I have, for all intents and purposes, purchased the life-time group therapy membership package. But it’s not because I love it. Actually, I hate group therapy.
No, I really hate it.
There’s hardly anything more painful to me than walking into a room full of people who are there to support and encourage and help me.
Because I hate needing help. I hate asking for help. I hate taking the help people offer.
I am more of a taking care of others type person.
Which is cool, basically.
I mean, it’s served me pretty well. Because, as you may have noticed, “neediness” is not a quality we really admire in our lovely American society. We’re more about self-reliance and pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps—whatever the heck that means…it sounds a little painful, actually.
But being emotionally needy…not so much.
Even the word kind of makes most of us cringe. Someone says, “Oh, she’s so needy.” And that’s code for, “Keep your distance, she’s very high maintenance and it’s not going to be worth it.” Or “He’s so needy, ” is code for stop dating him, he’s going to turn into a stalker. Who wants needy friends? Needy neighbors? Needy co-workers?
I imagine announcing out loud in a room full of people that I’m really “needy” and it makes my skin crawl. Sometimes I think I’d rather die than embarrass myself like that.
Then I remember I did almost die rather than embarrass myself like that. I almost killed myself with cigarettes for a while. And I still struggle with a raging food addiction. And with possibly just the tiniest work/perfection/approval addiction that has led to fun stuff like sleeplessness, stress, and high-blood pressure.
So once a week I show up in a room full of people because I need help. I need help not sucking in my fear and shame and anger with cigarettes, not overeating or overworking or overusing my credit card or over-managing other people’s lives in order to numb my own sadness and hurt and loneliness. I need help not driving myself crazy in the dark places I can swirl around in, the places where I am not enough, there’s not enough to go around, and I am loved only to the degree that I’m doing things to take care of everyone else’s needs.
I show up because I need help and I hate needing help and asking for help and that’s actually one of the biggest things I need help with.
Because I’m really bad at it.
And I’m also convinced that’s it’s the only way to be well. Deep down in our souls well.
I think that’s what it means in the Bible when God says in Genesis, “It’s not good for human beings to be alone.” (Gen. 2:18) But of course, God never said it was going to be easy. In fact the rest of the Bible is mostly about how absolutely not easy it is.
Of course, there is such a thing as people being too emotionally dependent. But here’s the thing. I sometimes wonder if even that might be a lot less prevalent if we weren’t all so scared of it, of admitting that we need each other.
So I’m starting to think it might be time to reclaim the word “needy” somehow. Time to start being proud of ourselves for admitting need, time to start wearing our need for each other like a badge of honor.
Or at least like a hipster T-shirt.
I don’t know about you, but I’m going to try. Because I think my life may actually depend on it.
I’m with Maya Angelou on this. As she wrote, in her poem, Alone:
How to find my soul a home
Where water is not thirsty
And bread loaf is not stone
I came up with one thing
And I don’t believe I’m wrong
Can make it out here alone.
Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.