The Fear of Co-Dependency and Lack of Individuality

I have a fear, and it is something that I think about constantly. This particular fear of mine dictates how I navigate my marriage and how I live my life. This fear is so terrifying to me that I make an extra effort to make sure that it never comes to life. So what is this fear? I am afraid of losing my individuality and becoming co-dependent.

I was fifteen years old when Stephen and I first started dating. The aftermath of the sexual assault was still fresh and my relationship with my parents was lacking. I didn’t really have friends, and I felt alone. I was desperate to find love, to find someone who wanted to spend time with me, to just find someone who found me to be somewhat worthy of them. I always envisioned having a partner who I had that special connection with. I used to wonder what it would feel like to have someone hold me, to laugh with me, to tell me that they were in love with me. I was craving it so badly, that when I found it, I gave into it. 

Stephen was everything to me. He was my world, and I became so engulfed in love that I lost myself. I placed all of my happiness onto him, and I became the person that I thought he wanted me to be. I stopped hanging out with the few friends that I had because I wanted every free moment to be spent with him. If I couldn’t see him over the weekend or after school on weekdays I would be devastated. He brought so much light into my world of darkness that all I could see or focus on was him, resulting in me forgetting about me. 

The sad truth is that Stephen never made me feel like he should be my reason for living. That was all me. I think I just got so sucked up into a world where I could finally trust someone. I finally had found someone who was authentic and sincere, and he genuinely cared about me and my well-being. I felt safe with Stephen, and I saw a forever life with him. He was mine. My life was just revolving around Stephen. 

My co-dependency started to become scary when I couldn’t recognize myself anymore. I became increasingly jealous and territorial. When I found out that he held another girl’s hand in band practice, and he didn’t have a choice, I made him delete her from social media. When I found out that another girl had a crush on him and told him and he kept it from me, I wrote an article and printed it on the front page of the school paper. I was ruthless. I was even disgusted with myself, but I was not going to let anyone or anything take Stephen away from me. I had too much to lose. 

Around a year after we started dating, Stephen had reached his limit with me and my behavior and attempted to break up with me. He expressed that he couldn’t handle my jealously anymore, and he didn’t like that my whole world revolved around him. Which, to be honest, is completely understandable. I had a big dose of reality when we had that discussion, and that fog that I was in for the past year finally cleared up. 

I had realized that I willingly gave up everything that I was for this relationship, even though I never had to. Stephen loved me for me, and he never asked me to give up on myself for us. I couldn’t believe that I did that to myself. I put myself this incredibly unhealthy situation, and I promised myself that I would never do that again.

I am truly lucky to have the partner that I have. He never makes me feel like I have to give up any part of myself in order to please him. And if I were to be honest, if he did have that kind of expectation from me that would be a deal-breaker. I am unwilling to change any part of who I am for anyone, even him.

There was a situation that happened not too long ago that was kind of the inspiration behind this piece. As you know, I have a thing for tattoos and piercings, and for a while, I was fixated on getting my septum pierced. I wanted it so badly, but Stephen does not like them and told me no. First of all, no one, not even my husband, is going to tell me “no” about something that I want to do to MYSELF. I will gladly hear and appreciate any opinion that you may have on any matter, but anything that I want to do for myself or to myself will ultimately be MY decision. I didn’t end up getting the piercing because the jewelry that I wanted was going to be way too expensive, but had it been more affordable I would have gotten it done. 

I have this viewpoint about my marriage that I am not sure a lot of people agree with. I am so overprotective about maintaining my individuality that I almost look at my marriage like a separate partnership. I love Stephen so incredibly much, and he means the world to me, but he is not my world. I will never allow myself to do what I did back when we first started dating. The moment I place all of my happiness and everything that I am into his hands is the moment that I will lose myself. So when I say that we are in a “separate partnership,” I simply mean that I want us to make decisions together and live our lives together, but I also want us to be our own people. If I want to travel on my own without him, then I am going to do it. If I want to hang out with my friends without him, then I am going to do it. If I want to do something to my body then I am going to do it. Even if he hates it. He is not my daddy, he is my husband. And I am his wife. Just because you are in a committed relationship doesn’t mean that you need to forget about yourself. 

Like I have said, I am deeply, deeply in love with Stephen. He is an amazing human being and I am lucky to have him as my husband. I respect the hell out of him, and we really are a great match. However, in order for me to live the life that I want to live, I can’t put him and his desires before my own. I am not living our life, I am living my life, and I am trying to make the best of it. Stephen just so happens to be an incredible part of it all.

Dream, Oh Dream

****TRIGGER WARNING: PLEASE BE WARNED THAT THIS PIECE TALKS ABOUT SEXUAL ASSAULT.

Isn’t it amazing how one dream can ruin your entire day? Last night I had a dream about him, the guy that stole my security, amongst other things, and now he stole the opportunity for me to enjoy my day. I woke up feeling immediately anxious, and I woke up wanting to immediately break out into hysterics. I woke up wanting to die. 

