co dependency

The journey of self-care

“For to see the end from the beginning is a sign that it’s already finished. It’s just a matter of walking it out to completion.“
Dorothy E. Young

I read this on another Tiny Pepper’s NanoPoblano 2018 blog the other day.

It struck me with its profundity. It seemed quite biblical.

  • I can’t see the end of this journey I’m on. I see the transformation pictures of other women who started out my weight and judgy, cynical, self-defeating thoughts start popping in my brain like popcorn. Thoughts like:
    • How skinny is skinny enough?!?
      I could never get THAT small.
      That’s just too thin.

    The fact of the matter is that it doesn’t matter what their size is and it’s not mandated that I get that small and have my body look like theirs. Their journey is different than mine. Their whys are probably different than mine. They are different from me. We are all unique and special in our own way. So are our journeys.

    We do have something in common, though, other than our need/desire to lose weight.

    Learning how to care for ourselves well is key to making it through to the end of this stage of our life’s journey AND not having to go through this stage again.

    Ultimately, many self-care habits and routines are going to vary as much as those of us on this journey do. However, the basics are all the same:

    • Nutrition
    • Activity
    • Rest
    • Relaxation
    • Passionate purpose

    There are some internal prerequisites to achieve those basics. The first of which is deciding that you have value, that your life matters, and your needs are as important as anyone else’s needs.

    That belief in one’s own value leads to the second prerequisite: boundaries. What are those?

    • The ability to say, “No,” to unreasonable demands and requests, is a key boundary.
    • The ability to decide how to deal with and whether to take the criticisms, snide & snarky remarks, manipulation, and verbal abusiveness, all of which are so prevalent in our lives.
    • The ability to stand up for one’s self and assert the right to exist, breathe, and occupy the space you’re in, unapologetically.

    These are the foundation of this journey of healing, recovery, and growth we’re all on. Once those things are in place, as much is possible, then, self-care is possible. Once caring for and about oneself is primary, then, belief in our own abilities comes next and we become unstoppable…even if we can’t see the end from the beginning, at first.

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    Self Love and Personal Power: In whom or what do we trust?

    Modern wisdom says that those who live and act with a victim mentality, regardless of whatever circumstance or person we have given ourselves over as victims to, have abandoned our personal power and surrendered our self love. Our desire for the comfortable, the familiar, and the inherent security in believing the known is better than the unknown overrides the passionate drive to think different, do different, and be different. The Stockholm Syndrome takes over and we become enamored of our captor(s) and complacent in our captivity.

    These characteristics are seen in addicts, alcoholics, co-dependents, people stuck in dead-end jobs, loveless marriages, upside down with debt, and the list goes on. I see many of these characteristics in myself and those I’ve been around throughout my life.

    Social media is full of life coaches, philosophical gurus, and enlightened hipsters admonishing us to stop clinging to the captivity of our pasts and free ourselves from fruitless striving for empty futures that don’t truly exist because all we have is the now.

    However true these concepts may be, for many of us, they seem like trite cliches; as tired, empty, and lifeless as we feel. The positive energy receptors are broken, bent, blocked, or damaged in some way. Our filters are clogged with accumulated grunge and grime and our ability to replace them or clean them out is hindered by the lack of power getting through. Our batteries aren’t getting a sustainable flow of energy to stay charged and in gear. We stall and stop, breaking down.

    As children we came into this world powerless to do anything other than scream, cry, and fuss to get our most basic needs met. Over time we learned other methods of communication to convey our needs and wants. We may have learned positive reinforcement to achieve our needs. We may have grown up in environments where our needs were met and resolved before we experienced the internal crisis of not having them met.

    If we were fortunate, we got to grow up in environments that balanced well between the dependence of having others control and supply our needs versus healthy and constructive autonomy and the independence of learning to care for our own needs.

    However, many of us, for whatever reasons, didn’t grow up in consistently stable and healthy environments that supported psycho-social-emotional development in ways that taught us about the appropriate use of power and self-love. We grew up with an out of proportion sense of our power in relation to others and that is the context in which love for self and love for others grew twisted, repressed, distorted, and abused.

