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Isolation Therapy for the Over-Empathic

Stop absorbing your peers' personalities!

Let me start by making one thing plain: If you grew up with siblings, friends, cousins and plenty of people your own age being kind to you, you won't relate. This is going out to the Only Child, the Friendless, the Bullied. This is for the kids who grew up learning a lot of solitary games, and knew how to have fun solo.

I was most certainly all of the above. This isn't a pity party, I'm not going to break your heart with a long story about my sad childhood. What I am going to do is highlight to anyone like me, who never felt accepted by their peers, the importance of getting to know yourself.

See, for an attention starved kid, any attention from someone your own age is like getting a huge glass of water when you're dehydrated. It feels amazing, like someone is finally interested in you. The problem, is that you're so grateful for the attention, you begin to take on qualities and habbits that aren't your own; you play up the things they seem to like, and hide the things they don't seem to understand. 

Take me — I'm nine or 10 years old, having spent most of my young education hiding on the edge of the school yard, when Rebecca decides to befriend me. She's popular, she's pretty, and she's tough. No one messes with Rebecca, which means less people feel comfortable messing with her latest plaything — me. Hall-ay-looh-yah!

So we're having a "playdate" in my house, and Rebecca tells me to pack a bag, we're going to a magical mountain together. It's obviously absolute horse shit. I've never been a "make-believe" kinda kid, but to keep my new friend, I hop on the bandwagon. The bag gets packed, and I go to sleep expecting her to wake me up at midnight, just like she promised.

It's not exactly a surprise that she doesn't come, but when I ask her about it in school the next day, still trying to play her game and make her happy, she laughs at me so hard that I knew the tears were coming, and ran away. That didn't stop her telling the whole class what a baby I was, still playing make-believe games.

My point here, Only Children, is that I had already become a Social Sponge, soaking up all the parts of other people that I thought would make them like me more. I'm 22 now, and up until about four months ago, I was still that same old Social Sponge, waiting for people to see that I could be just as cool, funny, or stupid as they were.

It was four months ago, that I realised I didn't know who I actually was. Did I really want to take ecstasy in the streets with people I didn't trust? Not particularly, but oh, it happened, because I wanted them to realise I was "one of them". Did I actually think stealing from Sainsbury's was fair, when the staff would be blamed for the loss? No, but I did it, because why the fuck not, it made me one the gang.

So, upon the realisation that I couldn't really pinpoint where most of my personality had come from, and that I couldn't even be certain what likes and dislikes, dreams and hopes, had come from myself, I decided Isolation Therapy was what I needed. No Facebook, no Snapchat, no Whatsapp, no Tinder. Nothing that could keep me connected to anyone I knew, bar Instagram, since it was more of a method of voyeurism and less a means of communication.

I'm getting to know myself, without the input of the outside world. A Social Sponge can soak up no more when it's water source is all gone. I only take in the things I want to now, only act the way I feel comfortable acting.

Don't get me wrong, I fully intend to return to a real social life eventually, but I'm not going back until I really know who I am. You know when someone asks you a question, a really simple one, like "What's your favourite film?" or "Can you believe he's actually wearing that?"?  I don't want to go back until I know my answers are my own.

I've been in self-made Isolation Therapy for a few months now, with the exception of a couple of people that I feel comfortable with. I've learned some new things about myself, and the way I feel about life and love and everything in between. I know that even though a close friend of mine does cocaine on a semi-regular basis, it's not for me, and I'll never do it just to seem like I fit in. I know that the only place I've felt free to act however I want is a gay club, at a drag show, because I was surrounded by like-minded people who believe in the acceptance of others, regardless of their look or attitude. I know that I want to dress in a low-key, androgynous, dark and gloomy style, and I don't care if it makes me look weird.

But all of this doesn't add up to a whole person, I'm still developing myself, and that's okay, even if it is a little late compared to others.

So, Only Child, Friendless, and Bullied, do what you gotta do to feel comfortable. The friends you make by changing yourself don't stick around, even if you keep up your act, but the friends you make accidentally, because you already like the same things, or believe the same beliefs, they're the ones worth making the effort for; because all the effort they require is that you be yourself, they already like your for it.

Read next: The Hospital
SR James
SR James

Conservative-hating feminist who writes about pretty much whatever pops into her head. Big fan of dead trees with tattoos. Twitter @SRJWriter

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Isolation Therapy for the Over-Empathic
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