Co-dependency

Ahhh…..

What a relief yesterday ended up being. In my crabby post yesterday, I spent a good deal of time complaining about helpless people. I actually had a really great, and enlightening day yesterday. I talk every once in a while about things a therapist has said to me. It is no secret I spent many years in therapy. I am not ashamed. Should I be? I don’t think so. Yesterday was a codependency focused day for me, and I have a lot of insight to share today from it. Bear with me if this gets a little drawn out. I have battled codependency my whole adult life, and I assume most of childhood, although I didn’t recognize it. I tried therapy a few times, but they just gave me meds, some of which made it way worse. No one ever called it codependency, until much later. It was called bi-polar disorder. It started when I was 19. One day I woke up, realized that I had had a hard life, and that I had never once cried about it, and man did that open a floodgate. It took years to get that floodgate closed, but I finally did, with the help of two very special therapists, and Jesus. Oh, yeah, and getting off the tri-cyclic birth control. I would like to take a minute to say something VERY IMPORTANT HERE.  If you are on a tri-cyclic birth control pill, and have been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, consider stopping them right away. Most likely that is what is causing your problems. It took me forever to figure it out. I started on a very popular birth control pill when I was 19. I have easy cycles, never a problem, and other than realizing I had bi-polar disorder, nothing significant happened. So, a few years back, I stopped taking birth control, and ALL of the symptoms of bi-polar disorder went away. I mentioned this to a friend, and she made the comment that she noticed she didnt need her bi-polar meds any more either, but hadn’t put it together with stopping birth control pills, but that after thinking about it they directly coincided. Here is my thought on the matter. Bi-polar disorder is when you cycle through abnormally strong emotions really fast. One week, manic happy and productive, one week maybe just blahs, and one week severe depression. A therapist explained to me that people have daily “weather”. Normal weather patterns change a little from day to day, but they never go from blizzard to monsoon. Bi-polar emotions go from blizzard to monsoon in moments flat. I think, and I am not a doc or a research scientist, but here is the logic for me. Tri-cyclic pills are three different hormone levels, then a hormone free week. Lets look at the pregnant lady for a classic example of what messing with hormones will do for a persons emotions. I am guessing, that as the hormone levels change each week, they affect our moods drastically, and mimic bi-polar disorder. If anyone out there is a research scientist, I would love to see this study done. So much bi-polar in the world would likely be solved if not for the hormonal birth control pills. Or, at least, if people were diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, they could try removing the hormones before just accepting that they are mentally unhealthy and spending a life in therapy trying to get control of something that could be avoided altogether, or spending years taking anti-depressants and mood stabilizers to offset the effects of the birth control? So, how does this affect my post on co-dependency? Well, in a bi-polar cycle, you are not thinking healthy things, and that just made my co-dependent behaviors that much worse. Not only was I co-dependent, I was emotionally crippled.

So, emotionally crippled, and the young adult emerging from a broken nest, I started my journey. Oh dear. What comes next is twenty very ugly years of me fighting and fighting to regain a sense of the self I lost to that tattered young soul. I did my rebelling and experimenting, I may as well be real about it. I am not ashamed of what I have done in my life. Some of it, I might do differently, given the chance, but I am not ashamed of it. I stumbled through my teens and at a young twenty something, I decided I wanted to be a single mom. Deep in my heart, I knew it was wrong, and I had no idea what was driving this desire. I took it up with the two women I admired the most, and both got excited and said “if anyone can do it, you can”. I went home baffled. I remember thinking “what? No one thinks this is a bad idea? ” I swear I was dying for someone to tell me what a bad idea it was, but nobody did. I went home, got rid of the very great boyfriend I had, and went on a search for the biggest loser I could find, hoping to get a baby, and that the man would leave before it was born (ridiculous, I know, but I was young, dumb, and emotionally compromised). Just to be fair, I did tell the man I wanted a baby, we made the decision to try together, and I did try to make it work with him. As an adult, with a nearly grown child, I understand all of this better now, but it was not till years later when I made a comment to my very “mature” Christian mentor, that I didnt know why I chose to be a singe parent, and he looked at me in utter confusion and said “you don’t?” “I do”. He then proceeded to tell me to look at how the men in my life had treated me, and how, no wonder I would not want one in my child’s life. I have never been the type of person to say that because one or two men hurt me, they are all bad, but clearly my subconscious thought that somewhere, and how incredibly intuitive of my mentor? Understand quickly, that I have been sexually offended by several men in my life, as a child, before I ever even knew what sex was. Again, not my fault, and I am not ashamed of what others did to me that I could not control. People tend to get all sorry for me when I tell them what happened in my childhood. Please don’t. I don’t feel sorry for me. Every single thing that happened was a lesson to turn me into someone who can do wonderful work for God. Everything happens for a reason, and I would not be this girl that I respect and admire today if not for my hardships, and we ALL have hardships. I think yours were as hard as you think mine were. It was ultimately the therapy for my sons special needs that got me where I needed to be. And on that note, you can learn all the healthy behaviors you need to deal with any human being at all, if you just learn what a special needs child requires. Everything about raising a special needs child requires that you look at them as an individual, and treat the behaviors accordingly. If every person in this world was treated the way I was taught to treat special needs kids, holy cow, the world would be an unimaginably healthy and joyful, validated place. The skills transfer to every human beings basic rights. We dont honor the typical human beings rights, but with a special needs child, it is the ONLY way to make progress, and you learn about meeting basic rights. ALL of my relationships have improved since I learned how to validate, give choices, hand over some control of the situation, choose important battles, not ones that don’t matter. Raising an Aspergers kid is where it is at if you want to learn how to relate to people in a way that is healthy for all involved. The skills you learn taking care of special needs kids will last you a lifetime.

