So, 2019 has begun. To be honest, it has been a bit of an up and down affair so far. The new year brought with it expectations as well as hopes and sometimes I have felt under pressure to deliver. However, I have been able to practise my new found skill of 2018 and remind myself to take each day at a time, which has helped a little.
The days themselves have been fairly quiet for the past couple of weeks as everyone returns to normal functioning after the festivities. I have been able to spend some time catching up with friends as well as beginning my New Year’s resolution to return to running more often.
Alongside that, I have also been trying to become more used to, and indeed try and enjoy, more of my own company. Sometimes I feel as if I have failed if I have had no interaction with other people in my day and at others I find I am desperate to reach out and connect if I have spent a significant amount of time alone. In a way, I know that this is natural - human beings are social creatures - but in others I wonder if such a strong desire for connection comes from my EUPD.
I was in contact with a charity recently where I was discussing my reaction to receiving my diagnosis. They asked whether I thought it described me. My response was that yes, the symptoms are a very good descriptor of how I look at the world and behave in certain situations. However, I said that I hated the negative connotations that come with the label, most of all being categorised as attention seeking and manipulative. They had an interesting take on those terms and suggested that actually, people should replace the term ‘attention’ seeking with ‘affect’ or ‘affection’ seeking, which is judged far less harshly by others.
The chronic feelings of emptiness and low self esteem that anyone with EUPD will be familiar with means that we do crave attention or affection from others - we are constantly seeking validation for our feelings and actions, we want to know that what we are experiencing is ok or what we have done is good. This feeling can vary in intensity depending on the sufferer’s history and degree of validation they received growing up. Craving attention though suggests that we are the kind of people who always want to be in the spotlight, or someone at a party who screams ‘look at me!’. The word affection is an interesting twist on that, and I believe more accurately reflects the feeling inside of me when I am yearning for contact.
It was valuable for me to hear this rethinking of the typical attention seeking view at a time when I was feeling vulnerable myself. In the moment, I felt swept up in my symptoms and angry at myself for being a bad, attention seeking, manipulative person, as my diagnosis seems to suggest. However, afterwards, I realised that I have argued this case myself many times, and continue to do so with those who portray those with EUPD negatively in this way. In fact, it forms the basis of my argument in my article ‘Blue lights and sirens’ (https://eupdrecovery.com/home/2018/6/10/blue-lights-and-sirens). That in itself goes to show how powerful the negative self talk in EUPD is, it can take over and overwhelm you even when rationally, you would argue the complete opposite!
Whilst I am aware that I crave the affection and validation from others, I know that I need to become more self-reliant and better able to parent myself too. That’s why I am trying to learn how to enjoy my own company more. It’s a bit of a fine balance between that and not self-isolating but everything with EUPD is a balancing act!
In other news, I had a meeting with my psychologist this week and we agreed that I will continue with my EMDR therapy as of next week after taking a break for the past couple of months. I am quite anxious about restarting as we have talked about how difficult and triggering the work will undoubtedly be and I fear that it will destabilise me. However, facing difficulties is the way progress happens and that is what I am ultimately aiming for so I guess continuing with the EMDR is a necessary evil.
My engagements in my advisory role as an ‘expert by experience’ begin in earnest in the next couple of weeks and I am undertaking other new projects too. I just hope that I am able to keep all of my juggling balls in the air once therapy begins.
2019 may have started in a mixed fashion but there is always something to learn from experiences, we just have to find the strength to survive them at the time.