Needing Feedback to Feel Like I Still Exist

I am like a cup with a hole in the bottom. Getting feedback about myself from others fills me while it lasts, but as soon as it stops, I become empty. I stop feeling like I am there, which is an unsettling feeling. It feels like losing everything. Like dying. On some days it gets so bad that I can’t let mom go to the bathroom without bugging her from outside the door, so she keeps talking to me. If she talks to me, it means there is someone there she can talk to. I exist. I am there.

Sometimes I wake up at night for no particular reason, and feel so unreal, like I might be dead and not even there anymore, a ghost maybe. It’s so unsettling that I always wake mom just to see if she can still see me and hear me and touch me. Having her confirm that I am still there makes the feeling go away and I feel normal again.

I think this might be a PTSD thing more than a borderline thing. Or maybe both contributes. It’s like without feedback I start to become convinced that I am not there anymore. It’s been that way ever since I remember. I used to feel like I was not really there a lot.

I have memories of my mother ignoring me. I would walk up to her and say something, and she would neither react, nor show that she had heard or seen me at all. I have one clear memory in which I say to her “I’m going outside”, expecting an acknowledgement. In my memory she is standing in the kitchen, wiping down the table, and I am standing in the door, because she doesn’t like it when I enter the kitchen. She just kept scrubbing the table. I say again “I’m going outside, Etta”, and she turns away to rinse the cloth. In my memory I finally enter the kitchen and touch her, to which she now reacts. She gives me a hard shove and a death stare that says “fuck off while you still can”. I repeat “I’m going outside”, but as I step away she is already wiping down the table again.

I don’t know whether getting ignored like that is traumatizing in itself, but I suppose it is some kind of abandonment. Like, not physically, but emotionally. Like an ongoing kind of abandonment, right in the presence of people.

Today I still feel the same, like I am still that kid who feels invisible. Still looking for that “me” in abandonment. Wondering if there is any “me” left at all. If there ever was a “me” in the first place. I feel like I stop being there if I don’t get feedback. I’m afraid that makes me exhausting to be around.

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