I live in fear of the future, that is to say that I live in the future, afraid. What will go wrong? I wonder constantly, fearfully. If I just do everything right (perfectly), maybe I won’t have to be ashamed of myself, my life, my words and actions. Constantly comparing myself and my circumstances to others, with every waking thought, in order to discern my appropriate next action.
Of course, this leaves no room for play. To play, one must have a sense of freedom in the moment to let go, to releasing agenda. Always assessing the next right step to avoid mistakes, I keep a death grip on myself, hoping to avoid the shame and condemnation which I heap on myself, assuming others will follow suit. So I try, hard, to anticipate what’s coming, what will be thought of me, what I will think of my self, always seeking the approval I rarely received as a child, and do not know how to give to myself. Shame and condemnation are my lifelong inner expectation, driving a deep sense of guilt, which causes me to inhibit revealing my true self for fear of being seen by myself and others as wrong, or unacceptable as I am.
By the time I’d finished sixth grade, I had learned to survive by not having needs, by being invisible. If I didn’t have a self, I wouldn’t get caught, seen as defective. My life became a charade where what others thought was all that mattered. They must think well of me so that I could. Best run and hide, my fragile ego told me. Only if I have the approval of others can I go unnoticed, remain acceptable, and avoid complete and utter rejection. Maintaining a facade of normalcy became my primary function in life, desperately attempting to control myself, situations, and others. Life doesn’t work this way, at least it didn’t for me. The harder I tried, the worse things got. The tighter I squeezed myself and others, the more leaked out until I finally broke, and my life exploded and fell to pieces. I blew out my marriage, my family, my home, my envisioned and dreamed-of future, and my thyroid.
At 64 I found myself alone, hopeless, and in a black depression. I realized that I had become the victim of verbal and physical abuse during my 13 year marriage, and that my wife was extremely self centered. While reading about this behavior I came across an interesting fact-that people who tend to be self absorbed and codependents are mutually attracted to each other’s dysfunctions. As I read about codependency I realized that’s me. The symptoms fit like a glove. I found the Fellowship of Co-Dependents Anonymous, and I found hope. I have no words to describe the gratitude I feel. I have, now, a chance at peace. And, finally, I’m not alone.
Jay S. 12/1/15