The Anxious Lover
Growing up in a broken divorced family with major loan shark debt, I grew up personifying behaviors of an anxious attachment style. At that time of flux and instability, my family proved to be an unreliable source of comfort. According to Amir Levine in his book ‘Attached’ (a book I recommend reading),…
…Children high on the insecure-anxious end of the spectrum get upset when caregivers leave and may go to them when they return. But these children aren’t easily soothed, usually because the caregiver has proved to be an unreliable source of comfort in the past. They may kick and arch their back as if they are angry. As adults, they tend to obsess about their relationships and may be overly dramatic in order to get attention. They may hound romantic interests instead of taking it slow.
When I was 7, I often ran and hid in shopping malls because I enjoyed the attention that arose from my mom looking for me; it was like a game of hide and seek, except with actual stakes of losing me. This strategy continued when my parents’ marriage was at stake. I used self-loss and self-hurt to get attention from my parents when they were fighting and eventually divorced — I blamed my mom for the divorce.
Later in my teens, my insecure-anxious attachment style manifested into more dramatics like running away from home to prove my independence and suicidal stunts for attention. This worsened when a close friend deliberately outed my sexual orientation at high school. Everything about me felt wrong and I wanted to escape life.
I thought I would get the attention I lacked by killing myself — Like an entitled martyr, I saw it as an act of protest and sheer attention seeking self-reliance, yet I knew I was too afraid to ever do it; I feared to be responsible for my own life. The short-term burst of attention that followed a suicidal stunt became addictive and by then I had subconsciously internalized self-victimization as a method of asking for help and support.
Just when I thought I grew out of it, last month, I witnessed this dramatics and self-victimization play out in my mid-20s when I resigned. That day, I questioned the value and impact I was bringing to the workplace and realized there was little; it was an existential chasm which left me feeling empty.
Unlike my college days which was laden with meaningful creative outlets in drama and arts, my work days revolved around meaningless rote revenue-generating marketing strategies with nothing more but a mere obsession with numbers in greens and ‘+’ signs.
I allowed a culmination of negative empty feelings pile up in me and was triggered rather immaturely over a lost bag in the gym. I blacked out and unknowingly succumbed to my childhood hide-and-seek attention-seeking, escapist suicidal tendencies.
Life felt meaningless, and I reached out for help and disappeared by switching off my phone. I did what felt natural to me, which was to escape and run away from my problems. That episode hurt my loved ones and my selfishness ruined the trust of the person I love.
Instead of escaping the problem like I did in the past suicidal stunts, I sought help at a silent meditation for space and time to become more aware with this episode and commit to undoing self-victimization and suicide as an attention-seeking mechanism. Burned bridges aren’t easily rebuilt, but they do create space for better and stronger bridges.
My then journaled scribbles served as a mantra for how I want to live my life(emphasizing my commitment to living):
Instead of blaming circumstances and past, which is a trait of self-victimization, take responsibility for our lives and be empowered to change
Accept negative moments as if I have chosen it; they are opportunities to grow
The world isn’t here to make us happy (someone significant taught me this)
It’s not the things that happen to me that determines my life but how I respond to it
Ask for help, and trust that we will receive it; suicide and dramatics are irresponsible, selfish, and just don’t work
Secure relationships take time, fear forces us to rush while love takes time. Choose love not fear
Don’t fight emotions but let them work through us, and pass
Be honest with ourselves and vulnerable to acknowledge our mistakes
Detach from our ego: our memories, anxieties, and unhappiness don’t make our identity. Liberate ourselves from them
We are whole in and of itself and don’t need anything or anyone else to complete us; our breath is our humanity and it’s beautiful. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe…
If love and relationships make you anxious, know that you are not alone. In fact, around 40% of babies in the US are insecurely attached — and this insecurity is further expressed in social media; the good news is that we don’t have to be victims of our past.
The % drops as we get older and gravitate to more secure attachment styles. Over the years, my relationship with my mom has significantly deepened over the years and I now trust her as a reliable source of comfort.
While I still feel anxious in intimate relationships, it has gotten better over time. Knowing that I feel secure with a community of friends, I trust that my relationship anxiety will keep getting better with awareness, vulnerability, strength, willingness and time.
If you’re feeling empty, alone, focus on your breath — there’s life there. We’ll get through another night, I promise