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When You’ve Been Attention Starved for So Long, You’re in Danger of Over-Indulging

·408 words·2 mins
Mental Health Survival

“I want attention,” I tell him, arms outstretched.

And as he wraps me up into a hug, I can feel his laughter reverberating through both of our chests. I love that laughter. Part of why I fell in love with him in the first place is because he’s a person who laughs with wild abandon. But I’m wondering about the timing.

“Why are you laughing?” I ask.

“Because people don’t say things like that,” he says.

“Like what?” I say. “Like ‘I want attention?’”

“Yes,” he says. “People don’t come right out and ask. They’ll find ways to hint that they want attention. Or to create a situation that will earn them attention somehow. But no, they don’t normally ask.”

“Well, I do,” I say.  And when I do, I don’t expect the answer to be yes. I don’t expect to get what I want. This, too, seems to confuse him.

When You’ve Been Attention Starved for So Long, You’re in Danger of Over-Indulging

I think often of people who go through long periods of involuntary starvation — when food is  finally introduced, they are in great danger of eating so much their stomachs burst. You have to be careful in circumstances like that. Cautious when feeding someone who has gone without.

It can be like that when you’re used to living in the shadows of other people. When you’ve craved attention but have learned to suppress those desires. Because there’s always someone more important, more impressive who’s capitalizing other people’s attention. And you don’t expect anyone to ever pay attention to you with them in the picture.

It makes me wonder if that’s why others are so careful with me. Maybe they know something I don’t. That I’m in danger of feeding too hard on attention now that I have a little in my life, that I won’t know when to stop, how to stop.

Not the way a normal person might. A person who is used to receiving attention consistently, effortlessly.

Maybe you have to be careful with someone like that. Someone like me.

Maybe you have to protect us from ourselves.

But I think as long as I stay honest about what I want, as long as I say things like, “I want attention,” regardless of how strange it might seem to anyone I’m dating — instead of acting up and trying to get it through indirect means — that I’ll be just fine.


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