Thursday, March 20, 2014

Deep Thoughts: What I've learned

I've been doing a lot of self-discovery lately (it's a very long, on going process). A lot of thinking, reading, talking, thinking again, making decisions, changing those decisions, etc. It's exhausting most of the time, but I think I've learned a lot.

Most recently I found out that all of my previously-thought-to-be-unrelated personal issues indeed can be traced back to one thing and are all related. I'm a codependent. It doesn't sound like it's that bad of a thing, codependency, the word itself illicits feelings of cooperation and coexisting with someone. Oh you coexist, sure, but it's not as rose-y as it sounds. There is no one true definition for codependency, it all changes depending on who you're talking to, but this one hit the nail on the head for me:
Codependency is "an emotional, psychological, and behavioral condition that develops as a result of an individual's prolonged exposure to, and practice of, a set of oppressive rules - rules which prevent the open expression of feelings as well as the direct discussion of personal and interpersonal problems." (Beattie, Codependent No More)
You see, most codependents spawn from living, and dealing, with substance abusers. The first codependent support group was formed by the wives of recovering alcoholics way back in the day. So while I could relate to these personal confessions that I was reading about, I could understand why I was this way. No one in my family had a substance abuse issue, I grew up in a good family. Where had a developed this from? Then I read that definition and the lightbulb clicked on in all its blinding glory. I almost cried, seriously. Growing up, we didn't talk about feelings in my family. We just didn't. You solved your problems on your own. I was ridiculed for my interests, not blatantly, but enough that it made me quietly ashamed of them. I still enjoyed them, but I didn't discuss them with my family, they were reserved for my friends.

All these years I've been called many things; clingy, demanding, bitchy, controlling, manipulative, lazy and more. I've had a lot of failed relationships and I blamed myself for not being able to keep it together, for not being able to suck it up, deal with it, and fix the problem. But I didn't know what the problem was exactly. I just wanted to love but people didn't seem to want my kind of love. "But it's love!" I'd think, "why doesn't anyone want it?" I wanted to be helpful and people didn't want my help. I continually blamed myself for failing while at the same time being absolutely terrified of failure, of being a failure. You can see where that was going.

Then I was alone.

Even better, I was alone and depressed (with anxiety and panic attacks). I'd failed again and again (and again). I had failed at what I thought was the love of my life (it wasn't), I had failed my family (I hadn't done that either), I'd failed at life (also not true), and I hated myself. Everything felt so out of my control and I physically couldn't do anything, there was no reason, I'd just fail again, there was no motivation, no drive. I'd spend hours laying on the floor in my room in silence, staring at the ceiling as my thoughts spiraled around my failings.

I'd like to point out right now that I was never suicidal. And all of this took place while I was in counseling, so I was trying to get help.

I couldn't enjoy anything. A friend pointed out that I'd actually accomplished a lot in the 6 or so months since I'd felt that I hit rock bottom. She asked me why I wasn't enjoying these little accomplishments? My only answer was "I can't" and I cried, sitting out on the deck in the sun on a beautiful summer day. She was right of course, I had done a lot but I didn't derive joy from any of it. I just thought about all the things I hadn't accomplished and felt guilty because of it. Guilt was a constant and heavy companion through all of this, it still is.

My mom told me to stand in front of the mirror and tell myself that I was allowed to enjoy these things and that I'd done a good job. I tried. I couldn't look at myself. I put on sunglasses and that helped but then I couldn't say the words. I choked, I cried, it took 30 minutes. I was mentally exhausted and felt no better. I still couldn't look myself in the eye. It was terrible.

I'll spare you more of the gritty details of my "blue period" and just say that I feel better now. I'm not "recovered" but I feel better. The codependency thing has really helped. Instead of just feeling and reacting when I'm upset, I can stop myself and think objectively about it. Why am I feeling this way? Do I need to react to it? Am I overreacting? It's helped just in the few weeks that I've been working on it. I haven't finished reading my book yet (Codependent No More by Melody Beattie) but what I have read has really helped me. Knowing that there's a reason for my reactions has helped but knowing that I can fix it has helped even more. I feel like I can go somewhere with this.

And that is a great feeling.