    We grew up with authority figures who abused or abdicated authority. Maybe we grew up believing the only personal power we have is that which we take from others, because that’s how things operated in our worlds.

    We were taught that knowledge is power (education: diplomas, certificates, degrees, etc.), because it leads to a higher wage job. Well then, money and position indicate power in the form of the financial value of your appearance and address. So location and looks mean power, because they indicate the level of influence in the names and numbers of the people who seek your presence and advice on what it takes to succeed. That must mean having a lot of followers is what personal power is about, but only if the money, location, appearance, and popularity are accoutrement to the popularity.

    Some of us grew up believing that underneath it all, we’ll never make it anyway. Of that group, many accepted their role and position, and may or may not have strived to be the big fish in their little ponds or relegated themselves to being fish food. Others may not even have been conscious of their inner lack of belief and may have performed mighty deeds and acts to move out of the stagnant pond of their humble beginnings, only to realize the are just puddle hopping and not ever really getting themselves anywhere.

    The common thread is that each and every one of us who have done any of these things, is that ultimately we don’t really know or understand, we don’t believe in our own value or that we actually have any power to make a difference.

    Here’s the thing though, at least for me: Despite the fact I may appear to be living as a victim to the depression, the fibromyalgia, the stress and unhappiness in difficult and complicated relationships with difficult and complicated people, not engaging in income producing work, watching too much television and still caught up in food addiction and codependency, I am more free than a lot of people I know who judge me for my mess of a life and the epic fails to become the whole, functional, and successfully contributing member of society they deem I should be.

    I’m freeing myself from the criticism of the woulda’, shoulda’, coulda’s.

    Elected officials, government programs, social agencies, employers, preachers, coaches, products, systems, cards, stars, teachers, philosophers, doctors, and no one else knows the right way for me to live my life, pick my battles, or choose my priorities. Chasing after their solutions, listening to their rhetoric, and trying to appease their conflicting values has done nothing but feed into my self-doubt and resulting self-sabotage.

    I must not love myself if I don’t take care of my needs first and choose to do whatever it takes to eat nutritionally, exercise daily, and meditate morning and evening? I must want to stay sick and miserable because I don’t think I’m worthy of health and wholeness if I’m still swirling around in my mess of a life? I don’t think so.

    I did hate me and condemn myself for all of these things and more. I still cope with the self-critical thoughts. But here is what I’m coming to realize, I can love and accept me where I am, as I am, in the muck and the mire with all my flaws, just as I am willing and able to do for the messy, wounded, people in my life – even though they may snap, snarl, wound, and reject me at times, I love them anyway. I love me anyway.

    Love your neighbor as you love yourself could and probably does mean treat them well and do good things for them. Husbands loving their wives as they love their own bodies certainly includes clothing, protecting, and providing for them. However, I wonder if it also means love and accept the fact of our own weaknesses, pain, mistakes get made, intentional and unintentional damage happens, and we stumble and fall.

    I try to be patient and kind to others, so I am learning to be patient and kind with myself. It’s a process and takes practice. I have learned (mostly) to let go of jealousy over the achievements and circumstances of others and seldom feel the need or desire to brag. This is true of the jealous thoughts and desire to brag about who I thought I was in my so-called glory days.

    Letting go of my inner mean-girl who is rude, critical, and only cares about me doing what she wants now is getting easier. I don’t treat others this way and really can’t stand being treated this way or watching it happen to another, so I am choosing to NOT treat myself more harshly than I treat others.

    If I can forget the details of the wrongs done to me by others and forgive them, then it’s time for me to do the same for myself. I can be patient with myself, accepting all there is to accept about me, enduring the things that go along this journey and path I’ve been on, continuing to trust, hope, and have faith that love wins.

    So, my personal power is the power of and the ability to love others and myself without condition, expectation, or condemnation. After all, that’s what love has done for me.

    Shifting gear and getting on track

    For those of you who have been reading a while, you have come to know the key people in my life by pseudonyms I assigned to them. You got to know a bit about them through my eyes and experiences of them, as I attempted to deal with my psychological and emotional responses to them.

