Magical Thinking

Now that I’m back in the “program”, or at least the self-made version of it that I can handle right now, I’ve decided to continue reading Love is a Choice by Drs. Robert Hemfelt, Frank Minirth, and Paul Meier. I’ve reread Chapters 1-4 and will pick up my analysis with Chapter 5, which begins to examine the childhood mind of a codependent, rewinding the clock to see just where the twisting of our thoughts originated –

Magic words are not the sole property of fairy godmothers. The child thinks: If I do such-and-so, this-and-that will happen. If I am perfect, Mommy will love me. If I do everything exactly right, Daddy will notice me…

In the child’s eyes anything Mommy and Daddy feel is necessarily generated by the child. “If Mommy is unhappy it must be because of me.” “If I weren’t a pain in the neck, Daddy wouldn’t drink so much.”

“If I do X then Y will happen” Magical thinking. Codependent thinking…

That feeling of responsibility for what happens has a very ugly flip side: “If it doesn’t turn out all right, it’s my fault for not trying harder.”

Cue the floodgates that are my tear ducts now. This is me. If I really choose to introspectively dissect my childhood emotions, I know that I  have always striven to be the “golden child” angel– to never be a problem for my mother so that she wouldn’t leave me like my father did. Because that has to be why he abandoned me, right? I wasn’t good enough to keep his love. So I poured myself into getting the straight A’s, mentally destroying my psyche whenever I achieved anything below a 100%. I never smoked, snuck out, did drugs; I went to church every Wednesday and Sunday, volunteered, and won awards just about each month for both academic and moral character. I secretly promised my mother that I would never, EVER give her cause to leave me. Though not once did she ask for any of these things (verbally or nonverbally), it became my own personal mantra, which has now morphed from the conscious repetitions of a child for the case of remembering to the constant, reiterative of a deeply codependent mind that cannot be turned off.

Fast forward about 20 something years and here I stand now. A few days ago, I went to visit J in the detox facility and as part of his recovery, he opened up to me about just how bad his substance addiction had become. It turns out he wasn’t taking the Sangel-06ubutex as prescribed but was instead abusing it in the worst manner, right under my nose, for more than a year. Hearing this news and subsequent details literally broke me.  How could this happen? I had been careful. had known him, loved him, adored him. I had made sure to be the perfect girlfriend – supported his career even when it meant months apart, put my own needs on pause because “there will be time for that later”, and constantly tried to keep his interest by suggesting activities that catered to his likes . What could I have possibly done wrong? How could he do this to me?

See what I did there? I turned a “J” situation into an “I” situation. It was my initial instinct. The first thing I did when I left the detox was to call his parents and apologize for not catching the warning signs sooner, for being completely unknowledgeable in this area, and for letting this happen to their son. Unfortunately (or fortunately for me), they have been here with J multiple times before, so they were quick to reassure me that I played no part in pushing him to where he is. It was completely his own selfish choice, driven by the disease that is addiction. I heard everything they said but it passed through me like an ineffective breeze. It was only after reading Chapter 5 that my self-flagellation began to ease. Even if I was a “better” girlfriend, maybe J would still be checked into a detox, trying to heal. Maybe…just maybe…this really isn’t my fault. Even as I type that, I feel a little piece of weight and responsibility fall of my shoulders, and for an instant it is euphoric. Then rushing forward came the guilt, and it replaced the burden that had just slipped free.

That is what I am wrestling with. I am trying to take the magical thinking of my childhood, which has been tattooed onto the very essence of my being, and morph it using logic, reasoning, and knowledge to fight back against my codependent brain.

tattoo

I am in the midst of war between my head and my heart, my past and my present, and we have yet to see who will win in the end. It is my goal to one day have those competing influences align, but I’m so screwed up that they must stand on opposite sides of the ring for now. So I sit in the struggle, choosing at least to make an effort to dissect, examine, and learn, and that will just have to do.

Baby steps.

