(I am not a doctor, psychologist, or therapist. Everything I have said in this post is based on my personal research and experience. Always consult a doctor, psychologist, or therapist for accuracy and a diagnosis.)
It’s easier for me to talk about what’s wrong with the world than it is for me to talk about what’s wrong within me. I’ve found flags to wave with pride, bringing attention to causes I deem important.
I can easily talk about the things near and dear to my heart, but it’s harder to talk about the things going on in my heart.
One thing I don’t really write about is something I should be shouting from the rooftops. Mostly because it’s part of my belief that I should be “brave enough to tell my story and kind enough to not tell anyone else’s.” Also, I happen to think that my story is awfully similar to many people’s stories – even if they don’t know it yet. There’s something miraculous that comes from a “Me too.”
I am a Codependent.
I will never forget the moment when codependency came on my radar. I was in the car with a dear, trusted friend. I was ranting about all the problems that were leading me to file for divorce at the wee age of 22. She asked me if I had ever read the book Codependent No More.
My response: Why? Does he need to read it? (Because, of course, it’s always the other person who has all the problems.)
Her response: No, Taylor. You do.
(Side note: You always need a friend who tells you the truth. The friends who tell you that you’re great 100% of the time are lying to you.)
I had no idea what codependency was. So I did what every 20-something does: I googled it. And then the tears. I spent days (which has lead to months) researching and studying codependency. This is what I learned:
Codependents need somebody to need them. They need other people to be okay with them in order to be okay with themselves. With heavy amounts of people pleasing/caretaking and low amounts of self-esteem, Codependents have trouble setting up boundaries and taking care of themselves. Often, Codependents are attracted to those with addictions and/or narcissists because they are some of the neediest of people.
And we need to be needed.
The website for Co-dependents Anonymous has a great overview of the generalized, common symptoms of codependency (found here). I will copy and paste some that jumped out at me as being daily problems in my life, for my entire life.
- have difficulty identifying what they are feeling
- think they can take care of themselves without any help from others
- mask pain in various ways such as anger, humor, or isolation
- express negativity or aggression in indirect and passive ways
- have difficulty making decisions
- judge what they think, say, or do harshly, as never good enough
- have difficulty admitting a mistake
- value others’ approval of their thinking, feelings, and behavior over their own
- need to appear to be right in the eyes of others and may even lie to look good
- are unable to identify or ask for what they need and want
- look to others to provide their sense of safety
- have trouble setting healthy priorities and boundaries
- are extremely loyal, remaining in harmful situations too long
- put aside their own interests in order to do what others want
- are hypervigilant regarding the feelings of others and take on those feelings
- believe people are incapable of taking care of themselves
- attempt to convince others what to think, do, or feel
- have to feel needed in order to have a relationship with others
- demand that their needs be met by others
- suppress their feelings or needs to avoid feeling vulnerable
All of a sudden my life made sense. The struggles I had since I was a little girl, the difficulties I had in relationships, and all the confusion finally made sense. It was the most liberating realization: I wasn’t crazy or broken. I simply had a problem. And we all have problems.
Soon after, I did read Codependent No More (HIGHLY suggest it!) like my friend suggested and let all the information soak into my brain. I wondered how a young woman growing up in a healthy, addiction-free home struggled with this problem. I wondered if this was something I could learn to overcome. I wondered what to do next. Lots of wondering happened.
This was a year and a half ago. I’m not healed, I still struggle with it daily, and I only have some answers. But my awareness of the problem makes my life easier. My codependent tendencies may affect my relationships, but they no longer control my relationships. It may take years of therapy, lots of hard work, and very patient loved ones for me to fully understand this problem. But it will not control my life.
With knowledge, I am empowered and retraining my thoughts. I am learning tools to make tomorrow better than yesterday. I am learning to say no when I need to, to do what I need to do when I need to do it, and to allow others to live their own lives.
I would like to write more about Codependency on my blog, but to do that I had to start by saying –
Hello, my name is Taylor, and I am a Codependent.
You too? Me too. We can do this.