How do I stop being needy?
September 6, 2017 8:15 PM   Subscribe

I have been going through a rough few years, its caused friends to leave or distance themselves from me. Losing my social support, can't find work or a therapist...How can I stop being needy when I am, need of help I can't yet access?

Hey guys. Been really going through some tough years over the past...few years. My family has moved constantly, I burnt out on creative work, became unemployed, and my family has moved to an area that's pretty isolated. Right now, I am going through bureaucracy to get insurance, and thus therapy. In the past year, I have lost at least 3 relationships I believed were very solid, and...frankly there is a lot of distance in my other friendships anymore. Some days I do ok, but most days, I just end the day crying. As good friends left, I ended up leaning on others to help get me through. I didn't even realize I was doing it. Its been going on so long, its not a conscious choice most of the time.

Recently, a friend of mine who also has mental health issues, and who, in general I trust and is pretty kind, told me I can be needy, though not a jerk in the way I express it. Just...overwhelming. She told me she knew I was dealing with a lot, and that my responses were normal, and that, at least, if you let me know I'm too much, I cool it, but that none the less, I was needy. In most situations however...people don't tell me I'm getting too heavy, they just bail, usually very angrily, suddenly, and with a lot of finger pointing in my direction. So I mean, it could be a lot of things, but I suspect that its really the neediness that is the killing blow for these relationships.

Tbh, I'm not sure how to approach her or other people. In two of the cases of other friends, I know my severe, suicidal depression, and non-access to resources has been a point of contention. I don't like being like this. As much as I can be, I try to be supportive. I've done thousands of dollars worth of editing work for other people, I've taken midnight phone calls when they were worried or scared, I've offered to help pay bills, given career advice, vouched for other people on job applications, given rides, etc.. As a person, I know I ask for a lot, so I've always tried to give in return to balance the scales a bit. I know that's not how friendships really works, but, I feel like I should at least be trying to give as much as I can to others.

Right now, if I am VERY lucky, I can borrow a car for a day or so, each week. My family does not live in town, walking is not an option, and there is no public transport or uber. I know no one who I might be able to pay for a ride. This is not an area I have any prior knowledge of. When I get a chance to go into town, I have been spending most of my time wrestling with beuaracracy so I can get on Medicaid and see a therapist. (We moved states, so my old insurance does not apply.) I'm also desperately trying to get a job, or some kind of income, and a car of my own. Right now, I don't have the funds, and jobs just aren't responding. I'm not applying for high end work either. Its just this is a small town, it's either retail/fast food, or stuff you need a specialized degree for...I can't exactly deliver babies, and the minimum wage applications aren't responding.

How do I stop this? I know this desperate loneliness is, paradoxically, driving others off. Friends used to come so easily to, I feel like I'm some monster putting on a human suit just to talk to most people. I wasn't able to practice being social for so long, and lost so much of my support base that...everything collapsed in on itself. I'm not even sure how to articulate it. I'm just sort of lost and unsure of what I am...and can't remember how to really do any socializing with confidence anymore. I'm worried I will talk to people, and immediately, my sadness will drip into my voice, and they will bolt. Good, solid, beloved friends ran away from this. How can I expect to attract new friends until I can resolve some of this loneliness and need? I can barely put up with myself. How can I ask others to do that?

I know this is do I be human again? How can I make new friends and not overwhelm the few remaining old ones? How can I stop needing so much while simultaneously living on so little? (And I mean that in terms of everything, time, money, social interaction.)
Right now, I've been reading a lot of self help. I got Dale Carnegies "How to Win Friends and Influence People". Its not that I want to influence or "win" anyone...I just feel like I'm getting so weird, I can't even convince people to stay in my vicinity, and old friends are getting increasingly upset, or even outright angry with me. Idk guys...just...kind of hanging on by threads most days. Any advice?

As it stands...I feel I am doing all I can to undo a massive Gordian knot and I have been at it for years...and I don't know how to handle it anymore. Any books, experience, advice, tips? In time, I know this has to end, but right now, its just more than I know what to do with.
posted by Rosengeist to Human Relations (11 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
First, let me say I'm really sorry you're gong through this, and I see from your question history how much time you've spent trying to get on top of what sounds like a pretty heavy load of stress. It's really hard! You should be proud that you are coping as well as you are, even if it feels like it's not enough -- don't be down on yourself for not figuring everything out yet. You are out there trying, and that's really important. So don't give up.

Are you living with your parents or with a partner and kid(s)? How much can you lean on them for support, both emotional and financial? It sounds like you need a place to vent and feel heard, so until you get a therapist, perhaps you could try an online therapy like 7 Cups of Tea. If you have a place to do that, hopefully you can be around your friends without feeling like you are either dumping on them or bottling up your feelings. Online chat forums based around hobbies or other interests can also be a great way to feel connected when it's hard to get out of the house.

You can also look for remote work on places like Upwork, which might be able to get you a bit of income while you find something better locally.

