For most of my life I have hoped to find happiness through other people. You know I hoped that the perfect partner will make me happy, that I would actually not have to work hard for my happiness after this man of dreams will knock at my door. It felt easier. My life felt just like waiting for this perfect love, waiting to start living my life.
For those reasons, I did not dwell so much on how I could create the life of my dreams. Yes, I had hobbies, yes I even studied hard, etc., but I think most of it I did in order to somehow perfect myself for this man who was going to show up.
Letting go of this idea of love healing everything is….well disillusioning. Furthermore, realizing that the idea of your partner making you happy is shared by so many people is even more frightening. Not only am I learning how to make myself happy, there is even a likelihood that I have others around me who expect me to make them happy.
The discovery that kind of struck me today was – most people around me are in fact less happy than I am. They are less happy with themselves. Many of them still expect others to make them happy and spend time complaining about that not happening. Their focus is not on how to make themselves happy, but they shift the responsibility to – how others are making me unhappy. Because it is easier. It is easier to focus on the mistakes of other people rather than to admit that you are responsible for your own happiness.
Once you reach to that realization it is not exactly freeing. Rather you feel the weight of responsibility. Suddenly if you are unhappy it is your job to figure out what makes you unhappy and fix it. It feels exhausting. The first reward comes from observing other people going around circles blaming others for their inner lack. This is when you start to feel slight empowerment and get a sense of achievement.
Unfortunately I have not yet reached further than this point, so I cannot really say what happens after…..
Next month my ex will finally move out of our common apartment. Luckily I have spent a lot of time this spring visiting my home country so I have not had to be with him all the time, but enough. It is weird because for a long time I refused to let go. I was really scared of living alone and now, well I want him to go. I am still scared, but I want him to go.
Why? Because I think two people who have been in a co-dependent relationship are bound to fall into old patterns. It is all too easy for me to become overly dependent and ask my ex about things. Innocent things such as, asking for advice on how to handle people, asking him to bring me something from the store, just asking him for all kinds of help. To feel that someone cares. It is all too easy for him to use me as a distraction from his own issues. To focus on what is wrong with me. Things being wrong with me, does not make him right.
I can see the aftermath of codependency in both of us. My ex has been sending me some messages on how he hates himself. How he feels lonely and depressed. To be honest, I sympathize and I do not. I do not sympathize because I am thinking of all these years when he claimed that all the problems in the relationship were mine. How he told me how much more psychologically healthy he is and how he does not need me a bit. There is a bit of a victory for me in him realizing how nice of a distraction my problems were for him. But more than the taste of victory there is gratitude for my problems taking such an important place in the relationship. Yes, it was tough to always hear what was wrong with me, but at least my problems were all brought to a daylight. I had a chance to work on those. Ex, on the other hand is now painfully hit by his issues which he thought he did not have.
The aftermath of codependency in me is illustrated by me still living together with him. By me still occasionally messaging him when I have a problem. It happens fewer and fewer times. During the last month perhaps two times. But the aftermath of codependency in me is also that I am now noticing how controlling my ex was. How he guilt-tripped me about all his care and love. How most of the time I felt like I did not deserve him caring for me. How helpless I felt both before the relationship with him, but also in the relationship with him. The helplessness was and is mine. I let this helplessness guide my life and my life choices. My ex did not make me helpless, but he took advantage of this helplessness on occasions. Just as I took advantage of his caring, not giving nearly enough back.
All and all, I am happy that I am leaving this experience behind. I am happy that I have finally the chance to learn how to take care of myself. Take individual responsibility for my life, my choices – everything. Through relying on others, through constantly delegating responsibility, we are making ourselves feel even more dependent. My ex was like a facilitator of my dysfunction and I was the facilitator of his. I do not want to spend my whole life feeling helpless.
I am visiting my home country and as I talk to my old friends, I also understand that I have vastly different needs and expectations on communication today compared to seven years ago. I think it stroke me when I was trying to converse with an old friend and the conversation just did not go anywhere. It was like pulling the teeth, for me. Quick look into how my friend relates to other people and I understood – his common way of relating is non-personal. For him to talk about either his feelings or someone else’s feelings makes him vastly uncomfortable. I think it is sad. Why? Because he is currently ill and there is no one visiting him and taking care of him. He has plenty of acquaintances with whom he regularly relates to, but apparently no one who would be close enough to really go out of their way to care. I think it is exactly because he is not really relating to people on a deeper level.
