Burning bridges, building boundaries.

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.

9 responses to Burning bridges, building boundaries.

  1. I can really relate to this! Thank you for sharing. I, too, am learning how to stand up for myself and realizing that I don’t own my mother an explanation for every little thing I do. I have lost myself in my constant need to keep everyone else happy. I am trying to do what makes me happy, and make myself a priority. I know what you mean about people making comments about how you’ve “changed” and that you seem cold–I have had the same experience. It’s definitely a tough situation to overcome! Hang in there, you’re not alone. 🙂

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    • Midnight Blahs – Author

      I truly appreciate your validation and sharing your own experience. It’s comforting to know that one’s struggle isn’t in vain and that others are heading the same way. I think as INFJs, codependency can be the dark side of our empathy- and I suspect that this is one of the biggest hurdles of an INFJ. What do you think?

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      • I agree! Our empathy is both a blessing and a curse. I am fairly certain my mother is an INFJ as well. She has some pretty major co-dependency issues that I have been on the receiving end of. I didn’t even realize it until recent years.

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      • Midnight Blahs – Author

        Ah, I see. My mother, though an ENTJ, is a codependent as well- I guess you could say codependency breeds codependency, though I dare not say this with absolute conviction. The beautiful thing about recovering and establishing boundaries is that after the initial hullabaloo, it raises many vital questions that can heal the other person, as well.

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      • How are you establishing boundaries? Just curious what has been effective for you. I have been keeping conversations away from personal topics and not engaging with her when she starts gossip about other family members. If she starts in with the guilt trips, I don’t even acknowledge it. I have no place in my life for that stuff. Have you seen healing on her end as well? My mother seems to be in complete denial, and lives in a “I do no wrong” la la land. It isn’t like her to take responsibility for her actions, and all of the issues in our relationship are completely my fault. 😦

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      • Midnight Blahs – Author

        Being an ENTJ, my mother is a very strong and determined woman. So it’s been a good 16-17 months of tense breakaway. I just broke down and refused to go on walking on eggshells and the insane wheel of perfectionism. She took it personally and was devastated over my ‘sudden’ change; after all she had done for me, after all these years…I spent months trying to appease her but to no avail. In the end I sat down with her and said; I do love and respect you, but there’s a difference between treating you with respect and being the best daughter I can be, and the direction I’m taking in life. I don’t exert control over my emotions and I won’t force something upon myself simply because you feel it’s the right thing to do; this is who I am- depressed,disheveled and clueless- and I need time to heal in my own pace.I won’t be a hypocrite and put on a mask.
        So I kinda flipped the tables there by separating my emotional boundaries from the codependent realm, if that makes sense. So I still was jolly and all with her, only I wouldn’t let her meddle in my personal issues.

        It’s a gradual individuation. My therapist told me that it’s like going through the process a child and an adolescence normally goes through of separation and individuation, only I’m doing it now because it was suppressed back then.

        Don’t expect her to change or acknowledge any hurt she has caused. Becoming independent entails healing those wounds without waiting for her acknowledgement. Also, you need to realize that this dysfunctional relationship dynamics is something that your mother has inherited; it’s perpetuated through generations of parent-child relationships.So she’s in denial because she went through a similar process as a young child, and now she genuinely knows no better. This is why I’m suggesting that you don’t hold onto the hope of her one day apologizing. Mourn,grieve and soothe your inner child that is waiting for mum to say sorry and wipe away the tears. Re-parent yourself.

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      • Interesting!! Very good advice, thank you. My mom was physically/mentally/emotionally abused by her own mother, and so was my grandmother. It’s run in the family for generations. My mom at least stopped the physical abuse cycle, but was pretty damaged herself after all of that. She tends to use her past as an excuse instead of going to thereapy. No one in the family will be honest with her, because she also has depression and everyone tip toes around her and her feelings, giving in to everything she wants. She used guilt trips frequently and made decisions for us. I had to learn how to think for myself when I left home. It is still a work in progress! Thank you for sharing your experiences, it is very helpful!

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