The Day I Found Out I Was Codependent
The Day I Found out I was Codependent!
I have always been so proud of my ability to be there for my friends and family, to show up in a crisis and put it out like a firefighter puts out flames. It was something about throwing on my cape and coming to the rescue. So many times, I have prevented heartache, heartbreak, or regret for those I love and care about. On the days I could not get the person to listen to avoid the figurative head-on collision I could see in their future. I would often say, “if only they had listened to me. Can’t they see that I know what’s best for them? I know them better than they know themselves. Or I knew if they didn’t listen, this would happen.” Despite some of those things being true, I was not honest with myself. My therapist pointed out that while I am an awesome friend, sibling, niece, daughter, cousin, colleague, etc., my desire to make them listen came from a codependent place. This caused me to gasp in horror that she would even suggest such a thing. Me codependent? No way, she had to be making a mistake. I didn’t depend on people; I was independent, and the one people often came to in their time of need. What was she talking about?
That day I learned that codependency was more than my tiny definition. It was a trait I have had my entire existence. I was always raised to look out for people less fortunate than me, especially my family. So often, I made it my responsibility to fix things, rescue people, or handle it, whatever it was. Being an empath fed the codependent part of me. When people are hurt, I feel it deeply. It’s uncomfortable, and all I want to do is find relief. Relief came in the form of a superhero. I was a real-life Olivia Pope. Her motivation was currency, but my motivation was and continues to be emotional currency. There is no better feeling than knowing you’ve managed a crisis for someone or prevented a problem from occurring in the first place.
The desire to be the fixer provided me with dopamine, the feel-good hormone our brain produces. However, too much of anything, even if it is good for you, can be harmful and take a toll. My desire to control the outcome affected sleep, motivation, concentration, digestion, and even my physical body. I was unaware of the impact decades of believing I was superhuman had on my body. It wasn’t until my father passed in March 2018 that tiny holes emerged in my cape. My ability to show up and fix it without a noticeable impact was slowly fading. I noticed my mood shifting frequently, and I became agitated at those who dared to exert their free will and make decisions for themselves, sometimes not even to consult me first! The amount of effort it would take to go from crisis to crisis became so much it began to affect me physically. The recovery time became longer after each situation until my body couldn’t take it anymore and stopped working, sending me into a crisis of my own, autoimmune disease.
It was during that therapy session that I had my full-circle moment. My therapist could connect the dots for me, and there I was, staring at the big picture I have always thought was such a beautiful work of art. Only to be faced with the imperfections and the curse of being human staring back at me. Since then, I have worked diligently on setting boundaries, learning to say no, and keeping my cape in the closet. It is not an easy task, and it takes intentionality not to fall back into what was easy for me. It has been a harrowing journey and a welcomed one. If you feel comfortable, share the moment you realized you had codependent tendencies.
Chandra A. Chester, LCSW-C
Families First Counseling and