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Competitive Caring and Other Me-Centric Phobias

I am afraid of being taken care of.

Or I don’t know how.

Or I don’t let people. It feels strange, then I feel like I have to reciprocate at least equally, if not more, so I don’t feel like I owe anyone. I don’t want to be in the deficit of care. I need a surplus of care to sleep at night. I prefer caring about you more than you care about me, so you can’t ever say I didn’t care enough.

Competitive caring.

I’m sick.

Letting others take care of me requires me letting others have complete control over what does or doesn’t happen to me.

I kind of always knew I was often in my own head, and can be very private, and self-conscious. But over the years, I’ve come to find that even though I do it kicking and screaming, and I claim I’d gladly give it all up to have someone take care of me; I am fiercely independent and I hate asking anyone for help.

Completely contradictory, I know.

And even when I know my father would move heaven and earth for me, I dread asking him for anything.

I vowed to myself at an early age, I would not be a burden to my already burdened father, who has to take care of my mentally ill mother.

So at 16, I was determined to get a job. I was determined to pay for the gas in the car I used, I was determined to save for my first laptop computer, working as many hours as possible at Sports Authority. I garnered a number of scholarships and earned a tuition scholarship. I paid for all of my application fees. I had a nice little stash of money squirreled away upon my arrival to Howard. My roommates would see me sneak away, and they’d say, “She’s going to her stash to pull out another hundred.” I’d laugh. I’d pull out about 60.

Now, of course there were times where I asked for money or took money from my dad, or other really giving wonderful family members, but I had this cloud over my head that I didn’t want to be anyone’s burden.

But years later, and now I’m fucking tired. Exhausted.

After my family and friends cussed me out for hearing that I was sick for four days, this week, I see that even when I suffer, it’s hard for me to reach out. I’ve become so accustomed to moving to strange places, eeking out a life for myself and living independently, and being in so many long-distance relationships, it’s difficult for me to accept having someone in my life, on a regular basis, or near by to “take care of me.”

Folks have dropped the ball.

One of the most nurturing and important figures, my mother, was stolen from me due to her illness. I’ve made peace with it, but it makes it hard for me to accept an outpouring of love in action, sometimes. If you can’t get all the things you need or even things you didn’t realize you needed from your mother, you do have some other issues going on, I realize I have deeper issues with this.

But it does make me super appreciative of the large and small, heartfelt things people in my life do for me.

I adore a scarf my friend got me from Korea. It’s super soft and I wear it all the time.

I love photos a friend of mine took and put in a lovely box with pretty blank cards in it.

I feel comfort sipping my drinks out of a set of mason jars another friend gave me for Christmas. It just makes everything taste so much better.

When my friends came from near and far to celebrate my 30th birthday last year, I was overwhelmed. People made sacrifices, and they all came out for me, to make me happy and they treated me. Some of them had to fight me when I’d pull out money. I still found myself, cooking and cleaning and going nuts to make my guests happy…can’t have the caring deficit… and they had to slow me down and calm me, reminding me none of that stuff mattered and people only cared about me.

So I’m scared of falling in love again and trusting someone so much, that I give in. That I shake off the independence I’ve managed to pride myself on, and entrust someone with all of me– good, bad and neurotic.

It’s eye-opening that I have this very real fear, because I almost married someone. How could I have that kind of fear, and really think I was going to marry someone and be happy?

I was delusional. I bought into the dream that things will fix itself magically once we said I do, because the love I felt would heal it.

A few years later, I understand it’s more than love. There’s a dedication and a work ethic involved in loving someone. You have to hammer it out everyday, you have to work at it when you don’t want to, when you don’t feel like it, when you don’t feel like it’s benefiting you immediately. It is a requirement to love someone who looks at love the same way, and then does it.

People who keep their word can love me.

People who are committed to something can love me.

People who keep going and refuse to give up when things are inconvenient can love me.

People who hold me accountable and tell me when I’m wrong can love me.

People who praise and compliment me and who are proud of me can love me.

People who stay even when I’m hating their guts temporarily can love me.

And I chose to almost marry someone who could not truly take care of me.

And not in the sense of money. We planned out how we’d live a great life together financially, but emotionally.

I had baggage I didn’t really acknowledge, and this person was not equipped to give me what I needed, which was stability in terms of emotional support. I knew I couldn’t trust this person to completely take care of me in the way I needed it most, but I was winning. I had a surplus of care for him.

There is a certain level of dependence that you have with someone you love, and it’s necessary. So I guess that’s why we have to pick the right people to love. And that’s not only romantic love, but with your family and friends too.

Even though I don’t let them take care of me as much as I should or could, I have a circle of family and friends I know I can trust.

I’m going to work on that part of myself.

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6 thoughts on “Competitive Caring and Other Me-Centric Phobias

  1. This is….EVERYTHINIG! I love how you take what on the surface seems like a simple situation and compare it to life/feelings.

    Thank you so much for sharing your blessings with us. Totally AWESOME!!!

  2. I’m a little stunned because you said something here that had never, ever occurred to me before. Like you, I have a hard time asking for help on anything. Even little stuff, much to the annoyance of my husband. But like you, I also had an unreliable and disconnected mother. I had never thought that there was a connection before, but now you make me wonder. Do all motherless children struggle with the trust issues that cause us to be almost pig-headedly independent?

    I’m going to sit and ruminate on this one a while. You may have just rocked my world view.

    • It’s wild, because I’ve trained myself not to use my mother as a crutch. Not to really talk about it. But the truth is, it effects me and that is ok. We did not have normal circumstances, period. It made us strong in some ways, but there’s still very real pain that needs to be addressed. I never took the time to process it, because I wanted to be strong. But I had to.

  3. Whoa! Great post, my friend! I, too, struggle with allowing people to help me and I take a great deal of pride in being able to do things by myself. While I’m proud of what God has allowed me to, it DOES indeed get tiring and some days I just want a rent-a-husband for a few hours. 🙂

    I can relate to your challenge of growing up and not being able to depend on your mom. In my case, I think it has made me HYPER independent and I have really had to learn to take off my Superwoman cape. Still a work in progress. I’ve learned to yield small things and then just go from there.

    • Thank you so much. This was one of those posts where I thought I was just speaking to the wind. I’m glad folks are reaching out and responding! You are a Superwoman, but yes, we need a break!

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