Fighting the Darkness

My heart is so heavy, and my stomach is sick with disgust. Today, yet another mass shooting occurred, this time right in my backyard. 3 suspects entered a regional center for children and adults with special needs and opened fire, fatally wounding 14 people. Having begun my journey working with young children with special needs, this especially torments me. I can only imagine the experience through the eyes of individuals who already struggle with over-stimulation, are easily startled/triggered, and who wrestle with emotional regulation as they were thrust in the middle of one of the scariest situations any person could endure. I send my deepest condolences to all of the families who were affected by today’s heinous crime.

I only have one question..why? What motive could anyone have to rain havoc and destruction on any group of people, let alone those that struggle with disabilities?  What has our world come to? This is a thought that I know is on most everyone’s mind, and I can’t even fathom where to begin to address it. Maybe there is no straight answer except that there is unexplainable evil in the world with which each person battles internally, some of us winning and some of us losing. But that doesn’t satisfy, does it?

Today, I sat with my little client, Jack, as his mother watched the aftermath of the shooting play out on her television set. Everything in me ached. All I wanted to do was hold Jack close and protect him from all of the evil out there in the world – to lock him up where he will be safe, but doing that is an injustice in of itself. It would deprive Jack of all the good I know is still out there too.

So I now have made it my mission to give Jack as many tools as possible to help him with his difficult areas and prepare him for his journey ahead. I guess that’s really all we can do. We cannot change the heart of every person, predict and modify everyone’s thoughts and behaviors, or prevent all the bad things in life from happening. Instead, we can inform the ones we love of the unpredictability of human nature and equip them with the necessary tools to handle any situation as early as possible. We cannot control every variable, but we can manipulate our given pieces to allow ourselves – and the ones we love – the best advantage point to tackle whatever life can throw. Whether it’s by teaching our little ones self defense, awareness, calming techniques, or tolerance for stimulation, we have tools at our disposal. Though it may not feel like it in distressing times like these, we are not powerless.

Let me say that again -WE. ARE. NOT. POWERLESS.

Yes, right now it may seem as though the enemy – the overwhelming evil of the world – has won. But it only wins when we stop fighting. So today, though my heart is indeed so heavy, I pledge to never stop. I will continue to educate my loved ones about the bad AND the good, teach them all I can, and then let them add the light of their life to the world. If we keep this up, and our little ones pass on the same lessons to their families down the road, and so on and so forth, eventually the light will outweigh the dark.

We just have to keep trying.

My Cloud 9

sunrise

You know those moments when you just need life to cut you a break, and then suddenly, something, Someone makes it all go your way? Well, that just happened to me. Now, I’m not religious, but I do believe in a Higher Power that is bigger than what I ever could conceptualize, and I have feeling He/She had something to do with all this. But that’s besides the point.

See, yesterday, my little client Lily (whose name has been changed for confidentiality purposes) returned to school from Thanksgiving break, which meant it was time for me to go back to work too.

A little backstory is needed here – Lily, unlike most of my clients, is not on the Autism Spectrum, but instead has tested as exceptionally gifted. She does, however, have a few behavioral issues that have gotten out of hand – such as screaming, biting, kicking, and escaping the classroom – whenever she is triggered by a particular event. Being new to behavior therapy and taking on this case, I knew that I would have an extremely steep learning curve to catch up on asap. Thus, it was a total game of trial and error with her my first week. Of course I’m being guided by a BCBA (board certified behavior analyst) who I report to for feedback, but out on the field during the day, I am completely on my own. After my first week with Lily, I felt completely at a loss, stressed and overwhelmed. Particularly on the last day before the break, Lily had a gigantic 10/10 meltdown that left me totally disheartened. While all Lily’s school teachers constantly affirm my work and thank me for my presence, commenting on the improvement Lily has shown since my arrival, I still cannot help but feel inadequate.

work

With all of that being said, I was so thankful for Thanksgiving break. It allowed me the chance to regroup and recenter myself. However, on Sunday night, the familiar knot of anxiety crept back into my life. I was dreading work the next day, especially since I had received an email from Lily’s parents just warning me that they expect a rough transition for their little girl the next day.