    I did my best to honor their privacy and to not go into too much detail regarding them and what was happening in their world except where it intersected with mine. For the most part this worked because not very many people who actually know me and the others in my life were reading this blog.

    All of this changed a bit toward the end of September when some incredibly painful and challenging things happened, which I chronicled in detail here. There was blowback and I wound up struggling through even more conflicted issues in a few of my relationships. Thankfully, quite a bit has been worked through and has been resolved. However, some sensitivity remains.

    As time has gone on, I have begun shying away from opening up about some of these things here. In some ways, this has been good and I have expanded on things that I am interested in and really thinking about that are inclusive, yet beyond the scope of recovery. I have also been working, a bit more privately, through some of the aspects of my co-dependency.

    The reality is, though, despite my best intentions and the declarations to stand my ground, I have pulled back and have not been doing some of the work I need to do, out of concern and fear of having to face and deal with potentially negative fallout from those in my day to day life.

    Thankfully, some of the good to come of all of this is more clarity, acknowledgement, and understanding of the depth and extent of my co-dependency issues.

    Since I enjoy the new things I’ve been incorporating and I know I truly need to focus in on the recovery and codependency aspects of my journey, I’m going to be trying out some things to help organize and focus the components of my blog.

    The first major change is that by specific and personal request Jerry will now be known as Keith. We’ve been in each other’s lives for close to 17 years and I either never knew or had managed to forget that the person behind the name HATES the name Jerry. Since I’m working for transparency and respect in our relationship and he may be reading more often, I am honoring his request to not be called by the hated name and he has opted to be known from this point forward as Keith.

    The second change I am planning is to refocus on the Twelve Steps, especially as it relates to my interactions with and relationships with the people in my life. January will be looking at Step One: admitting powerlessness over the people and relationships in my life. I will probably continue to do less explaining of the specific triggers – the words/actions of others – and more self analysis and awareness processing. This will include some biblical scriptural discussion at times, as that is part of MY recovery process. Please understand that I am only discussing what works for me, not dictating how others should manage their process.

    One thing I would like to explore is inviting guest bloggers who might be interested in doing a “speaker” type of post that addresses the Step topic of the month. We’ll see how that goes.

    I plan to continue with the Six Word Friday feature. I’ve fallen a bit behind in updating that page, so bringing that current will be a goal. I also hope to do more Author Interviews. Another thought is to do more with Courageous Confessionals in an effort to identify, honor, raise awareness and reduce stigma associated with the things that we have learned to hide in shame from, which people are blogging about – mental illness, emotional disturbance, addictions, compulsions, and working to move beyond the limitations of our pasts.

    One more exciting thing is that I have been invited to contribute to a new, online magazine – La belle vie, http://www.labelleviemagazine.com/. I may be asking for your input and feedback as I write my first article. Stay tuned. Exciting times are ahead.

    It seems so simple

    Say what you mean and mean what you say ~ unknown

    Let your “Yes” be yes and your “No” no ~ James 5:12 NIV

    Speak[ing] the truth in love. ~ Ephesians 4:15 NIV

    There are all these assumptions and guidelines about what communication should consist of and be about. There are seminars, books, classes, and degrees all about communication – the conveyance of one’s ideas to another in a coherent manner which result in being understood.

    If you speak the same language, it seems like it should be fairly simple and straightforward, right? After all the dictionary provides definitions and we all have the same basic understanding of the words we speak and hear every day.

    I looked up the word, “simple.” It’s actually quite the complicated word. Merriam-Webster has an entry for it as a noun as well as an adjective. That surprised me. I looked at Dictionary.com and there were five definitions for the word as a noun. Here’s the real head spinner: there were 24 definitions for “simple” as an adjective.

    Most of the definitions were regarding how it is used to describe inanimate objects, situations, and use in scientific or mathematical terminology. All these were about it meaning that something was singular, not mixed, or uncomplicated.

    The other definitions, though, were about how people are described: common or lowly, mentally deficient, naive, lacking in some way. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, really, considering the nursery rhyme about Simple Simon.