Good luck. I know this is hard, but things will get better.
posted by ananci at 8:28 PM on September 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

ananci said almost exactly what I was going to, down to the specific recommendation of 7cups. (Disclaimer: I work for a small data analytics company with a partnership with 7cups.) I will say, though, that it (at least the free part) explicitly isn't therapy, but the volunteer "listeners" on the platform are specifically trained in active listening skills and helping talk through issues. But don't expect it to be a substitute for a trained therapist, which good on you for working so hard to obtain.

Maybe, though, it can be a place for you to unload a bit so that it's easier to ask less of the heavy lifting from old and new friends. Is it unfair that they're unwilling do be the friend you need in those times? Maybe. But like you said, friendship isn't always an equal exchange, nor should it always be.
posted by supercres at 8:40 PM on September 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Do you journal? A journal, especially written while outside in nature even if that's just staring at a tree from a sidewalk nature, can be a helpful venting therapeutic tool. Nature walks help restore equilibrium and reduce stress, and being alone in nature is somehow not lonely like being alone in an urban or suburban place.

You may not be able to have a pet now, but can you volunteer to walk a neighbour's friendly dog? Having a mutt look forward to seeing you and greet you and being able to chat to a furry face that woofs along happily to your grumbling is a great treat. Cat sitting is also a possibility.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 9:15 PM on September 6, 2017

I'm so sorry you're going through all this. Could you look into trading peer support services? Here's one example of the kind of thing I'm thinking of. That would be a way to get and give support outside of your current friendships.
posted by salvia at 11:42 PM on September 6, 2017

Also, people always suggest volunteering, which might be worth looking into. You can meet people and feel good about having done some helping.
posted by salvia at 11:45 PM on September 6, 2017

I think that what you might need is to unburden yourself of some of the stressors that are overwhelming you, and find some quiet and some peace, instead of trying really hard to get things done and get things moving.

It's awful that your friends have not been more supportive. But, for now, can you try to accept that as how things are at the moment, and let it be? Acceptance of a bad situation is not easy, but it is the first step to find peace. I don't mean acceptance in the sense that it's okay. It's not okay. I mean acceptance in the sense of acknowledging that that's how it is. That is the first step that can allow you to take a breath and find some calmness. At least that's how it is for me.

I'm not entirely clear on how urgent your need for money is. If you live with your family and have your basic needs met, perhaps even the job hunt can wait, until you are feeling more whole. I know it feels like you need to be getting your life in order by getting a job, making friends, getting things working. But that may be too much right now. Focus on you. Focus on finding your own inner strength and calmness, first.

As someone on the internet who doesn't know you, this may or may not apply. I'm just giving my two cents on what has worked for me. Best of luck to you.
posted by Vispa Teresa at 12:50 AM on September 7, 2017

I am sorry life is so hard right now. That all sounds very sucky.

There have been times in my life when I felt like all I had to turn to was "imaginary help". In the book Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut I came across the idea of believing in a religion or a god as a coping mechanism without worrying about the objective truth of the belief. The quote that comes back to me is "Live by the foma that make you brave and kind and happy and healthy" where "foma" means "harmless untruths." I decided to believe in a God that cared about me, loved me and that everything that happened in my life was leading me towards my ultimate happiness. This was (and is) really helpful for me. I am not suggesting that YOU decide to believe this, unless it calls out to you, but there might be something you want to believe in that would give you hope. Go ahead and believe that and don't worry about the empirical truth of it. (I am definitely not suggesting that you read Cat's Cradle right now. It gave me a good idea but overall it's kind of depressing).

There was a time in my life when I was desperately waiting to access a therapist and I thought this would be the solution to all my sadness at the time. When I was finally able to see the therapist it was disappointing and I would find myself after each session imagining what I wished she'd said and what I wished she'd asked instead of her lame-ass repeating of everything I said (I think this was supposed to make me feel like she heard what I was saying??). Eventually I starting writing down imaginary therapy sessions with a better therapist and eventually I realized the imaginary therapist was much more helpful than the real life one.

Other ways I can imagine using your imagination right now:

an imaginary perfect friend.... either just in your head or one you send letters or emails to and you also write his or her perfect responses.

an angel who watches out for you who is always there feeling compassion and love for you

a sit-com in your head where the wise-cracking friend has the perfect joke for every setback

your future self who has gotten to the place you only dream of right now is able to whisper guidance and encouragement in your ear.

a fairy who has a non-human's perspective on everything to share

you can access your imaginary assistance using whatever medium is strongest/most comfortable for you. For a lot of people that's writing, but maybe for you it's talking aloud, into your phone's recorder or maybe just the air. Maybe just letting the imaginary things play out in your head or maybe using your body in a particular way ( like, say, you are most able to be in touch with your angel when you spread your arms out like wings, something like that).

