my adult life.
Any relationship I enter into, platonic or otherwise, is just a recipe for disaster.
Once I form that attachment to somebody, I cannot let them go. I suddenly don't just /want/ the person in my life, I /need/ them. It's irrational, yes, but it is still a need.
I need to know what they're doing, with whom they're doing it, and when they'll be done. I always ask, "Do you still like me?" and "Are we still friends?"
If they don't text me back promptly, I immediately start rereading the conversation, looking for whatever it was that I did to make them hate me. If it takes more than a few minutes, I will probably call them or text again.
I need constant reassurance that they are still there for me, that they value me and want me in their life. I /need/ to know that they're not just going to up and leave when the going gets tough.
Then the anxiety kicks in.
I panic, I start to wonder what life will look like if they /do/ leave me.
What will I do? Who will I talk to? Am I terrible? Will I be able to make friends? Are they telling everyone about how horrible I am? What if I see them on the street? Will they act like they don't know me?
And so on and so forth.
This is when my go-to coping mechanism kicks in: isolation.
If you don't know what this is, here's a great, easy-to-understand explanation:
For some people living with anxiety, isolation is the only way to cope. Just as migraine sufferers must remove themselves from all outside stimuli, anxiety sufferers must remove themselves from all relational stimuli.
These people draw into self whenever stressed. These people demand that the other person be ready and available to support them without any thought of reciprocity. These people are irritable and moody. These people have multiple reasons and rationales for their behavior, each one emphasizing their need and minimizing their responsibility. These people expect everyone else to make accommodation for them; they live in the altered state of anxiety crisis.
All of their being is focused on what they need to weather the storm, to make it through, to put an end to the panic and pain. On red alert, they promote themselves to captain of the relationship and demote the other person to deckhand, relegated to mopping up after them.
It becomes a lopsided, one-way relationship that breeds resentment and disillusionment. -A Place of Hope
Sounds lonely, right? It is, and it is extremely detrimental to all relationships.
If you are a friend, partner or family member reading this: here is why I seemingly fall off the face of the Earth at times.
When I panic, when I feel that familiar knot in my stomach signalling an oncoming anxiety attack, I shut down. It's like a switch goes off in my head and the lights go down on the outside world.
Imagine that your life is a play for a second. When I get into my fight-or-flight mentality, I immediately shut off the houselights, making the audience disappear from my vision.
I need to, because it's the only way I can handle the situation. If I don't crawl into my little, isolated shell I become overwhelmed and break down.
This coping mechanism isn't unhealthy on its own, though. It is, in fact, /extremely/ okay to take some time to get the anxiety under control and feel safe. The problem occurs when, like me, the individual stays isolated for long periods of time.
It can sometimes take me a month to crawl back out into the real world and be a normal, healthy human being again.
I get so wrapped up, so focused on whatever I used as a distraction in my isolated state that I don't even consciously think about what's going on around me. I know there are people there, that they're going on like normal with thoughts and feelings, but it just doesn't register with me.
I am all about me, myself and I in this zone. I end up feeling so safe and secure that I struggle endlessly to pull myself out of my shell.
I neglect everyone, even those that I have become dependent on. I want them to be there for me at the drop of a hat every single day. I need them to constantly reassure me, love me, make sure I'm okay, etc. but I don't--can't, even--return the favor in this state.
It's almost like I don't even acknowledge that they are people, that I have a relationship with them that needs to be nurtured.
I see the effects of what this behavior does once I manage to rejoin the land of the living, and I am crushed by it. I try and try to convince myself that I can get better, I can stop isolating myself like this and always be there like these people are for me.
The truth is, I can't.
This is a coping mechanism that I need to survive, and the best that I can do is recognize when I fall into it, make sure my anxiety is calmed down, and leave my "safe space" as soon as I am able.
If I made myself completely get rid of this behavior, it would be equally unhealthy for myself and those around me, so I need to find that perfect balance. I need to take the time I need for myself, then I need to get out of my own head and make sure the people I love--the people I have come to /need/-- are doing okay. That they are reassured of my love for them.
Truthfully, this combination of insecure attachments earlier in life and a large dose of anxiety have set me into this routine, and I have come to accept that I won't be able to completely change it. The best I can do is work with those close to me so that I am more attentive to their needs, even when it's hard for me, and help them to understand the situation from my perspective.