    The point of all this is that we think and want communication to be straightforward, uncomplicated, and simple. We want to be understood, oftentimes more than we are willing to try to understand.

    When we feel we haven’t been understood, we may mistakenly believe or assume it is somehow the fault of the other person: they weren’t paying attention or didn’t care. Well, maybe. Did we slow down enough to see if they were available and present or did we start talking and expect the sound of our voice to flip a switch in their brain? Did we make the effort to find out if there was something else bothering them or that they had on their hearts and minds or did we just steamroll ahead with our flurry of words?

    Do we know this person, whom we are bombarding with our words and thoughts, well enough to know how they best receive and process information? Are we taking that into consideration or just doing what works for us? Do we know if they have the same definitions of the words we are saying as we do?

    All of that is simply about language and information processing. It doesn’t take into account the fact that, regardless of how rational, logical, or educated we may be, ultimately we are complex beings with layers of life experiences that have formed and imbued our language interpretation with emotional and biochemical responses that trigger physiological reactions and flood our bodies and brains with neurochemicals. That’s why we relate, almost universally to David Banner’s Hulk alter ego so well.

    When Jerry and I try to talk to each other all of this complicated “stuff” is already in the way. As much as I want him to be the one to change and accept that I am the way I am, I have to be willing to do the same for him. It doesn’t mean he’s “off the hook” for being accountable for his stuff and his side of the street. It does mean that I have to stop expecting him to change and figure out how to be the change I want to see.

    If I want him to really listen to me and make the effort to understand me, then I have to stop trying to get him to change and make me feel understood. I have to make the changes and do the work to listen to and understand him and communicate that to him.

    I know this is true because we had a difficult day yesterday. There was a conversation that happened that seemed to put us into our standard place of screaming silence fraught with hurt and anger. However, because I did some things differently, we moved through it better and faster than before. It wasn’t perfect and there are still residual effects. But it was better.

    As I stop focusing on what Jerry is in the wrong about and let go of what I think he should be doing differently, I am better able to identify my part of the equation and understand my errors. I can’t fix or change Jerry’s. He can’t fix or change mine.

    I was actually able to tell him, “We are in this together. I love you and support you, whatever you decide to do. However, I want my thoughts and feelings heard, validated and considered as much as you want yours. . . If we love each other, we have to love and accept ALL of each other and ourselves, even the things that are frustrating and that we don’t like.”

    I think he heard me.

    Awakening, Awareness, and Appreciation

    I started this blog a little over 10 months ago, with the intention to focus on healing and recovering from 40+ years of dysfunction and make internal changes toward rebuilding a more functional me and changing the future direction of my little family so that my youngest child will have a more stable and happier life than I was able to provide for my adult children or than what was given to me.

    In this time I and my little family have gone through a lot of transitions: Death of a loved one, unemployment, new job, intermittent separation, changes in educational services for Luna, transitioning from working parent to stay at home parent, unemployment, and another new job.

    Throughout it all have been the strained and transitioning relational dynamics of my adult children navigating their lives and figuring out their thoughts and feelings about me and how, if, and when I interact and engage with them. Our empty nest transition has been quite the roller coaster. I love them and they love me, but because of our history and what they’ve grown up through, I’m not their safe and trusted person. I understand it and there is a basis for that. It doesn’t change the fact the love for each other is there, it just means there’s a lot of baggage it filters through.

    I’ve spent a lot of this time in darkness and isolation, licking my wounds, feeling overwhelmed, helpless and hopeless. Sometimes actively fighting the darkness and other times passively accepting it and secretly welcoming the numbness of mind and heart.

    Slowly though, as I’ve been writing, I have been going through an awakening. I’ve been awakening to the truth that, despite what I feel or how things seem, I’m not in this alone. I’ve been awakening to the truth that love and acceptance of me, all of me – who I have been, who I will be, and who I am – exists, is present and available. I have to accept it and I have to let it soak into my deepest sense of who I am.

    As I have been awakening to this love, I’ve been receiving support, acceptance and encouragement from participating in and being included in this online community. That has comforted and soothed me. It has also strengthened me and helped reactivate courage and determination to continue forging ahead through what frequently feels like a never ending and losing battle.

