I am suffering through a bout of codependency. I recognized it during my marriage, but largely forgot about it during the past months because my abuser wasn’t around to abuse me (as much) after our separation. However, I am discovering that my new abuser is myself. I don’t have a completely healthy relationship with myself yet – but I will change that.
Geesh. Just when I thought I was done with “the hard stuff” codependency returns to bite me in the ankle.
This past week, despite my gall bladder surgery, truly wonderful and loving experiences filled me with joy. And then suddenly, I was filled with self-pity, a sense of worthlessness, helplessness, and guilt because I didn’t truly deserve any of the blessings bestowed on me. I wondered how in the world to overcome the debt I owe the people who love me.
Symptoms of Codependency
How is it that when I am faced with true love and caring, I freak out; but when I am taken advantage of, I smile, act, and tell myself there is nothing wrong?
The answer lies in codependency, a negative state of thinking that sneakily destroys true and good feelings by turning them into self-hating ones. Codependency is the reason why I:
- have difficulty having fun
- judge myself without mercy
- find it hard to complete projects
- have a hard time expressing my feelings (in face-to-face situations anyway – I’m better at writing them from the safety barrier formed by my computer monitor)
- alternate between hyper-excitement and hyper-despair (not bipolar disorder, but emotional highs and lows like a roller coaster from one hour to the next)
- refuse to accept love because I don’t understand love without me controlling it very well
There are multiple signs of codependency. Some of them I’ve worked through, like these:
- I am able to allow others to own their own problems. I listen, but do not take responsibility for the solution.
- I no longer turn others’ anger in on myself or make it my problem. (I find that other people’s anger still scares me to some extent!)
- I am able to gently say no to sex and do not withhold affection to punish Max or myself.
- I am more in touch with my own feelings and (eventually) recognize the codependent patterns within myself.
Freeing Myself From Codependency Is Like Freeing Myself From Abuse
Just like I learned to recognize my ex’s abusive behaviors, I am learning to recognize my codependent (self-abusive) behaviors. I know from my experience with abuse that recognizing the abuse is the first step to healing from it. Like abuse, codependency is an insidious, elusive snake. Its squirming produces feelings of guilt, inadequacy, and all the illusory emotions that separate me from my dreams and goals.
My codependency whispers in my ear that I am no better off than I was in the marriage. That I gave up financial security and a “real family” for nothing because I still feel the same way as I did when I was married. On my worst days, I allow those whispers to drag me into the snake’s lair where I wallow in self-pity and the illusion that a snake would actually tell me the truth.
Codependency Is A Separate Entity That Can Be Defeated
The key to the above paragraph is that “MY CODEPENDENCY” is separate from myself. My codependency, just like Will’s abuse, has a life and fire of its own. When I learned that I must protect myself against the abuse, I neglected to use the same strategies to protect myself from codependency. My codependency slithers along, unnoticed, in my shadow as I work to extricate myself from the side-effects and symptoms of the abuse. My codependency celebrates my extrication from abuse, encourages me to consider outward abuse my only enemy, because doing so allows inner abuse to continue.
I feel that leaving my abusive marriage was integral to the realizations I am having today. If I hadn’t left the abuse, then I doubt I could focus the light of truth on this multi-faced snake of codependency.
I have more work to do, and now that I’ve identified the shadowy snake beside me, I realize that codependency is beside of me, not something inherently bad within myself that I cannot control. Once again, I am reminded that the only person I can control is myself and the thoughts I allow into the sacred space of my mind.