dragging

So I came to work 100% prepared for the worst – armed with my best known reinforcers – and I walked into the school with a heavy heart. However, as soon as I stepped out onto the play yard, I saw a tiny little figure dressed in purple dashing towards me, and the next thing I knew, I had a little girl wrapped around my legs. I looked down and was so happy to see Lily! We quickly entered into a vibrant discussion about her vacation, and from that moment on, I knew it was going to be a good day. Whether we were able to accomplish specific behavioral goals or not, I knew that a rapport between us had been built base don her excitement to see me, and that alone was a win in my book. But Lily was amazing the whole day! Plus, I discovered a potential reinforcer that kept her engaged whenever she started to spin out of control, helping her refocus on each activity. She even accomplished the projects assigned to her (which has been rare lately), and I could not have been more pleased. Lily’s teacher approached me at the end of the day and said she had never seen this much focus from Lily before and was excited about what the future held. She shook my hand and thanked me over and over, and my heart was ablaze with pride.

It really was as if my Higher Power knew I needed the encouragement and somehow gave my little Lily a sense of peace and calm to help ME transition. Even if it’s just coincidence, or karma, or whatever else, I am still so incredibly thankful. I know I have much to learn about being a Behaviorist, but as of now, I really do believe this is where I belong. I was reminded of my love for working with kiddos and the importance of falling back to that passion whenever I feel discouraged. And that – that feeling of being right where I am supposed to be- above all things is the best opponent for inadequacy that I could ever ask for.

So right now, I’m walking on a cloud! A beautiful, behavioral analyst cloud and I’m going to ride it for as long and as far as I can. Look out behavioral world…here I come!

Cloud Computing

 

Dear Depression

This time of year is weird for me…most of my major break-ups or “almost” break-up have happened around this season, and they have left deep imprints in my subconscious. Guess summer lovin’ is really a thing. reaperEven so, those periods were really dark and disheartening times filled with inconsolable crying, loss of appetite, and an insatiable love for sleep. Now, even though every thing is right in the world, I cannot help but feel incomprehensibly sad, almost as if Depression was an old friend that has returned to Her winter home in my heart.

Is emotional PTSD a thing? I don’t mean to diminish the mental illness that many suffer through without relief, but that’s honestly how I feel. The same, familiar permeating sadness has settled in around me once again, confining and claustrophobic. I cannot stand it, but I also cannot shake it.

I need to do something. I don’t have time to be in a funk. Wait, let me try that again: Ain’t nobody got time fo dis s***! So I definitely need to do some analyzing because it’s been proven to help before –

Well here goes. Let’s start with WHY – why am I feeling like I have been dragged into a dark tunnel that has been sealed off on both ends yet again?

I think at the crux of it all, I’m scared. Everything feels just like it did when my world was crumbling – the temperature of the air is colder, sunny but with a nip (ironically, my favorite weather); the days are shorter; and my schedule is erratic due to the back to back holidays. So if all of these parameters are the same, why shouldn’t the outcome be just as similar? At least that’s what my brain is telling me. So really, while everything is honkey dory right now, I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop.

But let’s go ahead and assume that happens…hypothetically, let’s just imagine J suddenly decides to end our almost 3 year relationship out of the blue, and I’m forced to pack up all of my things, take my dog and run with my tail between my legs. Yes, it would be so extrecryingmely painful to let yet another dream slip through my fingers, and I would probably do all of those same things like a rerun of an old romantic comedy – cry, eat ice cream, scream, sleep, and cry some more.But then what? The world doesn’t actually crumble into tiny, irreplaceable pieces. If anything, with each passing day, I grew just a little bit stronger in the Dark Days. Looking back on those times, they were actually so important and really healing periods that forced me to learn so much about life and about love and about myself.

Looking at it that way, what in the world do I have to be afraid of? Pain? Psh! That’s temporary. If anything, I now have the benefit of having “been there and done that”, so I’ll be even more than just okay. I know there’s another side; the road doesn’t just drop off into nowhere. In fact, it often dumps me right where I needed to be all along.

