Codependent avoidance.

Codependent avoidance.

Con­tent note for men­tion of domes­tic vio­lence and rape.

So, I’ve been going to coun­sel­ing at the local domes­tic vio­lence shel­ter, for rea­sons I shall large­ly leave unex­plained except to lump every­thing togeth­er under the moniker of The Inci­dent (though we’ve been dis­cussing my child­hood trau­ma as well). My coun­selor and I get along quite well, and I think it’s been help­ful to have some­one to help me unpack expe­ri­ences and thought process­es and things I gen­er­al­ly keep in my own head until I break down.

The biggest things I’ve learned, that I sort of already knew (and close friends sure as hell already knew), are that I have code­pen­dent ten­den­cies and my approach to deal­ing with trau­ma is com­plete avoid­ance of deal­ing with it.

The code­pen­den­cy thing both­ers me more than the avoid­ance. I’ve been devel­op­ing strate­gies for con­fronting hard things rather than avoid­ing them, and these strate­gies have been quite help­ful (though very painful). But being codependent…that’s more dif­fi­cult to pin­point how or what to change.

I mean, I lived with my par­ents until I was 22, when I moved out and got mar­ried and lived with my ex until ear­ly Feb­ru­ary of this year. I’m liv­ing alone for the first time in my life. It’s hard, but help­ful. I’m learn­ing how capa­ble and strong I am, as well as learn­ing that ask­ing for help isn’t bad or child­ish.

But also…I strug­gle so much with know­ing how to relate to peo­ple. My very first instinct in any sit­u­a­tion is to dif­fuse it. Remove ten­sion. Make it bet­ter. It usu­al­ly looks like me try­ing to smooth things over, or keep­ing qui­et when I’m upset, or down­play­ing my feel­ings. I’m afraid I’m explain­ing this poorly…it’s like I don’t know who I am or what I actu­al­ly think or what I actu­al­ly want, because I’m so focused on mak­ing sure every­one around me and in my life doesn’t have a rea­son to be upset with me or have neg­a­tive feel­ings about me. Which, of course, is hilar­i­ous con­sid­er­ing the top­ics I write about and the fact that I’m an athe­ist and in the mid­dle of a divorce.

It’s been help­ful to have peo­ple close to me rec­og­nize this ten­den­cy and ask me what I’m actu­al­ly think­ing, how I actu­al­ly feel, about any giv­en thing. It forces me to stop and eval­u­ate why I’m doing or say­ing or accept­ing some­thing. And it’s scary, because too much of the time the answer is I don’t know or I just want you to be hap­py.

Not that I’m a self­less per­son by any means. More that I would rather be incon­ve­nienced or squashed than endure dis­agree­ment or fric­tion.

So…I’m spend­ing a lot of time just sort of sit­ting with myself. What do I want? What do I think? What am I will­ing to give, or ask for? Why? Am I just try­ing to pla­cate oth­ers for my own com­fort and ease of anx­i­ety, or is this some­thing I’m gen­uine­ly will­ing to agree to or com­pro­mise on? If so, why?

Mom likes to laugh about how my favourite ques­tion as a small child was why. I’d fol­low her around the house, ask­ing ques­tion after ques­tion, and she would tire­less­ly answer. (My moth­er should be a god­damn saint, y’all.) In many ways, I’ve nev­er stopped ask­ing why, which is part­ly how I’m where I am in the first place. But…recognizing that “because I don’t want to upset any­one” isn’t a healthy answer most of the time is a good first step, I think.

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