Way back in the eighties when I was laboriously photocopying my notes for a 'friend' who had missed another lecture because she had lost a contact lens I was warned by another student about what he called psychic vampires. I had scoffed at the time. But amethyst necklace dangling he went on to warn me to be on my guard, as a 'will help anyone out sort of person' I was she warned 'a juicy meal to those who just feed off you and do nothing back.'
I started this blog to keep me focused on my own private goal of writing and hopefully one day getting some fiction in print. It's been a valuable tool. I have been shocked to realise how much time I have wasted 'helping others' who don't actually want or need to be helped. For those unfamiliar with the term 'energy vampire' let me explain. Unfortunately, they don't go around under the cover of night or sparkle in direct sunlight. And they can be incredibly hard to spot.
They suck you in using a variety of methods, you may be curious about their gossip or stories, or you may get sucked into the drama that follows them around, or (and this is my Hercules heel) their hard luck stories pull you in.
It is hard to connect the dots of spending time with or 'helping' that person with physical reactions. If you find yourself experiencing muscle tension, loss of energy, headaches, irritability, sadness, mental confusion, or negativity, focusing on events in the past, you likely have an energy vampire in your midst.
Recently I've been limiting contact and followed the advice a friend from the writing group gave me from the
At first I noticed those who are intrusive or overly dramatic and end up consuming a lot of my time with their tales of woe or displays of theatrics, that their behaviour was worse. However, I've started each conversation with the truth, "I currently feel drained dry and unable to support myself, let alone anyone else." And it is true, I am on a very low ebb at the moment. I've realised that I have nothing left, I can't do the tea and sympathy. I'm unable to plaster a smile on my face and list the bright side of someone else's life. I don't have the energy to sit and tell someone else how wonderful or special they are, or that they really should try to reach their goals, or agree that it wasn't their fault something bad happen. Have they then said, 'is there anything I can do to help you?' or 'lets do an activity which will either take your mind of things or give you enjoyment.' No, they may play at helping but the truth is when they are no longer able to feed off you they drop you like a stone. The conversation may start with out are you feeling but quickly went back yo how bad things are in their lives. And this helped me most of all. It's stopped me from feeling selfish.
So I will give the same warning that I foolishly ignored at 18. Don't get pulled in. No matter how much you might like to think or hope you will be able to fix their problems, you won't. Negative people will either resist your interventions or create new crises in their lives for you to "fix." The truth is that for some people even the best therapists in the world have difficulty helping these people. In short, their problems are beyond your ability to "fix."
Currently I'm trying a strategy is to protect myself by setting clear and firm limits. For example, for those who are very needy or insecure and constantly want my guidance, I'm resisting offering solutions and sympathy. It is amazingly difficult.
So this week I have done very little writing. Anyone suffering from anxiety related problems understands the mine field of triggers before you reach it and I knew this was going to be a particularly hard week. So I set myself very specific goals, I finally sorted that wardrobe at the weekend, Monday got up early and mowed the lawn, Tuesday mowed the back garden and sorted things for the tip. It sounds mad but I have set myself achievable targets that will help my writing and life, it is hard to write when surrounded by chaos. I'm a little worried about my goal of sorting out the companies books because I need to rely on another to do that.
When I've received an email from someone upset about malicious rumours circulating about them I immediately told them to go to the police and that I couldn't help. Another worried about their health I told them to go to the doctor I can't help. Another worried that they wasted their life I got off the phone. When my partner started to complain about feeling really down and tired I got him to take me home and did physical exercise instead of engaging in the 'how can I help routine.' When he started to complain that work wasn't going his way I offered to help and when I realised he didn't want that I got out of the way fast.
More than one therapist has told me that I'm a good friend and mother to others but a sergeant major to myself. It's true. If I ask myself what I am feeling at this very moment it is sad because I want someone else to make me feel better. I want someone to give me a pep talk, someone else to do something nice, to tell me everything will be okay in the end. But you can't rely on others for your own happiness.
I can tell myself that I did good. I did not just curl up under that duvet. I got up, got my work done and put things into practice to fight my own depression and demons. I'm going to be a friend to myself. The well is dry and it needs to be filled up. I've got my reauthoring event to look forward to on Saturday. I'm hoping to take a creative writing course in the library this September and another at Southampton University in the New Year. These feelings are like bubbles they will burst and go away.
I have also realised and I'm quite proud of the way that yes I might suffer from PTS, anxiety and depression but by God I put up a fight. I'm definitely a survivor so why the hell should I get pulled down with 'life's victims?' I have nothing in common with that mind set.
According to Dr. Bourg Carter
'In the times we live in today, energy, especially the positive kind, is a precious commodity. It's not something you should willingly give up to the negative power of those who want to steal your energy. Instead, keep a positive attitude and surround yourself with positive people who leave you feeling upbeat and energized. In the words of Helen Keller, "Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow."'