Well will you look at that! You thought you had me beat there, my dear Depression, but think again. I’m not the same, scared little girl who doesn’t know her own strength. I’m here to fight, and if I do go down, I’m taking you down with me.

pink-boxing-gloves

Guess I just needed to “talk it out” with my WordPress family. I know that I’ll probably have to remind myself about this process and revelation tomorrow when all I want to do is snuggle under the warm blanket and let the day pass me by, but it’s a start. And that’s really all I need.

 

 

 

Realignment

HOME

Hello again, my dear WordPress community. It has been quite awhile since I have broken bread with you all in fellowship, but I really needed the space to reevaluate my recovery. While blogging had proven itself to be an amazing outlet for me to discuss both my victories and my failures, it also slowly began to transform itself into a dangerous situation. You see, I began to get sidetracked by this notion that my stories were sparking change in other people. While that, in of itself, is a positive repercussion of this whole experience, it was always supposed to remain just that – a cherry on top of this amazing journey towards a better, more peaceful me. That wasn’t the case, however. This idea of “writing to fix people” started to consume my sense of purpose, and my own ppuzzlerogress was no longer my main priority. So it was time for a break. I simply wanted to recenter myself and redirect this blog towards a more introspective dialogue.

Now, that isn’t to say that I don’t want to continue to encourage sharing and    community…quite the opposite! Those spheres have been nothing but positive influences for me, and I intend to foster the relationships I have built through this medium. I just want to refocus on falling in love with me because let’s be honest, that alone if a full time job. Please continue to comment and interject your thoughts and opinions; they will always, ALWAYS be welcomed and appreciated here.

Here is a quick update on my life as it stands now:

J is off on another adventure. This trip is the longest one yet – 6 weeks in Savannah, GA working for another reality TV show. Let me just tell you that it has been quite the struggle and strain on our relationship, but we are working through it. I am working through it. If you have read any of my past posts regarding this matter, you and I both know that the distance is really difficult for me largely due to Codependency. But it is also growing me. I am learning so much of what it means to be comfortable in “aloneness” and how to cope with all of the doubts and insecurities that plague my mind like an unwanted tape recorder stuck on repeat. Everyday is a new opportunity for me to explore another step of recovery. Some days I win, and some days (most days) I lose, but I am discovering that it isn’t about the end goal right now; it is about the process.crossroads

My family is about to go through a rough time. I can’t delve into too much detail because ofthe sensitivity and confidentiality of the matter, but a storm is coming. I am deeply saddened. My heart weeps at its core for a particular woman in my life who means the world to me. She is faced with the most difficult of situations that is forcing her to choose between her own happiness and the happiness of others. Neither path is an easy one, but I love her enough to support whatever she decides. If anyone understands the importance and responsibility of taking care of oneself, it should be me. But still my heart weeps.

Part of my re-dedication and commitment to myself has involved getting healthy and getting active once again. I have gone back to bikram yoga (hot yoga), and it has really boosted me both physically and emotionally. Not only that, but I am simply trying to get outdoors more. I have been hiking semi-consistently, but really just allowing myself to find harmony with Mother Nature. That, too, has done wonders for my spirit.

Next week, I will be traveling to North Carolina for my best friend’s wedding. I will also be driving down to spend a few days and nights with J as Georgia is only 4 hours away. So I have much to look forward to!

Writing is truly one the best outlets for me to express my thoughts and to reflect upon my life journey. I am so happy to be back and to be at peace with this blogging experience once again.

Thank you for your patience and for continuing to be open ears and open hearts that have helped propel me towards a better place. I hope you all are well!

Namaste,
Freedom

Princes and Pythons

prince

Growing up in the Disney generation, I had fallen head over heels with the idea of Love. The notion that a handsome, brave Prince would one day sweep me off my feet with singing and dancing became my ideology of what a relationship should look like. Thus, when I entered into a partnership in the real world, I expected the same type of over the top declarations of romance and devotion. Honestly, the “puppy love” phenomenon I experienced in my early adolescence very much fit that mold; it was filled with hand written letters, home made gifts, poems, and the like, which only reinforced my belief that life was just one big fairytale.