    I’m starting to be more aware of the underlying currents of my unresolved and neglected emotions and the past events and thought patterns driving them. It’s overwhelming at times because now that I’m moving away from focusing all my thoughts and energies into those I’ve been co-dependent with or completely numbing out with food or escaping into books and television, I’m being confronted with the things inside of me I have masked and avoided so long.

    I feel raw, exposed, and more vulnerable than I ever have. Hyper-sensitivity and hyper-vigilance focused on others and what their feelings, thoughts, and opinions are of me are both diminishing and becoming more acute.

    Instead of being that way with anyone and everyone I come into contact with, as I have done in the past, I’m feeling more relaxed and it’s easier to believe I’m accepted and I am able to be more accepting of others. This is happening with new people, as well as with some of those who are reconnecting with me from my past.

    Alternatively, there are a few key people whose very name or presence cause all my defenses to kick into gear without hesitation or thought. People who I know love and care about me, but who trigger my sense of being judged and found guilty, less than, and unworthy. It’s very difficult to figure out the best way to interact with them in healthy and constructive ways. I am working on it though.

    I have been hurt from being written off and cast out of the lives of others and I do not want to cut people out and cast them aside, because I am having difficulty creating and enforcing healthy boundaries. My new boundaries are proving to be as challenging for others as they have been for me, however I am not giving up on either my relationships or my boundaries.

    Boundary setting is a new and difficult thing for me, but I am finding an internal freedom as I make progress. I am regaining my sense of humor; things that would normally send my thoughts down a path of doom and gloom are now things I can see and appreciate the absurdity of. I can laugh a genuine laugh, I smile spontaneously more often, and I catch myself being more responsive and engaging with my loved ones and others. I’m able to have conversations that don’t turn into me blurting out everything that’s gone wrong and drowning in tears.

    In my awakening I am becoming more aware and my appreciation for my life is growing.

    Disclaimers and Disclosures

    This is MY blog.  That means I get to choose what to write and how I go about it.  I have been very clear that this is basically an open journal that I use to process my thoughts and emotions as I go through a self-directed healing and recovery process. I am not an expert and do not claim any credentials to imply that I am an authority in any field related to psychological, emotional, medical, social, or legal processes or organizations.

    Due to certain experiences, conditions, and factors in my life I have gained insight, knowledge, and understanding in many of these areas.  However, that is limited and incomplete, filtered through my individual perceptions, preconceptions, values, and personality. Any statement made is a statement of MY truth and MY reality and not intended to dictate, sway, or convince anyone, anywhere that I have THE answers to anyone else’s questions or problems.

    I have been very open and clear that I am living life to the best of my ability while dealing with the untreated conditions of depression and fibromyalgia, both of which have physiological, psychological, emotional, and cognitive effects. The impact of these conditions on my reasoning, perceptions, and responses can be profound and often  factor into my relationships with my family and others.

    My personal past includes frequent cycles of chaos, conflict, and emotional disturbance. I often feel overwhelmed and incapable of functioning in my life or interacting with people. As a result my present life also consists of these things as I attempt to identify and address patterns of behavior, thought, and conflict. This blog is the place where I have and will continue to work through the details of triggering events. Many of these things have to do with people I interact with in my daily life, including the bureaucrats on the phone, pastors, fellow bloggers, and strangers on the street, as well as my family and friends.

    To some this may seem like airing my dirty laundry and targeting individuals to point out how I feel I have been victimized by them. This is not my intent at all. While I may include the details of what others have said or done as it relates to me, the focus is on my feelings, thoughts, choices, actions, and how I navigated the situation either effectively or where I went wrong and what I need to take from it in order to move forward. I do my best to not focus on what the other person did wrong or how they should have done it better. Although, there are times when that does happen because I may have to work through those feelings and thoughts before I can view them, the situation, and myself in a more objective light. I express how I feel about myself in response to my interaction with them and how I would like to have been treated or spoken to.