So, back to the topic at hand. Co-dependency. Do you know what it is? I thought I did, and there was no way that was me, I was so independent, I couldn’t be co-dependent.  HA! What a fool I was for thinking I knew something. Oh, I knew what co-dependency was alright, I was living a life full of it, but I had no idea that that was what co-dependency actually was. Co-dependency is a deep and intricate “disorder”. Most people don’t even recognize it till a therapist tells them to get the book “Codependent No More”, by Melody Beatty. I know many co-dependents whose lives have been changed by that book. I keep a copy on my shelf too. You open that book, thinking “what can this book possibly offer me?”, and then it changes your life.  http://www.amazon.com/Codependent-No-More-Controlling-Yourself/dp/0894864025

For simplicity sake, here is the Wikipedia definition of co-dependency. It is a good way to sum up the basics for those who are unfamiliar with the disease. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Codependency

All this background is getting me somewhere, I promise.  So, I spent years behaving like a classic co-dependant. I could not for the life of me figure out why people wouldn’t treat me the way I treated them. I was offended when I was told I was controlling people, but the book put it in a perspective that made me understand what that meant. I leaned about “shoulding all over” myself and others because of co-dependency. I learned that taking care of others is NOT the best way to get ones OWN needs met, and I started trying to take care of myself instead of taking care of everyone else. I had to draw some serious lines in the sand, and it felt cold and callous, but also, so liberating to learn how to put myself first for once. What? I am allowed to meet MY OWN needs? That is weird. I spent years and years in therapy, learning healthy patterns and behaviors, crying about how wronged I have been, just feeling defeated, not good enough, a huge failure, but the answer was bi-polar, and meds, which never helped enough to make life feel good. Once I was given a the above book as an assignment for therapy, it all started to change. I put up limits on how much people could ask of me, I started finding little ways to meet my needs first, and I learned how to say NO to people, which was the hardest part and I still struggle with it from time to time, and in those instances, co-dependency rears its ugly head in just a small way, in my life. I am so aware of it now, that I take control and stop the behavior as soon as I recognize it, but I made it through all of yesterday, before I realized that there were a trickle or two of co-dependency in my behavior, leading me to feel those very same feelings I had so long ago when I did not recognize the behaviors.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s never full blown co-dependency ever any more, just little tiny things that build up when I forget to say no to them, and yes to my needs. Yesterday was all about that for me. If you read yesterdays blog, you know I spent a good chunk of my morning arguing with a very clearly unhealthy co-dependent in my life. I was so angry I was shaking, and told her so, but it just kept going, on and on and on, till I couldn’t take it any more. I spent hours trying to convince her that a therapist could help her with the codependency and she should get help, all the while, letting this girls terrible attitude have a profound effect on my cause she wouldn’t do what I kept telling her was right (if you are at all familiar with co-dependency, you are now rolling on the floor in laughter at the irony of that situation). Still didn’t recognize my co-dependent behaviors of the day, but it continues. My best friend in the world is consumed by her tragedies right now, and I get that. When I try to offer a solution, or advice, I get nothing but “i am not ready to start the healing process yet”. I think that is so unfair. She called me the other day, and I was bawling my eyes out. She didn’t even notice, and proceeded to talk about how emotional she was, yet, she is not ready to change anything, just wants me to carry the burden till she is ready, still, is completely unaware of me. These one sided relationships are VERY co-dependent, and I was feeling pretty angry and hurt. She wanted to stop and visit, but I said NO. Oh, here it is, the magic word that saves me from myself. No. such a simple word, but for some, so hard to learn. I have now said NO, to the co-dependent trying to control me,  and to the person I feel is taking a little advantage of me. I have one or two more big issues to face in my co-dependent battle day. I have been on a spay/neuter task force commitee for years. I love it. I love working with the surgered dogs. I am good with the sick, the needy, the scared, and a natural leader at heart, so it is a good position for me, however, I imagine due to a lot of this co-dependency, I