As I grew up, matured, and began dating in my later years, I slowly realized that the “puppy love” phase is just that…a phase. Reality set in like a wet blanket, dampening my hopes of days filled with frolicking in the meadows with the man of my dreams, surrounded by rainbows and four leaf clovers. Instead, I was left with this confusing mess of unmet expectations and disappointments thinking that each boyfriend in my life simply didn’t care at all about me.  At the end of each relationship, I was convinced that I was nothing but a completely unlovable lost cause.

It wasn’t until I listened to talk on Love Languages while in Kenya that I realized I wasn’t at all unlovable! I was simply unaware of the different ways in which people express how much they care. As a result, I was unable to recognize the gestures of love that were indeed present and flourishing in my relationships, and I mistook it as absence.

The 5 Love Language:

  1. Words of Affirmation – “I love you”, “You’re wonderful”, “I am thankful for you”
  2. Gift Giving – material presents
  3. Quality Time – intentional moments with your significant other
  4. Acts of Service – fixing the car, doing the dishes, cooking, etc.
  5. Physical Touch – holding hands, cuddling, kisses, etc.

Love

This whole concept changed my life, both in my relationship with J but also in my closest friendships. I have discovered that there are so many more facets to Love than I originally pegged it for, and understanding this was the key to unlocking a harmonious interdependence. For instance, I have figured out that J is very much an Act of Service giver. Whenever time and schedule permits, he has dinner on the table for me, the dishes washed, and the dog walked and fed by the time I get home. Because I am a Quality Time and Physical Touch receiver, I could have absolutely missed his declarations of love and labeled him as an unthoughtful and uncaring man when in reality, he is the exact opposite.

This idea can also be flipped on its head. I am a Words of Affirmation woman all the way. I love showering the people in my life with verbal praises and encouragements. But like me, J is and Quality Time and Physical Touch receiver. If I wasn’t aware of that fact at all, I could completely miss the mark whenever I am trying to show him just how much he means to me. He would then be left unhappy and resentful.

Thus, Love is a balance. It is a delicate dance between your emotional needs and capacities and those of your partner. It is a fine line between knowing one another’s giving and receiving Languages and adjusting to create a harmonious flow of acceptance. Understanding and applying this newfound knowledge was the difference for me between a healthy, stable relationship and one filled with lies that flogged my self esteem on the daily.

Do you know what your love language is? If not, I encourage you to take some time for reflection and introspection. Otherwise, it may just pass you by. Take it from me, before I knew anything about any of this, if Love were a poisonous viper, it would have bit me right between the eyes.

Lucky for me, I learned the tricks of the trade. Just call me the snake charmer 😉

snake charmer

The Great Divide (Lessons From Kenya #41)

Melting-PotDiversity…it’s a beautiful thing. Los Angeles, my birthplace and my home, is nestled in the “melting pot” of the world where different races and cultures combine into one gloriously, bubbling masterpiece that is constantly spilling out onto every sidewalk. In my little section of office alone we have the Filipino/Pacific Islander culture (represented by me), the Latin American culture, the Mexican Culture, the Chinese culture, and the African-American culture all located in a 30 x 30 ft radius. I love that. So there’s no way I would ever judge someone based on their race, right?

Well, Africa taught me many, many things about myself, including the areas that aren’t so loving and nice.When I first arrived in Kenya, I had already met up with 4 fellow travelers during my layover in Amsterdam. They, too, were from all parts of the United States, so there was still a sense of familiarity and camaraderie. Even when we first stepped onto Kenyan soil and were shoved into a matatu (taxi van meant to hold a maximum of 10 people) with 15 others, and I was forced onto the lap of a random group member, I still felt comfortable. It wasn’t until The Incident that I truly felt the divide.