    I have done my best honor their anonymity by changing names so that those who do not know me or us will not readily identify them. I have not widely advertised this blog among people who know us and the few I have informed are either people I trust to be cautious and caring. I have informed the people mentioned in my blog that I have a blog and have provided them links to it at different times, inviting them to read and giving them the opportunity to read and respond if they choose to.  However, I do not send them a link each time I have a post in which an interaction I have had with them is disclosed.

    Recently, my failure to inform someone that I had or would be disclosing details of our interactions contributed to tensions in our relationship with each other. It was not my overt intent to target this person in a negative way or imply that this person was bad while I was good or hurt this person in any way. I was working through my own issues and my own feelings and my own thoughts.  The things that transpired between this person and myself were used as specific examples of the kinds of interactions that take  place between any number of people I care about and myself.

    Doing this on a public blog instead of in a private journal is risky because of all of these things and perhaps there are those who believe that I am out of line for doing so.  There are a couple of key reasons why I choose this public forum.  The first is that keeping private journals has not worked for me in the past. I would start a journal and then after a few days, weeks, or a month I would stop and then misplace the thing I was keeping it in. I’ve lost track of the number of notebooks and journals I have started and stopped, lost and found, and then read through to discover I’m still stuck writing the same things over and over again. This blog is the first medium I have ever been able to utilize in a way to write consistently and it has given me tools to be able organize my thoughts and review what I’ve already written to be able to effectively identify themes and issues or be able to recognize cycles and realize positive growth.

    Secondly, this is my effort to reach out to others and get connected after having isolated and ostracized myself for so long. Since I am limited in personal resources to actively and consistently  participate in community in my “real” world, this has been my path back to socialization. Through this blog I have expanded expanded my virtual community and begun taking steps to reconnect and grow in community in my day to day life.

    Third, battling depression and fibromyalgia, recovering from the affects of childhood neglect and abuse, and trying to change life-long coping skills and habits of co-dependency and food addiction are not things that can be done alone. By sharing my realities, experiences, successes, and failures I have been receiving encouragement, support, and hope from others. As I have done this, I have encountered others who are receiving the same from me just by reading my blog. The Twelfth Step is about helping others, sharing experience, strength and hope from a perspective of one who has truly been there, done that, and come out the other side.

    To find out more about 12 Step Recovery, start here at Recovery Corner. The article, Why We Were Chosen, illustrates the Twelfth Step perfectly.

    Peeling away the layers – an uncomfortable admission to self

    I’ve already acknowledged and accepted my compulsive/addictive issues around food and co-dependency, but what I have recently “discovered” (rather re-discovered) is that I’m also a Love/Relationship addict.  Which may actually be the underlying compulsion/addiction that drives the food and codependency issues, along with the depression.

    I’ve always known that not having healthy relationships and adults in my world who were capable of demonstrating them had impacted my life.  That was more than obvious.  What I’ve never truly understood or accepted is exactly how wounded, broken, distorted, and damaged I am because of the ones I did experience while growing up.  I was also in denial about the harm and damage I was passing along to my own children due to my emotional, psychological, and spiritual woundedness and immaturity. That’s all fairly obvious now, as well.

    Living with that knowledge buried in denial was suffocating me and causing further damage to those important relationships and reacting out of guilt and shame was keeping me sick and isolated.  Working the steps and facing these things is painful, difficult, and just plain nasty at times.  However, the alternative is to continue spiraling down into depression and avoidance so deep that I teeter on the verge of removing all hope for my future and the possibility of having functional relationships in the future with the people I care most about.  NOT. AN. OPTION.  So, seeking recovery is the only path left.

    The wreckage isn’t something that I can ever undo and I’m living with the consequences and results of choices made.  I can’t alter that.  I have to face and deal with the things and people in the here and now and not run away, avoid, or abandon any of it because it hurts. I didn’t get here overnight and making the changes I need to make, learning how to think and act differently and how to be present and aware of when, how, and why I make choices that obstruct or regress my recovery is a process, not an event.  Learning how to be in functional relationship with God, myself and others seems almost impossible, at the moment However, I have hope that healing can and will happen and that out of the wreckage and the consequences something whole, beautiful, and worthwhile will emerge…me.