Letter about being human and having needs

12th of April 2020

Dear reader

I’ve been thinking about unmet needs. A term I learned from “Lost Connections” by Johann Hari. The book talks about the kind of needs that humans have that aren’t physical but are no less real and important. And that way of talking about it was so helpful for me.
It has taken decades to accept that I am human and have needs. My body and its needs are something that I still have a hard time with.

For most of my childhood and teenage years my parents and other adults (mostly therapists) told me human being are social animals That we need other people. And I couldn’t imagine anything worse. I hated the idea that I was forced to be around other people because my biology demanded it. It made no sense. I didn’t like being around people. People were difficult and I never knew what they wanted or what to do with them. I couldn’t imagine wanting people in my life. On the other hand I couldn’t imagine wanting life. And the way I was told humans needed other humans, had nothing to do with anything that I could understand. It sounded like I was expected to be happy being put in any situation with just anyone and then that should somehow work. There was never any talk of being accepted by these other people, if there were it was how I wasn’t accepted because I did everything wrong and I was accused of doing everything wrong on purpose. There was no talk of having things in common or that peoples social needs could differ. Extrovert and introvert were words I didn’t learn till I was in my twenties. No one talked about humans being social animals in a way I could understand. And part of that was the language chosen. The other part was that I had no positive experiences having people around. So I couldn’t imagine what that would be like.
Now I am older, I am discovering new language and most importantly I have experiences with people I to some extend am compatible with. People with similar interests, with similar minds and worldviews, with similar kind of problems and diagnoses. And when I now read how humans evolved and became what we are in this planet, because we worked together and formed tribes, it makes sense that I feel this need for people around me. I understand that what I am missing is a tribe. Not just a random collections of people, but a group of people who are my people. A group of people who look out for each other and care for each other. And suddenly I see examples of this through in my life and understand why some people I know seem so much more secure and stable and adventures. They have a home base, they have people who have their back, they have support and their needs are being met. And I feel how fragile my life is when I don’t have that. How unsafe and unsecure life is when there is no one who can help you. And suddenly that thing I was told all my life, but never given proper examples of, makes so much sense.

And I had to go through a similar thing to understand why I miss touch. I read and read about being touch starved, to understand why I missed something I never wanted in the first place. Something I feel like I lived without for most of my life, until it was forced upon me, and suddenly I didn’t know how to live without it. I felt so broken and mistaken. Like the nice feeling of being hugged or held had somehow broken something in me. How am I supposed to be independent if I have this need I cannot fulfil for myself? And reading about what it means to be touch starved and how the brain makes certain chemicals when you have that kind of physical contact with someone, help me understand I wasn’t broken. I am human. I have human needs.

That gave me language and understanding that made it possible for me to embrace being human and having needs. I suddenly understood that I wasn’t supposed to be everything or find everything within myself. I didn’t have to be all I needed: And as much as I hate that it feels kind of nice to take that pressure of my own shoulders. I am allowed to have needs. I am allowed to need other people. And that is kind of beautiful. And a lot scary.

Being aromantic and asexual means I am not sure where to find people to help fulfil these needs. I cannot offer up the traditional romantic and sexual relationship in return for what I need. And even if I could I think the traditional idea of finding someone to be everything for you is faulty. I don’t believe that is the right way to do it. I think we all need more people in our lives. Because just like it’s unhelpful to place all our needs on our own shoulders it’s not fair to place them all on one other person.

So what I am struggling with is how do I find that kind of people. How do I build me tribe? Who will be there for me and who needs me to be there for them? My friends all have partners or kids or have a different kind of social need than I do. Which means there are other people who take priority and who fulfil their needs. And as much as I understand that, it stings a little that everyone else have someone, but I don’t.

I love the idea of chosen family. And that is what I hope to find in the future. But in the mean time I am trying to be kind to myself about all the unmet needs I have. I am trying not to blame myself for them and I am trying not to be a burden to the people I care about, to whom I am just one more person and who already give all they have to give in other places that are far more important than I am.

I try to embrace being human. With all the complicated thing that entails. I try to embrace the idea that I don’t have to fix everything myself. But also remind myself that I need to try until that day when I am not so lonely. I also try to rely as much on myself as I can. Because I believe that independence and self-reliance is important, and it has always been a goal for me.

Right now, during a pandemic, I feel how alone I am even more. But now is not the time to go out and look for new friendships. Even if I knew how to do that. Now is the time to be stronger in being on my own. It hurts that I am not needed or missed during this time. It hurt that I need other people more than anyone needs me. And being needed is another need I have discovered is very human and very universal. But I cannot make anyone else need me. I cannot make anyone else make me a priority. But I can stop making people who will never prioritise me a priority. I can chose to be kinder to myself. I can chose to have more patience and understanding for myself. Just like I try to always have with the people around me. I have been trying so hard to give others all the things I need. I need to stop that and try to give it to myself, even if I needed an external source for those things just once in a while. That external source doesn’t exist for now.

I wanted to write more about the needs I discovered and how reading about how human they are makes me feel less broken. But I feel empty of words now. And writing this makes me a little sad. Because I am still discovering and learning and my thoughts and mindset haven’t found the right balance with these ideas yet. And knowing I have to be there for myself, when I am learning that I can’t and that it is human to need someone else, is hard. My mind doesn’t like the contradiction. With this as with everything I am on a journey. Discovering and learning and finding new ways. And that takes time. I am grateful for knowing that my current state of mind isn’t my final state of mind. I know I am on my way somewhere and that allows me to rest here, because I know there are other new places to explore later. But this mindset, this place, this part of the journey is what demands my attention right now. And that is what Here is all about to me. Being better at being Here. Even when Here hurts, even when Here is full of contradictions, even when Here is alone and I would have loved to share it with someone. Of all the places my mind goes, of all the places my understanding are looking for, of all the places my curiosity and learning takes me, I know I am really looking for my way Here, to the present, to whatever moment I am in. And that is so hard, but often made easier by remembering that no matter what Here I am in now there’ll be another Here later, and searching for the other Here isn’t bringing it closer, it’s only robbing me of this Here, this now.

I hope this made sense. I hope there was something worth reading in this. I hope whoever is out there reading is doing well. Thank you for your time.