My friend, of course is no exception. I have another friend with whom there is to some degree the same kind of wall. We talk about our life philosophies, different interesting topics, but it is always non personal. I know very little about his personal life. In fact I know nothing about his current romantic involvements. However, he is an interesting person to talk to and I would still call him a friend.
Then I have another friend with whom I can talk about personal matters. I also know quite a bit about his personal history. We have a similar way of reflecting on our experiences, searching some meaning and reason behind our actions. However, the problem with him is that I feel I cannot really trust him one hundred percent. I feel sometimes that he is engaging in some kind of power play with me. Like our communication was some kind of hidden battle where he needs to prove that he comes out on top. How does it show? – well it shows when he is occasionally telling me how my observations about his behavior were obvious, when he is desperately trying to tell me how he is smarter than I am etc. I am particularly in tune with such power plays because that was my exes Buena forte.
Then I have another friend with whom I can again talk about intimate things, feelings etc. He is going through difficult time now and to be honest is wearing me off with his neediness. He wants to constantly talk about psychological issues, either his or mine and I am of the opinion that not all communication needs to be about deep issues. He reminds me of myself when I discovered therapy and was deep into my issues, in a way that this was all I could talk about. To be honest, being at the receiving end of this is tiresome.
I am guessing that I am developing an idea of how I would want a friendship to be. I think similarly to relationships and needs, we have certain needs for our friendships. Probably no friend can fulfill all our needs, but I am getting a feeling that I am really missing a friend who would be in line with my current needs. Rather, several of my friendships are a testament about who I once was. Some of them speak about intimacy avoidance, some of neediness etc. I am understanding that people you let into your life become to define you. It is my time now to decide how I want to be defined and what are my needs in regards to friendships.
Lately I have had episodes of feeling sad. Well, lately is probably a nice way to put it, because the truth is I have been struggling with sadness all my life. Lets rephrase, lately I have started to observe and analyze how the mechanism functions. So I will try to verbalize my observations.
What usually happens to me is that I feel lonely and isolated. Not so much even thinking that everybody has great lives, but rather feeling that I cannot burden other people with my problems. Furthermore, I feel like perhaps if I share this feeling of sadness which keeps accompanying me through life with others, they might not like me anymore. So this again exaggerates this loneliness, because I feel I cannot really talk about feeling lonely with anyone without being stigmatized.
The stigmatization is partially in my head, but partially also true. Lately that I checked, people do not like other people that are downers. The problem is, you isolate yourself further because you cannot be true to yourself. You hide your true feelings, instead choosing to talk about something which is not so relevant, not so sensitive. This pretty much sums up my whole life and my reaction to this sadness.
As a result of never talking about your true and deep feelings of sadness, you feel disconnected. You feel like social interactions are not really giving you what you need and as a result you feel even lonely at the presence of others. You have perhaps to a degree tried to share this deep feeling of loneliness, but then met either some basic suggestion such as – use positive affirmations or people just do not understand what you are talking about.
So the loneliness is reproducing itself. After your failed attempts of connection to others about your issues you feel that your internal feeling of being the odd one out, the freak – never being understood, will only gather strength. You feel as if, in order to connection to others, you need to first change yourself. To somehow make this loneliness disappear. But in the process you isolate yourself more….
So lately I am starting to feel as if I am reentering to my life. No, do not get me wrong, plenty of more challenges to grapple, but I at least have a feeling like I can participate in my life again.
It is difficult to explain to someone who has never been in psychotherapy how therapy feels. Lets put it like this, you know the feeling that you get when you are really ill and in bed – well therapy creates such a feeling, but psychologically. So coming out of therapy is like going out after a long illness, you feel weird walking, but you also enjoy the freshness of the air on your skin. I now have this sense of freshness and some relief. This relief is still mixed with weakness and occasional signs from the illness, but at least I can go out.
