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Attention Seeking

Posted May 01 2009 12:00am

This was one of the more painful charges.

I felt ashamed. The anorexia felt belittled. Nobody was happy.

For something to evoke that strong a reaction, there’s got to be a grain of truth in there somewhere. It’s got to tap in to something.

How it made me feel – like difficult child, throwing a tantrum, demanding to be looked at – didn’t quite fit.

What I interpreted it as meaning – the illness was game, it was all about other people – was slightly off the mark.

And what it implied – the whole thing was entirely within my choosing –was just infuriating.

But, as I said: there’s no smoke without fire.

If I listened to myself really carefully. If I listened really honestly, I could sometimes hear myself demanding people to look, demanding them to help me.

It’s hard to deny the visuals of anorexia.

But it was far more subtle than standing on a table or throwing a tantrum.

And it was underlined with despair rather than drama.

For a while, I ignored the whisperings; after all, they didn’t work with my undeniable desire to be left alone. They couldn’t have been true when I kept so much of it under wraps, could they? I’d give them attention seeking if that’s what they really wanted…

Then, I moved to objectivity: viewing the whole subject without beating myself up about it.

And, finally, I reached some level of understanding: I understood what attention seeking really means.

I think that there are two types: the prima donna standing on a stage performance type and the look at me to tell me that I’m here version. And I think that I fell into the latter.

The insecurity version is younger. It comes in when you’re needy, when you want people to look after you but haven’t quite learnt how to vocalise this neediness.

It’s linked in to low self esteem . It’s all about feeling that you’ve got nothing to offer– unless you make a big statement.

It comes at the junction in the growing up process when you’re not quite sure of who you are. And you just want some feedback to work it all out.

It’s replicated in the visual vulnerability of anorexia. It demands people to look.

So maybe I did want people to pay attention.

Maybe I had something to say without the words to say it.

Maybe attention seeking isn’t always a conscious act.

And maybe, if I see someone demanding attention from now on, I might try and work out what they really want and what it really means. I’ll remember that the performance might be for their own benefit. And not for mine.

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