Anyway, you don't have to even imagine it, there is really a stranger out here in the real world reading your words on the internet and hoping for the best for you and sending you vibes of energy and love (which may all be imaginary but it helps me to believe in!)
posted by Jenny'sCricket at 5:09 AM on September 7, 2017 [11 favorites]

Forgive me if this is unhelpful, as I'm sure you've already considered it if it's a viable option - have you considered moving? You say you are living with your family. Is there any way you could move to another area where jobs, transportation, mental health care, etc are all more accessible?

This article has some suggestions that you might find helpful. I have no idea why it's also a plug for a book on narcissism - feel free to ignore that.

Neediness in general seems to be primarily because of unmet needs. Anxiety, impatience, fear of unworthiness, etc all add fuel to the fire ... and can also make it harder to get needs met.

Your neediness seems to be very legitimately rooted in actual unmet needs. I don't think you can stop *feeling* needy, necessarily, but you can work on managing it. Meditation has helped me with difficult emotions, and so has yoga. Cardio exercise is fantastic. Grounding exercises might be helpful.

When you know you've been needy with a friend, you can acknowledge it - "I know I'm being needy lately. It's because I'm in a really scary place and I'm afraid things won't get better. I'm trying to do better with it. Is there anything I can do right now to make up for it?"

I know transportation is already an issue, but if there area any potential resources in your town - a library, a religious center in line with your thinking, etc - they might have some support groups and offer potential connections in your new town. (If you had a bike, could you use it to get into town?)
posted by bunderful at 5:49 AM on September 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Maybe try some sort of centering exercise before you talk with or get together with friends? Anything that helps ground and calm you - that might help take some of the pressure off your friendships.

If you haven't already, look for online support groups.
posted by bunderful at 5:54 AM on September 7, 2017

Meditation are yoga and volunteering and therapy are all good, but they're not a replacement for the kind of human connection on a personal level I think you're looking for. It might be helpful to reframe this, rather than trying to push it away: there's nothing wrong with how you're feeling, there's nothing wrong with what you want. It's easy to think of "neediness" as something bad or burdensome, but really it's're going through a super hard time and you need support, and you've been unlucky. That's all. You deserve unconditional love and support, and loved ones who are willing to stand with you. That isn't something you or any person needs to turn off in themselves.

Do you have anyone at all in your life who you absolutely, totally trust? Can you tell that one person, "I need help and support and I feel alone"? It can be easy after a situation like this to get into a headspace where you're cognitively distorting being all by yourself or monstrous or something, and you are not.

Your friend saying that to you in the context of what you've described was unnecessarily harsh and obviously damaging to you and I'm sorry that happened, and added to your pain. It's possible for that to be true, while acknowledging her own boundaries.

You're human right now. And you sound like a good human, and a good friend, doing their best in a difficult situation.
posted by colorblock sock at 7:01 PM on September 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Thank you for sharing your pain here. You belong in this big family of life with the rest of us.

Do not abandon your neediness.
What you resist will persist.

Look up "Maslow's hierarchy of needs."
Learning to become more self-sufficient is a helpful skill but I don't think you can stop being needy any more than you can stop being human.

Don't cling to anything or grasp, or strongly avoid anything, else you will suffer.
Ride the waves - there will be many.
You are human. You are alive.
You will not crumble, despite what your thoughts tell you. Everything changes. All the time.

Know that every human being experiences some sense of not being good enough.
Everyone. You are not alone by any means.
Learn what's real and true vs. what you've been taught or what your thinking tells you.
Separate facts from feelings.

Observe your thoughts and feelings as though you were a scientist objectively observing one's mind.
Be curious about how your mind reacts to things. Be curious about things you experience. Describe things specifically rather than judging them as good or bad.
You cannot control your thoughts or feelings. They arise of themselves.
You can only control your reactions to them.

The mind's job consists of churning out thoughts constantly. Don't believe most of them. As humans we are still evolving. Many of our thoughts stem from protecting us from dangers that often don't really exist anymore, like being attacked in your cave by a lion or some such ancient horror.
Thank your mind for sharing how it works with you. Then return to what's real. Ask questions. Become very aware of your inner life.

Investigate for the truth.
Accept and respond to what is actually happening. Discard what is actually not happening.
Label thoughts and feelings when they occur as either helpful, not helpful, pleasant, uncomfortable, or neutral. It helps take the sting out.
Cultivate self compassion.

Obviously this takes a while but the payoff is satisfying.

Invest in learning what it is that you truly value in life and stick with that.
This will help put your neediness into perspective.
Pain is inevitable - suffering is optional.

In the end, you are the heir of all your actions and not of your wishes.
So act skillfully and you will have no regrets. Notice what your mind is thinking.
Don't let your thoughts drag you through the mud. See them for what they are - thoughts.
You are greater than your thoughts and feelings.

The world exists in your mind. Cultivate a healthy relationship with your mind. This is key.

Don't take my word for any of this. Check out my suggestions and see for yourself.

May all of us be well, happy and peaceful. May no harm come to us.
posted by Dr. Robert at 7:47 PM on September 10, 2017

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