On a 6 month trip to a completely different nation, one expects to be thrown into the midst of an entirely different ethnic circle, experiencing a new language, different spice palates and styles of eating, alternative expectations of what is appropriate to wear in public and what isn’t, etc. So I definitely was ready to adjust my ways of thinking and acting to better acclimate to my new community. But it wasn’t so easy. Our group had a fairly equal split of Kenyan born members and “Westerners” or “mzungus” as we were often called, and I honestly loved every single one of them. But the cultural differences kept us all fairly divided. Westerners became best friends with westerners and Kenyans with Kenyans. It wasn’t intentional, but it was comfortable, and it really didn’t cause any major problems. RedSea

Until, however, money went missing. 3 Westerners, my best friend included, had American dollars and some souvenirs stolen from their suitcases. Instantly, everyone was on the alert. Fingers were being pointed and accusations were flying out the window. Many Westerners were absolutely 100% sure that one particular Kenyan brother was to blame. He had come from a “rough” upbringing where money was tight and he supposedly fostered a drug addiction, but that was all hearsay that came to the surface during the commotion. Our Kenyan friends justifiably bristled at the harsh words, taking it as a slight against their whole community. Of course we think the Africans did it. It was an extremely tense situation that divided our entire group and paused our humanitarian work for an entire week. No one felt safe and everyone felt threatened by the others. Personally, I wasn’t sure who did it, but I knew there was no way a Westerner could. I had gotten close to each of them! I knew not a single one of them would do that. We were all here to help the people of this country; why would any of us steal?

The hostilities got to a point where nothing was getting done, and the base leader had to put his foot down. So he forced all of us into a room to spend time together eating, drinking, and playing games for an entire day. The initial progress was slow, but all of us had come there to do good in the world. That yearning to extend love and grace inside each heart leaked its way to the surface, breaking the tension, allowing for forgiveness. Slowly, but surely, the palpable anger began to seep from the room and the old friendships we had before the stealing replaced it. By the end of that time together, it was almost as if everyone was in agreement, “The past is behind us. Let’s move forward as a team and do what we came here to do”.

So we did. And I learned such a valuable lesson: no one is safe from the deceptively sneaky tentacles of bias. It is easy to stick to and defend what we THINK we know…what we believe to be comfortable and safe. But comfort and safety aren’t always synonymous as I have learned throughout my life (see this post). It is important to recognize that anyone can fall short of extending grace to those who are different, even those of us that think that’s the last thing we ever need to worry about. It’s hard thing to admit, but it is a lesson that I hold dear to my heart. Recognizing and admitting that I am not perfect used to be such a difficult thing for me, but now? It is the most freeing.

I am not perfect. But I’m working on it. That’s enough for me.

Time for Some Truth and Grace

family_holding_hands

Chapter 4 of Love is a Choice is all about Abuse. Now, if you’re anything like me, your first instinct will be to instantly shut down because of course this doesn’t apply. I was never physically or emotionally harmed in any way, so maybe I can just sit this one out, right? Wrong! After delving into the different kinds descriptions that the authors discuss in detail, I realized that I may not be quite as unscathed after all.

There are 4 types of Abuse that are mentioned in detail:

1. Active Abuse:

” These are physical out-in-front abuses, easy to see. Beating. Battering. Sexual molestation of any degree to and including intercourse. They are no only morally wrong but illegal in nearly all venues…

Active and destructive, but not necessarily illegal, are such manifestations as extreme anger or rage – verbal violence. Shrieks and the irate laying of blame leave scars and bruises that will e felt not seen.”

2. Passive Abuse:

“One or both parents are so preoccupied they are not available to the child emotionally, physically, or both… The ones universally recognized, the ones with the really bad press, are alcoholism and substance abuse. Others may be praised and idealized in certain quarters – workaholism, for example…”

– “Abandonment is abusive, and make no mistake, divorce however amicable, is abandonment…”

– “The parent who constantly brushes the child aside commits passive abuse…”

– “A parent who is noemotional – a Star Trek Mr. Spock type of cerebral person – is not going to fill the child’s love tanks simply because children react at a spontaneous visceral level; the child and the adult aren’t speaking the same language…”

– “A lack of love between the parents is another form of passive abuse…”

– “The parent with compulsions or perfectionism may not force it on the child, but the child is watching as Mom weekly cleans the bathroom tiles with a toothbrush and Dad mows the lawn every three days. The message is there, expressed nonverbally.”