However, I am thinking back to my twenties. Twenties for many people are the carefree time of enjoyment, partying – you now feeling less responsibilities on your shoulders than any time else. My twenties were mostly spent either on being really dysfunctional and unhealthy before therapy or being completely disengaged and barely ‘alive’ during the therapy. So now I feel like I somehow missed this little rest that most people have, before they get to the life with mortgages, kids, taking care of your ageing parents etc. And you know, as I am facing these future responsibilities, I still feel tired of my intense psychotherapy and I still feel I am learning how to be functional.
So, I guess I am scared. I am scared that there will never be too much enjoyment in my life. That I will always struggle, it is just different kinds of struggles. I am even afraid that maybe I will burnout at some moment. There have been so many struggles during the past ten years that I am not sure how long I can keep up with this kind of life. The only hope that I have is that, maybe therapy has prepared me to cope with many of these challenges in an effortless way.
So recently I have been reading the book called “Don’t call it love: Breaking the cycle of relationship dependency”. As the title indicates, the book has gotten me thinking about my own dependency.
To be honest, I am not sure where I stand in my recovery. I know that before therapy I was a hardcore relationship dependent, going from one relationship to another, delegating responsibility for my life to other people etc. Now for the first time in my life I seem to be OK with the idea of being single. Well, part of me seems to be OK with it. So I assume progress has been made. However….
The truth be told, I have my other addictions which I use in order to cope with my sense of helplessness. I still do not feel quite in control of my life and the idea of having to accept full responsibility for it overwhelms and exhausts me. It seems altogether too much. Going from believing that the only way you can exist is through someone else taking care of you to well, I need to take care of myself. Suddenly you discover all these areas of your life which you hope some future partner will take care of.
In my case I hoped my future partner will take care of my financial situation, my accommodation, my lacking friends circle, my past time activities, my emotional stability….I guess these are the main things. Having to accept responsibility for all this myself seems too much too soon.
I have been ill already twice during this spring. I assume that my illnesses have something to do with this feeling of overwhelm which is accompanied by my acknowledgement that I will need to take care of all these areas myself. My body is reacting to the stress. I wish there was an easy way to get used to accepting this responsibility. Others usually get to mature and take these responsibilities step by step. I feel with me it is all hitting me at once. It is extremely tiring and my body just wants to shut down, I guess…
As I am brooding over my deal with dating, I am coming to understand that I have adapted completely wrong practices in dealing with negative emotions from my childhood. My practices vary from instant gratification to ignoring, but very little of my energy has been directed to actually dealing with these negative emotions. But lets delve on the topic a bit closer.
My habits are quite likely copied from my mother. My mother has versatile ways of dealing with negative emotions, one worse than another- firstly of course diving into work, but then also food and alcohol. Lets not forget shopping – my mother’s apartment is filled with stuff she will never need. She is also good in taking her emotions out on other people, mostly me. Finally, she is also good in denial, you know if I do not acknowledge these emotions exist, maybe they do not exist at all.
I would continue with my unhealthy habits, but the sad truth is that you can pretty much copy paste the last paragraph. In addition, however, I have also taken the approach of seeking emotional nurturing. It is not necessarily bad thing, I think it might even be one step closer to healthy ways of dealing with my emotions. However, the way I do this, is problematic. Namely, I tend to think that if I just replace old love with some new love interest, I do not have to deal with the sad and painful emotions related to the old one – Quite common, actually, and the prime reason why people hop from one relationship to another.
But…I do not want to do this anymore. As I was going through guys who have sent me messages, I realized that I am too emotionally exhausted to date. In fact, what I am looking for is emotional support and not some new date. It is unfair to expect that a new date is somehow going to resolve my issues from a guy who ghosted me. So, instead I am going to do something which I have not done before. I am going to wait with dating and I am going to take care of my emotions, my pain……MYSELF.
I am going to express feelings which I assume do not only characterize my own position, but that of many people who have undergone therapy. So let me say this straight – therapy is a lot of ungratifying work for which you pay a lot. Essentially there is nothing enjoyable or gratifying about therapy. You are going to experience bunch of emotions which you have tried to avoid so far and you are going to feel bad with slight variations of less bad. Depending on how deep your trauma is, this feeling of badness may prevail for years as it has in my case.