The ironic thing is that it wasn’t even a bad dream. We were together, like in a committed relationship. I loved him and he loved me. We were laughing, having meaningful conversations, and even having consensual sex. The fact that I was so happy in this dream really fucked with my head, and the moment I woke up I felt sick to my stomach with disgust. How could someone who brought me so much pain be in a dream that could have been interpreted as something so beautiful? I felt so confused and overwhelmed, and it just added to the rest of the emotions that I felt. 

Usually, I take my time waking up in the morning. Since I loathe morning time and I consider it to be vile, it takes me some time to get adjusted. This morning, however, was not like my typical morning. Since I woke up feeling so awful from this dream, I already woke up fully awake. Plus, whenever I tried to close my eyes, all I could picture was him. Him and his grimy hands touching me, me smiling at him, me having feelings for him. Seeing those visions was too much for me to handle, so I decided to get up and distract myself. As luck would have it, I already had a therapy appointment scheduled for today, but I had a couple of hours to kill before that time. So I went to the store and walked around for a bit, picked up some medication, and then drove back home. 

My therapist has always told me when I am having bad thoughts to do whatever I can to distract myself. Whether that is writing, going out to the store, getting coffee, going for a walk or just hanging out with my animals, I need to just do something to distract myself. Since I woke up so anxious it was a goal of mine to try to calm down before my appointment, but I wasn’t able to help myself. After I left the store and pulled into my driveway, I just sat in my car. My anxiety was even worse than it was before I had left, and I felt as if it were physically impossible for me to move my body. Then my thoughts transitioned from thinking about my dream to what actually happened in real life. Thinking about what happened always does me in. My already horrible anxiety turned even worse, and for a moment, just a moment, I thought about how easy it would be for me to open my garage, pull in, and close the garage door behind me while leaving the car on. Obviously, I didn’t do that because I am writing this right here and now, but having those thoughts, as brief as they can be, still do some sort of damage.  

One of the biggest problems that I am having is truly moving on from that incident. I feel as if he has me in a chokehold, and after all of these years, my freedom is still at his mercy. I absolutely hate what happened, I hate him for doing what he did, and I hate myself for not being able to be strong enough to break free from his grip. In the past, I told you that I was fragile. Now, here is your proof. 

Luckily my therapy appointment helped me a lot. I told her everything that happened in the dream, how I woke up feeling, and how it affected my day thus far. One thing that was killing me that I needed help understanding was why I had that dream. Usually, when I dream of him I dream of what happened or scenarios that closely resemble what happened. But this was so different. You see, her answer was not as complicated as I thought it was going to be. She asked me there were any personality traits of his that could be considered “good.”  I had known him for a decent amount of time. I was eleven when we were first introduced, and the big incident didn’t happen until I was fifteen. So in that time frame, I saw things from him that I thought were great qualities, but at the end of the day, it was all a lie so that he could deceive me so that he could get what he wanted. He wanted me to trust him, and he was able to get that from me. So was he actually “good?” No. But the perception that I had of him was that he was. I told her about this memory that I have of him that I will never forget. My parents took a bunch of us to this fair that happens every summer, and I went off with him and his friend. I was wearing a skirt and a halter top, but I had to have been twelve at the time so it wasn’t too revealing. There was this one man that was running one of the game booths that just stared at me for the longest time. He and his friend didn’t like that, so they blocked his view of me in order to protect me. I just remember them both becoming visibly upset and rushing me away from that guy, and that is probably the one and only good memory that I have of him. That is the only time I remember him actually being genuine. 

So the answer ended up being pretty easy. I had a trauma and the body and mind hold on to that trauma. Supposedly, as an attempt to protect myself, my subconscious gave me that dream to try to push the negativity and the trauma away and to put him in a good light.  Dreaming of something that could be interpreted as “good” could help me move on from the bad. But I would like to give my subconscious a heads up about something. If given a choice, I really would rather not dream or think of him at all. So thanks for trying but next time just refrain from “helping” me. 

I don’t think that I will ever fully break free from him. That memory will always be there, however, I am learning that I have control over my life now. Whenever I think about him and what he did I can take comfort in knowing that he isn’t apart of my life now, so I don’t have to keep ripping open those wounds. Now is the time for healing, and although I will always have those scars, those scars will symbolize my strength.

The Real Monster: Anxiety

I have never really been afraid of monsters. I grew up watching Jurrasic Park on repeat, as a child I would play pretend games with imaginary monsters that I would bring to life, and I was always invested in ghost stories. The things that gave me a true fright were things that could become a reality. For example, thunderstorms that triggered a tornado warning would send me into a fit. I would hibernate in the basement clinging onto my dog Daisy in complete hysterics until I knew that the threat was gone and we were going to be safe. When my parents decided to divorce, I was consumed with making sure that my parents were okay. I remember always thinking about them and wondering if they were ever going to find happiness. I was in second grade at the time, but I was so consumed with what my family was feeling that it felt like it was eating away at my young soul. Little did I know that I was already being introduced to one of the scariest monsters to have ever existed: anxiety.

