It wasn’t that long ago that I couldn’t have told you what I needed. Yes, I wanted to be left the fuck alone, I just didn’t have the head space to be able to express what I needed, how I needed it or when I needed it. I know that sounds odd, but I remember sitting in a chair and just feeling so exhausted and so down that I couldn’t even cry. I just felt flat and dead inside. It might be that this sounds like a slice of paradise for the over-thinkers amongst us, but it was actually a very scary place.
At the time there was a lot going on and we had a member of my partner’s family periodically staying with us, which was unsettling for me, as I just needed to fall apart at a moment’s notice. I know I wanted them not to be there, but a want is different to a need. And when people perceive a ‘want’, they believe that selfishness lies at the heart of what you’re saying. For me though, this was a need – something that I fundamentally needed in order to hit rock bottom and then bounce back again.
But, I just couldn’t tell people around me that I needed to be alone in the house, so that I could feel safe to be able to completely fall apart. I didn’t have the vocabulary to say what or why I needed that. So, instead I retreated inside my head and ended up in this space where I couldn’t feel anything for fear of falling apart in front of someone I wasn’t comfortable to do that in front of. So, yeah, overall a pretty shit place to be.
However, this inability to express myself to others, was simply because I couldn’t even tell myself what I needed to make myself feel good enough or even just feel something other than dead and flat. It’s hard to explain to people that haven’t been in this position, quite how numb you can feel when you first start into the grief journey. Numb just doesn’t do it justice.
But once you start feeling again, because the numbness won’t last forever, it’s still a struggle to talk about what you need. The other half is, from what I understand from people like Dr Robin Hadley, pretty typical in that he was trying to ‘fix’ me and the situation. But there is no fix for this situation when you’re the person responsible for the lack of children in your lives. So, he would resort to asking me if I wanted anything, and this was usually met with a shrug or a blank look because I didn’t know how to answer that, when I needed more than I wanted.
But little by little, it began to dawn on me that I needed to start to engage with myself, my emotions and start to consider what I needed in order to build myself back up. It started small with needing to heal properly and fully from the operation, which took much of the heat away from the emotions…I mean I knew they were coming but at that time I could park them for a bit while I focused on the physical side of things.
I started with walking a lap of the front room, to a lap of the bottom floor, to climbing stairs and then a lap of the whole house. I felt a flicker of joy when I was able to walk outside for the first time and it was timed so that I didn’t meet anyone, because I had a need not be to be seen – swelly belly was awful and the irony being I looked pregnant. That hurt when it happened on a regular basis up until about the fourth month from the op.
Then as the physical side of things got better and I was able to walk some of my shortest running routes, I was able to see that I needed to be able to get back to running and that meant walking more as I recovered. I also needed to get out of the house, because cabin fever was starting to take over.
I then needed extra time off of work, because I struggled to be around people without crying (as I say grief and hormones are a heady combination…), so I asked for help from the GP and was given more time off. I needed not to take the anti-depressants, because I don’t like relying on medication, so I researched my own solution. And with that came a little empowerment as I got to make a decision about my health (a big deal for me, because all the decisions in relation to my fertility had in essence been taken away from me up to that point).
I then needed to have my home back and so I spoke to the other half about why I needed the house to myself with no guests for the time being. There would have been a time I would’ve felt selfish expressing this need, but as I told my partner what I needed, I realised that a lot of my deadened emotions had been tied up in feeling unsafe in my own home. And that was one of the biggest needs I was able to express at the time…and there came one of the first boundaries that I was able to put in place. And it felt good!
Then came the need to return to work, the need to get to 10,000 steps per day so that I could get running again and the need to be able to feel ‘normal’ again, by returning to college as soon as possible. And, once I started expressing my needs, I couldn’t stop. I found that I had unlocked my vocabulary to be able to tell people and myself what I needed. I started to tell people, without guilt what I needed and what I was and wasn’t able to do for them. And momentum built as I found a voice that I never knew I had before and I started to say goodbye to the ‘people-pleaser’ as I told people what I needed and put me first. It was a truly liberating experience.
I hope that you can see from this small slice of my experience that starting to express your needs, starts small and builds the more you experience the empowerment around saying what you need and can or can’t handle at that time. It starts as a small trickle, turning to a stream and then a torrent as you take control over what your needs are.
While I know my story is different to yours, or it might have different aspects or overlaps, this is all possible for you, but it starts with a first step in terms of being able to tell yourself what your needs are, until you feel able to find the language to tell people what you need. And as you start to feel resistance peel away to reveal someone that no longer wants to put their needs last, you’ll start to feel a new you emerging, which starts to feel more than good enough.
So, what do you need right now? What three things can you list as needs (not wants) and how would you feel asking for them from yourself or others?
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