Over the course of the last two days, I’ve finally had a little bit of time to work on the book again, “Magdalene Aubergine.” I keep thinking it’s finished and then it grows. I don’t know if it is turning out to be the book I intended to write, but it is the book I needed to write.
In the interim, I’ve temporarily unpublished the vampire novel because it needs some further editing. The subject of vampires never fails to remind me that I don’t like vampires. Not to overstate the obvious but vampires are a metaphor for people who are draining to us in some way. Most of us have known someone like that, someone who no matter how much you give, it’s never enough and will never be enough. The “friend” who calls you every day with nothing but complaints, who, having found in you a sympathetic ear or a dry shoulder, ceases to hear themselves running on, or to consider your feelings. Vampires do not give emotionally, they only take.
Now, I tend to be of the opinion that there are two kinds of emotional vampires, those who will never be anything other than an emotional leech, and those who are just going through something that’s put them in a bad way who will ultimately recover from such an exceptional level of neediness. The problem with vampires, as most of us well know, is that if you get bit by one, it can turn you into one. Years and years ago I found myself in a situation where one person I knew was going through a horrendous divorce and calling me just about every day, for months, to unload it all, while at the same time a very insecure friend was calling me constantly to shore her up. Sometimes I would no sooner hang up the phone with one of them then it would ring again and be the other one. In the midst of all this, I obviously had my own fish to fry. Whenever I would say that I had to go, I had to make dinner, or tend to some chore, or use the bathroom, the gal going through the divorce would insist on calling me back later, and the insecure friend would just dismiss whatever was going on in my life. “Oh, you’re fine. Oh, you’re strong. Well, you can handle it.” and just keep on rolling. If I said, “Did you hear me? I have to go.” She would keep talking and then act like I’d done her some wrong by having my own life to tend to. Once she even said to me, “I’m sure you have five more minutes.” This situation went on for months, and because I cared for both these people and was sympathetic to their pain and their plight, I wanted to be there for them. But, eventually, I got burned out by it, especially when a crisis arose in my life, and suddenly both these people were nowhere to be found. So what did I do? I started unpacking my b.s. on yet another friend, who was going through a divorce. I’d listened to her go on for weeks about whatever it was, so I figured she ought to have a dry shoulder for me, and I got kind of pissed about it when she didn’t. I didn’t hear her when she said she was tired. I had forgotten what it’s like when a relationship of that magnitude is ending. I had given so much of myself to so many, I didn’t have anything left. But still, I didn’t hear her. What I didn’t realize was that I had gone for too long without replenishing my own well. I had been so bombarded by the complaints of others, I started complaining myself. I can see that from here, but I couldn’t from there.
I was “the strong one” emotionally until I wasn’t anymore. When I had to start saying “No” to people, when I had to stop answering the phone, not because I didn’t care but because for my own sake I literally could not take in even one more thing mentally or emotionally, there wasn’t a lot of understanding from the people who had constantly been taking from me emotionally. I began to realize some had been “feeding” off me in a way, that some of these relationships weren’t mutual situations of give and take. They were calling me to get their emotional fix, as it were. I began to think of such people as emotional vampires. Not a new idea. There are people who will take emotionally until there is nothing left of you, and when they’ve finished you off, they will go find someone else to start draining. I’ve never known a serious, as in – that’s all they’ve ever been-emotional vampire who had any kind of self-awareness about it. So I learned to say no. I learned to disregard the manipulations of such individuals. And let me tell you if a bad one of these hones in on you, they are the most thoughtlessly emotionally inconsiderate people in the world, and they can be very difficult to extricate yourself from. They’re the people who call you the day you get out of the hospital, never asking how you are, to tell you about their latest hangnail that they’re sure is a sign of low calcium and they’re probably dying from it and could you just make them feel better? And you say, “I just got out of the hospital.” and they say, “Oh, you’re fine.” They will eat everything on your plate and leave you to starve without a thought one about it. Emotional vampires tend to exhibit negative self-dialogue and representation, they’ll say negative things about themselves, or what they perceive to be negative things, to try to get others to tell them that whatever it is isn’t true, because they haven’t arrived at a place of self-approval. I learned how to say no, because if you give a mouse a cookie, it’s going to want a pint of 0-Negative, to go. But it took me so long to put myself back together after some hard times of my own, I became such a wreck myself for a time (thankfully behind me now) that I didn’t have the peace of mind or the presence of mind, to dig a little deeper, to ask a simple question, what’s going on with these individuals that they act this way? Why do they do it? Because they’re needy. That’s an over-simplification, but that’s what it is. Because they are souls in need of something emotionally, and they think it is something outside of themselves, something they can get from another person. What do they need?
Here’s a simple truth: You cannot gain self-acceptance and peace with yourself from another person.
The term “self-care” has become a big buzzwordy term these days, but the truth of the matter is that what emotional “self-care” means is being able to feed yourself emotionally, to nurture your own emotional well-being.
I’m a hardcore introvert. I replenish my well and gain strength and peace during my alone time. But, this was something I had to learn about myself, then accept. I’ve learned, over many years, that I have to have a certain amount of time to myself, or I am no good to anyone else. I’ve learned to feed myself emotionally, to engage in activities that feed my soul, whether that’s reading, or listening to music, or watching a movie, or yes, sometimes sleeping. I take the time to take care of me, to do things that ease my mind and give me peace. Emotional vampires want someone else to give them that feeling of peace and acceptance and that they are okay. I’m not talking about occasionally needing to know someone cares or a dry shoulder to cry on just to get whatever it is out, or to know that we matter. I’m talking about those individuals for whom that need is constant, it’s never enough, for whom it becomes a bottomless pit of constantly searching for the next person they can glean some fleeting sense of emotional satisfaction from. Serious emotional vampires, the worst ones, don’t care what kind of emotional interaction they get from you as long as they get it. Bullies are obviously emotional vampires, and so on. We’ve all known people who make themselves feel better by taking jabs and scoring points off of others. But what does a bully want? Your attention. Why? Because there’s some void within them that feels starved. That doesn’t make it okay to treat others badly, but it really is themselves whom they haven’t learned to like. No amount of approval from others will give a person peace with themselves.
When a person truly arrives at a place of personal peace and self-acceptance, they will stop seeking, expecting, extorting, and demanding emotional fulfillment, validation, approval, and acceptance, from sources other than themselves. They will let go of negative emotional entanglements and cease to be an emotional drain on others. And they will be able to give freely emotionally. “Emotional vampires” need to learn how to feed their own souls, to love themselves, as trite as that sounds.
I’ve been exceptionally busy, for me, lately. I’ve been to one doctor or another or the lab or whatever a dozen times now since September. One appointment has led to another and it’s emotionally exhausting for me. It’s the holidays. Household chores have had me going around in a circle week to week. We’d made plans to go away, and did, and I think it was the only thing that kept me going. I hadn’t had any time to work on my book. I was beginning to get irritable with anyone who asked anything of me, emotionally, or otherwise. I realized that my proverbial well was running dry. Perhaps by the time I get back around to working on editing the vampire novel again, I won’t “hate” vampires anymore. Doesn’t mean I’d knowingly invite a vampire in… but anytime I can free myself from using the word hate about something, I consider that a step in the right direction. Sometimes we all need to dig a little deeper to understand each other as humans.