I’ve chronicled some of my journey out of codependency here, here and here . It’s been a rigorous two months of painful introspection, crazy reading and boundary-building. I’ve burnt my codependency- bridges and built a solid foundation for myself. This did not sit well with people around me; they can’t understand my ‘sudden’ change of character. I appear brute,rude and selfish. I had a great falling-out with mother last night, who was furious over my snarky behaviour. I hadn’t done or said anything to justify such a lash-out, but I’ve become indifferent. I don’t become rattled as easily anymore. If she had lashed out at me with such intensity in the past, it’d take me months to recover. I’m not numb, but I’m standing up for myself for the first time, and I don’t need to explain why. I realized that I have the right to be me, even if my behaviour appears erratic. I need to take care of myself, which I’ve never done.
My sister asked me last night why the sudden survival-like mode? Why did I seem so cold? Although she is only a couple of years younger than I am, she knows very little about who I am. Growing up, I was always separate from my siblings; it’d be said Mulki and the kids. In fact, this dichotomy still exists where I’m held up to far greater expectations than my siblings. If they do something productive, it’s praised because it’s not expected of them, but if I do it it goes unnoticed, and in fact, it’s trivialized. I had to live up to my parents’ dreams as well as leading my siblings, being the scapegoat,the golden child, the face of the family to others. My intellectual prowess was highlighted and I’d constantly hear that this was the only good thing about me, hence why I’m ‘put up with’. They said it in a benign way, so as to say you’re the genius, don’t lose your sparkle. But to me, it only fuelled my perfectionism and effectively drained me inside. I lived like a slave to all and sundry; if I heard of anyone in plight I felt compelled to help them whether it be financially or becoming involved myself. If I went to a relative’s house, I’d start cleaning and helping them out the minute I come in, so much so that I’m renowned as the cleaning expert. I felt compelled to be of service to anyone I crossed paths with, be it in real life or online. I’d dole out advice- often unsolicited- and effort. If I failed to do any of the aforementioned, it felt as if I failed as a person. I was a failure.
I was empty inside because I was taught that the only sides of me that were acceptable were the ‘useful’ ones. Any superfluity and unfavoured traits had to be repressed as part of a survival technique of a frail child.
The same for romantic relationships; I had an anxious-attachment style that meant my needs didn’t matter and I had no inherent value in myself; thus, I had to overcompensate by being loving and giving and never receiving. I essentially repeated the pattern I had with mother.
I had an interesting dream a couple of nights ago that was a harbinger of my change. I had gone out with a guy that I was enchanted by, and we sat far apart in a house, watching a movie. While I was watching the movie, he was engrossed in sending and receiving text messages that made him grin. I had an inner conflict, because I felt disrespected and I also suspected that he was flirting with other girls, but I was scared to stand up for myself and tell him off. After a while of biting my tongue, I said calmly’ you seem to be fond of texting‘ after which I picked up my stuff and prepared to leave. He jolted up and swore that it wasn’t a woman, demanding that I take a look at his phone to be convinced. I told him I’m not going to stoop so low as to go through your private stuff, I respect your privacy and I’m not going to compel you to do any differently. However, I’m going to leave because this situation is not favourable for me, and that is something I have the right to do.
He became enraged and I was momentarily scared for my life, but not willing to budge come hell or high water. When he saw my obstinacy, he started whimpering and begging, at which point the spell he exerted over me broke, and I saw him through unaffected eyes that he was mundane, bland even, I realized my fear made him out to be more extraordinary than he actually was, and now that the fear dissipated, so too did the illusion.
Out of all my emotional and mental struggles, admitting my codependence was by far the toughest and most taxing. I was, and in a way still am, deeply ashamed of this. I mean, being described as needy,clingy,insecure? I’m involuntarily grimacing as I type this,a knee-jerk reaction to the connotation of the word. It’s not that I fear being seen in such a light, but I think it’s a tell-tale sign of something much deeper, much darker; shame. Shame is the root of all my antics and efforts in polishing my ‘disgusting’ surface. I’m ashamed of who I am, my younger self ,because I learnt that who I am is irrelevant unless it brings benefit to others. Hence the perfectionism,people-pleasing,conflict-avoiding…
And that’s why codependency is such a horrifying reality to me; in it my broken self is reflect, the self I’ve been trying to forget about.
This is also why I am writing about it. This risky venture is to show myself that I’m accepted by myself. I don’t need to be embarrassed, for who is going to judge me? And those who do, only do so because they see in me something they are evading. The only way I can heal is by being vulnerable,authentic and brave.
This is not to say that this is the last chapter; I don’t think mental and emotional wounds fully disappear. They always leave a mark, a scar that makes one stronger. Think about it; how can one fully accept themselves if they hadn’t worked so hard to reject themselves? How can one be autonomous and independent, if they never experienced codependency and dependency? How can relish the sunlight if they haven’t been plagued by the darkness of night? I believe codependence isn’t a state as such, but is simply an extreme point on a spectrum. I guess my pendulum swung too far to the other side, and recovery entails mindfulness and bringing myself back to my centre every time the pendulum is pushed by a gust of wind, or suchlike events.