By Natha Perkins
I’m high maintenance.
There, I said it. My husband says that I’m far and away the most high maintenance woman he’s been with. And I’m confused; what does that mean exactly? When I ask him, he laughs and says, “just wait and I’ll point it out as it happens.” We spend the next 30 minutes in hysterics because every single thing that comes out of my mouth provides him with a wonderful and accurate example of exactly what he was talking about.
I need him to scoot over a little so I can read more comfortably. I ask him to move his arm off of me because it’s making me claustrophobic. The TV is too loud, I don’t like the way his feet are resting on the top sheet because it is making my own sheets feel too tight. The heat is blowing on my arm making the hairs stand on end which is torture for me. It’s one thing after another. We laugh because he’s right, and I laugh because I see something new about myself. It’s extremely hard for me to be comfortable.
This stands true in simple ways: I can’t relax if someone is touching me. And in complex ways: I can run a single distressing thought around and around in my head on a loop until it makes me queasy.
I’ve always been like this.
As a teenager it made me feel different. I watched the way my friends could drink themselves into blackouts and spend the nights on floors, sofas and in the beds of guys they hardly knew. They seemed to have the ability to relax into whatever was happening and somehow let go. I couldn’t. I’ve never been able to just let go. I’m too aware and observant—I can’t not see and notice things. I always thought it was because I was weird. Now I just know that I’m ultra sensitive.
We just spent the day in Orlando at Disney World a few weeks ago. It was cold and windy the entire day. I was miserable. I had a hat and a hood and a down jacket, wrist warmers and long jeans and knee socks, and I was absolutely freezing the entire day. I couldn’t get warm and I watched other people in light jackets and shorts eating ice cream and they didn’t seem miserable. Does this make me high maintenance? Maybe it does, but I get stressed out when I’m cold. My brain can’t manage normal function when there’s an alarm bell going off somewhere else in my body.
“They” say the trick to chilling the hell out is to “reduce stress.” I mean, that’s what I’ve been trying to do for years. I do yoga. I meditate. I carry a bag in my purse filled with Advil and Chapstick and homeopathic drops so I don’t have to panic when I get a headache or my period. But does doing and having those things really help keep the alarm at bay? Or am I just hysteric by nature?
I worry that it makes people love me less because of this high drama, high maintenance thing I have going on. They fall in love and they’re willing to overlook it. But the deeper we go, the less enamored they become. The quirks get less cute and become more of an imposition. As a child, drama wasn’t looked upon favorably in my family. There was so much agitation among the adults that provocation among the children would have tipped the scales into somewhere I wasn’t willing to go.
So I learned to be good and happy and I followed the rules. But doing that required that I bury a part of myself—the part that was needy and demanding and inherently uncomfortable. It required that I keep my needs to myself so that I wasn’t an imposition on anyone.
I was an incredibly sensitive child.
I could read the emotions of the people around me from a very young age and I would mistakenly think that if the adults were upset, that it was my fault. I can see now that this, combined with feeling like I had to hide the dark and discontent parts of myself, made me a very anxious little girl. I learned to manage those anxieties by making sure that I was as physically comfortable as possible. If I could control my environment, I could at least relax a little. I began to carry around anything that I could possibly need. I attracted friends who I knew would help me in that regard: strong male friends with whom I felt safe in public, female friends who could communicate with me through simple eye contact alone. I let the other people drop away.
I knew what I needed and I found it.
Is there anything wrong with getting your needs met? Is there anything wrong with having strong and specific needs in the first place? I think its a balance. If you’re like me and you have preferences that literally make or break your ability to function comfortably in the world, then it’s important to give yourself the space to get those needs met. If you’re a drama queen simply looking for positive or negative attention, then that’s something to be curious about and do some introspection around.
What do you need to help you feel more valuable and seen? The key is being able to take a deep and honest look at what drives our habitual behaviors. I don’t think that I’ll ever be one of those people that can fly by the seat of my pants and skip off on a long weekend with nothing but a toothbrush and a change of undies in my purse. But I’m okay with that. I’m done feeling badly for having needs that must be met.
It’s those needs and quirks that make me who I am.
Natha Perkins is a mama, an artist, a writer and an intuitive life coach. For many years she owned a successful jewelry and lifestyle brand called Luscious Metals. Her jewelry was featured in Cosmopolitan, Parenting Magazine and others. That was really fun, but then she decided she wished to be of service in a more meaningful way. Nowadays, she helps clients from around the world figure out what the hell is really going on in their lives and she loves doing what she does. On a daily basis, she also finds herself fighting the age old internal battle of whether to fake being perfect or just go ahead and risk exposing her own truths to the world. The struggle is real y’all. You can find her at www.nathaperkins.com or on Facebook to learn more or to work with her personally.
Editor: Dana Gornall