3. Emotional Incest

“Incest in one way brings up the wrong connotations. But in another way, the word’s connotations are exactly right. Emotional incest has of itself nothing to do with sexual matters…Rather, it is an extreme role reversal.

Here is where a loving relationship between parent and child has somehow been turned upside down. The  parent’s mind (and rarely consciously considered) is the thought, I don’t care much for my spouse, but I have this child who I love more than life itself. What that statement so often mean is, “My spouse isn’t giving me the love I crave (because both our love tanks are near empty) but I can get it from my child.” The half-person is going to that little person for completion.”

4. Unfinished Business

“Unfinished business is Mom’s or Dad’s business that was never completed. One or both may have some area of their lives in which they’ve always felt discontent. Perhaps Dad feels frustrated and sexually unfulfilled in his marriage. As he views marriage and his life he gets this this tremendous sense of uselessness, of lack….Unless he makes peace with that…without intending to do so he may well hand that frustration down to his sons and daughters”.

I never knew that abuse actually had a place in my life, but after reading these descriptions, I definitely experienced some emotional damage upon reflection. Having an absent father was a form of passive abuse, and my single mother definitely attempted to make me the center of her world (emotional incest). It actually explains a lot about my current mindsets and personality traits. Abuse may sound “harsh” but unless it is addressed in such a way, one may never realize just how deeply our wounds travel, and how crucial it is to get help or begin recovery.

Truth is hard sometimes, and placing any kind of criticism on the people who cared for and raised us can be a difficult thing. But everyone is human, prone to messing up here and there, including your Mom and Dad! Mistakes are to be expected. It is okay to admit that fact as long as it is accompanied with heaping piles of grace. Even with these realizations, it does not demean the love that was given; it simply brings to light the need for further introspection that could ultimately bring much peace for yourself and for the future generations of your family.

So, dear friends, is it possible that there may be some wounds that you need to open in order to bring fuller healing to your life? If so, know that you are not alone by any means, and that accepting these (oftentimes harsh) realities is the first step to a better life. Persevere through that dark tunnel, and freedom will be waiting on the other side.

Motivational-inspirational-meme

Communication and Confrontation PSA

couple

I was sitting in the office, minding my business, when I overheard my male coworkers discussing the difficulties of being in a relationship. Well… that’s the nice way to put it. In all honesty, they were simply griping about their wives. One guy in particular was saying that he specifically hates how he has to do both the cooking and washing up afterwards while another was venting about having to constantly pick up after the family dog.

Really, I wasn’t planning on interjecting or commenting on the situation, but somehow, I always get roped in. The guys know that about 6 months ago, I moved in with my long-term boyfriend, and they proceeded to basically ask me if things had fallen apart yet. When I told them, no, they hadn’t, they all responded with, “Just you wait” type interjections. That was extremely irritating to me because they made it seem like a miserable relationship was inevitable! There was just no avoiding it; just buckle up and get ready for the ride.

That would have been just fine with me prior to recovery. But now? There is no way that statement wouldn’t push my buttons because I know better.

So I asked to coworker who was tired of cooking and cleaning, “Have you mentioned this to your wife? Maybe you guys could come up with a system that dictates if someone cooks, the other does dishes?” He looked at me like I wasn’t the brightest bulb in the tool shed and said, “I’ve tried that. It always turns into an argument”.

When I got home that night, and J and I finally settled in, I brought up this discussion. I explained how much it bothered me, and how I really didn’t want us to end up miserable and angry. So I made him promise to never let fear stop him from confronting me about an issue, and in return, I promised to handle it as maturely and calmly as possible. This also works the other way. I need to remember to put aside my worries about pleasing my partner and speak up if I have a genuine issue. As a Codependent, this is high up on the list of struggles for me. I am always hesitant to ask for things, especially when I feel I can accomplish them on my own. However, if I do this time and time again, I will find myself over-burdened and exhausted – 2 things that I am striving hard not to be. I know we won’t be perfect at it, and we will probably fight many times, but I don’t want that to be the end of the story. By setting this expectation of communication now, I think we stand a better chance of paving the way for a healthier partnership.