The whole problem with therapy is that there is little instant gratification. Gratification comes with seeing yourself slowly getting better and better. However, this process is sometimes painfully slow. Furthermore, as therapy costs a lot, you are less likely to be able to afford other kinds of gratifications such as vacation trips, extensive shopping etc.
I have cut down my entertainment costs for years. I have not been able to save any money for buying an apartment either. Sometimes I question my choices, but then I remember exactly how messed up I was when I started therapy. That however does not mean that there are not times when I think – oh god, other people seem to go and enjoy their lives and I am just stuck in therapy.
If you go for psychotherapy as is the case with me, you are going to be rather dysfunctional for a long time. In my case this period could have been about four years. You are basically picking yourself to pieces and then trying to reassemble yourself. Questions which are in the center of other people’s lives such as – having kids, taking a mortgage whatever, do not really belong to your every day.
Currently I feel exhausted. I feel like I have worked really hard for a lot of years and there is still some work to do. I assume it is like with a marathon, these last miles….You have gone through all this distance and you know you cannot give up, because otherwise the result will be – you did not finish. It kind of does not matter if you stopped in the first mile or thirtieth mile. So you have no choice but to continue unless you want your years of work to be for nothing. However, sometimes I just wish I could crawl into some nice warm soft place and not have to work so hard with my emotions anymore.
I know the results are probably worth it, but still that does not take away the feeling of wanting to have some gratification now and not in the future.
My default mode is to give responsibility for my life to someone else….Anyone else that agrees to take it. I mean, anyone else would be better qualified to take this responsibility than me, myself. I wonder why?
Of course, add to the equation also the fact that I do not really trust other people to stick around and you get a funny combination. I want someone to prove to me that they can take this responsibility and that I can count on them, but I am never convinced that I actually can.
So I can see two issues here. One is that I keep hoping that someone else will help me with things which any responsible adult should be able to handle themselves. The other problem is though my trust issues. And guess what, as much as I wanted to meet this person who would take responsibility for my life, I ran into two interlinked problems.
The first issue was that no one really wants to be responsible for another adult. I mean this is too much responsibility. I mean, whoever wants to be responsible, you should be suspicious off, because likely there is a significant tradeoff somewhere. The other issue was of course that I also tended to choose guys that were either instable or too immature to stick around once I had serious problems.
I am trying to take the responsibility for my life nowadays, but it is long and difficult process. It has its relapses.
Today I want to talk about some illogical connections which my childhood has created in my head. There is really not a better word I can currently find for that as I am still exploring the issue myself.
So the thing is, my childhood was about somehow finding out a way how to control my mother’s reactions to me. The whole childhood I entertained the idea that if I only tried hard enough, I would find a way to control these reactions and her dysfunctional emotions. So that was one and most primary purpose behind why I did things and also largely defined where I chose to put my efforts to. Mostly my efforts went to studying well and well, not making myself too visible. Just being low key and not driving any attention to myself. Of course I also suffered on constant anxiety – a feeling I could never really make sense of when I was a child. Anyways, I invested to something which my mother held dear – namely schoolwork. The rest, well….obviously was not of much importance or well did not give any significant effect as to whether my mother would be happy or not.
The problem here is that somehow such a focus came to define my life. During the university I focused on my school work. As other people explored social life and other things, I hanged along to a degree, but in my mind this was not important. I had internalized the idea that as long as I do well in school, everything will be fine. Labor market was scary for me, because school provided the safe haven. The only place where I knew how things function.
Such exaggerated focus to schoolwork during my growing up years and treating the success in school as some kind of key to success to all other areas of life has had a termendous effect on how I live my life. I have continuously ignored other areas thinking that if only work hard enough, somehow other areas would fall into place. Somehow I would feel more safe and somehow I would not experience problems in my finances etc. It is kind of magical thinking really – and the kind of thinking which does not help one in life. I have focused so much on my work because that was the only thing where I felt I could excercize some kind of control. School – the only thing that allowed me to somewhat control my mother’s reactions and feel like I am less dependent on her moods.
That is not how life works though…..