tend to get quite insubordinate when my morals are challenged, and I know it is something I have to work on, meanwhile, its still true. Well, the last several events, I have been feeling quite insubordinate, and as though a lot of responsibility and blame that are not my weights to carry, are landing on my shoulders. It has been a huge stressor, because I really love doing it, but it was clearly taking a huge toll on me, by the way my demeanor went all bi-polar every time it came up. I am talking happy to hurricane in seconds flat. That is a great, big, red warning flag for me, when something causes my now under control emotions to do that. Yesterday, while I was taking back my sanity, I said NO to them too. Oh, that one felt so good! I have been bearing that pressure for far too long now, and what a relief it was to say, “I just cannot do what you are asking of me any more”. I spent my entire day lecturing a close relative about being co-dependent, and at the end of the day, I looked back and realize that I spent the entire day using tools out of my bag of healed co-dependency tricks. I may have fought that battle and won, but every once in a while, the behaviors pop up and get me when I am not watching  for them. I spent my day trying to get some peace and renewal, from taking care of everyone else the last two weeks, and at the end of it all, I look back and think, man, I “should have” recognized this all much sooner this time. Oh well, I recognized it and moved forward. I apologized for being so callous and cold, explained where I was coming from, said I still felt the same way but I could have said it much nicer. I didn’t take it back, just apologized for my method of delivery. I was angry and bitter at what felt like, and still does feel like, several very one sided relationships in my life. The difference today, is that I have a choice between letting those one sided relationships make me feel terrible, or balancing out how much time I spend doing for others compared to doing for me, and how much time I spend doing for others who never notice it. Its all about the choices I make. Not how they treat me, how I choose to be treated. All I have to do is simply choose to treat me better and put less priority on others well being, and I will be ok. I have been trying to put me first, for some time now, and if you follow in the posts, you know that, but always, someone “needs” something from me, and my needs get put off till tomorrow, and tomorrow, there is always something, and my needs just keep getting pushed back further and further, till I have a day like yesterday, where I lock myself in the house and refuse to talk to anyone. I have to be ok with telling someone that I cant listen to her cry today, or that I am happy to listen and understand, but I need a turn to cry too.  There are lots of therapists in this valley. They get paid to do what I do as a co-dependent, and quite frankly, its ok for me to turn folks away or offer a good therapists number if I cant carry their burden that day. Oh so hard to remember that I can say no to the people I love, and that they will still love me, and they will enjoy me more if I take the time to keep me healthy. Learning to say no when someone says they need me has been incredibly difficult, but I am getting it. Yesterady, I said no in a big way to the things that were sapping the energy from me and wearing me down. It was refreshing and uplifting, and I even found time to focus on my Bible study.

A little while back, I started a womens Bible study group on facebook. The first study we chose was on faith. Funny, cause I have strong, very strong, faith. This last couple months though, my faith has been weak. I know He is here with me, but I feel disspaointed in the lack of assitance He is offering me. I had my little tantrum, but then, as I was taking back my peace, I realized in one very brightly lit moment, that I knew I wold be attacked when I started the Bible study, I knew my faith was struggling, but that it would be ok, but it never, ever occurred to me till yesterday, when I finally could see clearly again, that my faith was being attacked because I started a womens Bible study on FAITH of all things. That one made me laugh pretty hard too. I apologized to my good Father, for being such a spoiled little brat, and asked Him to protect my faith while I lead these women through the study. At the end of the day, I looked back, realized I had broken the co-dependent patterns I hadn’t even realized that I was allowing again, figured out why I was having issues with God, and went to bed peaceful, uplifted, hopeful, and spiritually healthy again. Oh what a day it was. Today, I am armed with a new perspective, and I am looking forward to what the day might bring. I am looking forward to continued healing and growth. I wish you all many blessings on your journey. Until next time my friends…

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