We all deserve so much more than to be stuck in fearful, resentful relationships that make us bitter towards the people we should be treasuring the most. I think many of us, myself included, forget this because of the way we were brought up or because of the unhealthy mindsets that were modeled to us throughout the years. But here is my PSA for today: stop settling for mediocre relationships (romantic or otherwise). Seriously. Stop it. You really are worth more than that.

So whatever is holding you back from communication or confrontation – whether it be fear of seeming imperfect or needy, the hesitancy to initiate fighting, Codependency, or anything else it might be, put it aside and allow your heart a chance at vulnerability. And no matter how the other person takes it – even if they are angry – love them enough (and love yourself enough) to push through that emotion and come to a place of agreement. Even if it takes 30, 50, 100 tries.

Your future selves will thank you.

Mandela

The Case of the Finicky Friend

therapycouch

I remember my first one-on-one therapy session that I ever attended. This counselor was recommended to me through a friend of a friend from church; apparently, many people had had great results in their recovery journeys with the help of this professional. Plus, she would give a discount to anyone who was referred to her through our religious community. So, I thought, why not?

When I first walked into her office, I was a bundle of nerves. I had no idea what to expect. There were many familiar faces there from my church group, and we exchanged semi-awkward hellos as I sat down to fill out all of those necessary forms – general information, background history, current struggles, etc. Finally, after what felt like a million years, the therapist was ready for me.

Her name was Nan, and from the minute I sat down in her big, comfy couch, I knew that we were going to have a great relationship. Nan was so soft spoken, kind, and felt like a motherly figure that I could trust. On our first day, she asked me why I was there, and I explained to her my thoughts about possibly being Codependent. After listening to me babble on for quite awhile, she said, “Ok, well I have a little checklist that might help us get a better picture of where you’re at”. She then handed me this clipboard with a dozen or so questions all regarding Codependency. In all honesty, I checked off every single one.checklist

That list was extremely similar to the the 10 traits from Love is Choice that I posted about previously. However, there was an additional question on Nan’s check sheet that still sticks with me today. It asked, “Do you have a hard time keeping friends?” Yup, that’s me! I’ve always struggled keeping friends. My oldest non-romantic relationship dates back to my first year of high school, and we rarely talk these days. I met the person I consider to be my very best girlfriend in Kenya, which was only a few years ago. I just feel like overall, I really don’t maintain friendships well.

One day, I asked Nan about this trait and what it has to do with Codependency. In a nutshell she explained that there could be two main reasons:

1) Those of us that struggle with this fixation on another object or person lose interest in the substance at hand very quickly. We obsess over one person for awhile, pouring into him or her day and night, becoming ultimately consumed. Then, when this person doesn’t reciprocate to our standards or we cannot change them into who we want them to be (the control aspect), we abandon them and move on. Much like a drug addict continues to delve further into harder substances because the high just isn’t enough anymore, a Codependent is also looking to find their next good fix.

2) A Codependent has a main fixation (usually a romantic relationship) and everyone else becomes secondary due to the tunnel vision that develops. Thus, do to the lack of effort in maintaining those other friendships, they wither and eventually die.

Of course, the levels of need differ in everyone, and many Codependents may not struggle with this in particular. But I do. I friendshipknow that maintaining relationships is extremely difficult for me due to a little mixture of both explanations. I have always had the tendency to zoom in on whoever is my current boyfriend, and I have a strong need for control. Thus, I have to make conscious efforts to keep in contact with the people I want in my life because it just simply doesn’t come easy. Sometimes, I even have to write down little reminders to send a text to those that I care about just to keep the communication lines open.

But I’m trying. I have a handful of women who I believe really love me and care about being in my life, and I know I need to make a better effort at being in theirs. So these past few weeks I have just been intentional about saying hello and sending out “how are you’s”. It’s a baby step towards my overall struggle with Codependency, but it is an important one. Every little bit counts.

How are you friendships today?

P.S. I will be discussing the rest of Chapter 3 from Love is a Choice tonight!