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The thing about being codependent is you don’t know you are until someone points it out to you.
When I was a kid I was the one who took care of my younger brother and sisters. My mom figured out that by the time I was twelve I could do pretty much all the things she could. I could cook, clean, do the laundry, dress my siblings. So she decided to let me just do all those things. She decided she was ready for a break and made me handle everything. Soon she started just leaving the house all together and left me in charge. I had to make sure my three siblings didn’t kill themselves or burn the house down while also getting the chores done, house cleaned and dinner ready before my dad came home. I was the new nanny.
Since that time I have worried about my siblings as if they were my own children. I watched them do things to themselves and make decisions that weren’t the best and tried to parent them only to get burned in the process. I would worry myself to death over them and try to help them or fix them but only end up with so much stress and anxiety that I would be so mad all the time.
So I started finding friends to worry over. If someone came into my life and was terrible at making life decisions for themselves I would take it upon myself to try and fix it for them. I would take on such high maintenance relationships because that’s all I knew. I always thought I had to be there for people and try to help them get out of their crappy lives.
The thing about being codependent is you stop worrying about your own needs and focus more on other’s problems and try to fix them for them. You feel a responsibility to take care of them and “save them from themselves”. A lot of time this happens because someone you love has become addicted to drugs or has an illness and you feel like you have to make excuses for them because of this. You in a way become an enabler for bad behavior or the continuation of bad decisions that they don’t learn from. You just go behind them and fix it so they never learn anything because they know you’re there to clean up the mess. You keep this up because there’s a feeling of importance in this kind of relationship. It makes you fell better to take care of someone but you don’t realize how taxing it is on you.
It wasn’t until I had kids an started to realize that I couldn’t help anyone anymore. I had a baby and he needed me more than anyone. I started to spend less time with people and they would still try to come to me but I would brush them off or try to avoid them. They would question me and I would feel guilty and it just added to my stress, anxiety and depression. Then I started therapy and realized I suffered from codependency. I was so trained to try to solve everyone else’s problems I wasn’t fixing my own. I was taking all their stress upon myself for no reason. I remember my therapist clearly saying, “You seem to find chaos because you think that’s the only way you can function. You need to step outside of that.”
She handed me a piece of paper that had a list of traits that a person with codependency would have. As I read it I started crying. Most of those things described me. Finally seeing it and confronting it made me realize I need to stop this, I’m doing it to myself. Those people that I try to help cannot be helped because they don’t want to change. They just want someone to always be there to make them feel better about themselves and I couldn’t do it anymore.
Since I have made the conscious decision to remove myself from most people and their problems I’ve noticed a little bit of hate. There are a couple reasons for this.
The main reason I stopped trying to help or fix other people is because I am a mother. I have two little people who rely on me completely. They actually need me. I have to focus the majority of my energy on them and their needs and though it’s rewarding, it’s exhausting. I also have a husband who needs my attention, not in the way my children do but I value my marriage and my relationship with him. He’s very important to me, as he should be. After giving them all my attention, energy and love I do not have anything left to give. This is why my friends seem to be disappointed in me. Not all of my friends feel this way, I know some of them understand because they have kids and spouses so they understand. There are some though that have gotten fed up with me because I don’t seem to make an effort anymore. It’s not that I don’t care or don’t want them in my life I just cannot take on their issues on top of my own. Before I had kids I could help anyone and everyone. Now I can’t and I know that sucks but it is what it is. For my own mental health I just can’t hold that many friendships.
Another reason is I have been more upfront and honest with new friends about why I can’t be that person that they can cling to. I know, it’s awful but I don’t want people to get their hopes up. I just don’t have the emotional energy anymore. It makes me feel like a bad person, the guilt is the hardest thing to get rid of but it’s either I’m transparent about how I feel or you get mad at me for being a bad friend.
I try my hardest to be a positive, encouraging and helpful person but when I have too many people dumping on me all the time it makes me feel drained and negative and depressed. All the things that put me right back where I was before I started therapy. Anyone who has gone to therapy knows how much work it is, don’t make me undo it all.
There is help, if you feel like you might be suffering from codependency I urge you to see a therapist and get yourself some help. It has made my life so much easier, even if I have less friends for it. Your quality of life is more important than having a bunch of people put all their stress and anxiety on you. You can’t help anyone if you don’t help yourself first.