As I have stated many times, clinical depression is something that I have struggled with for as long as I can remember. My mom even told me that she knew something was off with me before I was five years old, but back then mental illness wasn’t really something that was talked about. I remember seeing a school counselor for a short time when my parents decided to divorce, and then many years later going to see my first psychologist. Although it was many years where I wasn’t speaking to a professional about what I was feeling, I always knew something was off about me. As cliche as this is, I literally felt as if I lived in a literal world of darkness. I was consumed by sadness, resentment, and anger. I was constantly isolating, (although that has still not changed) and I never actively sought out friendships. I was content with being on my own overthinking every thought that I have ever had and accepting that feeling the way that I felt was normal. I remember being overly concerned for years about my dad. My mom was happy and in love with my now stepfather, and I wanted that for my dad. I would spend hours a day worrying about my dad and what his and our future looked like, to the point where I would go into a panic. I wanted the world for my dad. I wanted every bit of happiness that the world had to offer to him to be his. I wanted him to find a partner and to fall in love, and I wanted him to enjoy every moment of his life. I would think about these things constantly, driving myself absolutely crazy. So when my dad met my stepmom, I was over the moon with excitement because I felt like everything that I have ever wanted for my dad was happening to him. But then the worry of him finding happiness turned into worry about him losing it, and then I was consumed with worry that his relationship with my stepmom wouldn’t last forever. That constant worry wasn’t warranted though because they were and continue to be a healthy and happy couple, but I just wanted my dads’ happiness to be infinite. Looking back, I can now see that my worry about my dads’ happiness was probably one of the first anxiety-inducing situations that I was apart of, and I wish that it was figured out years ago that anxiety was one of the things that I was feeling.

As I progressed in age I, of course, came into more anxiety-inducing scenarios. One of the more traumatic things that I experienced that I still have trouble with was my sexual assault. Without going into too much detail, let’s just say that I have learned more about that incident the older I have become. Looking back at what happened and after speaking to a couple of professionals about it, I have learned that I was essentially brainwashed, manipulated, and “trained” by this person since I was eleven to be a certain way with him. When the big incident occurred, I immediately broke down. I remember talking to my therapist at the time about it and her wanting to report it for statutory rape, but I wouldn’t let her for reasons that I don’t want to get into. After that happened I blamed myself for years for allowing it to happen. The big incident happened when I was fifteen, and it was just within the past year that I have been able to accept that it wasn’t my fault. I now look at the situation with complete disgust, and I can see it for everything that it was. I will say this though. After seeking out help for coping with what happened it almost makes me feel worse. I feel so violated. I feel like something was stolen from me. Every time I think about the whole situation I want to break down. This incident has a way to pop into my mind at the most inconvenient times, and what sucks about it is that when I think about it I literally feel like I am taken back in time and forced to relive everything that I went through. I can feel what I felt, both mentally and physically, and I feel frozen. My anxiety just completely takes over me, and I feel like I can’t breathe. My heart starts racing, and I need to remind myself that it isn’t happening now, it happened in the past. I would say my sexual assault is one of the biggest reasons why my anxiety is so horrendous.

Although I have always been pretty content with not involving a lot of people in my life, I do feel like my social anxiety just keeps getting worse and worse. I don’t do well with meeting new people, in fact, I have had to have therapy sessions in preparation for meeting new people and for being in groups. I don’t really know what it is, I just get really bad anxiety around new people and big groups of people. I get anxiety while driving, while going to the doctors’ office, and even shopping. Every time I feel like something might be wrong with my animals my anxiety spikes. I feel like my life is controlled by my anxiety, and it makes me feel so fragile. My anxiety is one of the main focuses of my therapy sessions, and I feel with every session that I have I become one step closer to breaking free of my anxieties grasp. 

My anxiety and my depression have this hold on me. Every day I work hard to better myself, but I have my ups and downs. I don’t think I will ever be free from my anxiety, but I do think that with time and hard work I can handle it better. After everything is said and done, your life shouldn’t be controlled by monsters, but by you.

I am Falling

I am falling. 

When it comes to my depression and anxiety, I never know what each day is going to look like. Some days I feel like I can live a functional life, while some days I can barely get out of bed.

I am falling.

Just as I thought everything was starting to look up, I realized that I was starting to come back down.

I am falling.

Internally I am screaming for help as loud as I can, but as desperate as I am to reach out to others I am afraid to burden them.

I am falling.

There is a tiny voice in my head that keeps taunting me. “Here we go again. Brookana is falling into another low.” I want to grab my mind and shake it, I want to scream “SHUT UP” and “LEAVE ME ALONE” but I know whatever I do I won’t be able to quiet the voice. 

I am falling. 

I haven’t cut in a decent amount of time, and the only reason I am writing right now is to distract myself. I see my scars on my thighs, the marks that represent that desperation to feel something, to satisfy my mind. I don’t want any more of these reminders, but the amount of strength that it is taking to not pick up my blade is exhausting. 

I am falling.

I haven’t left my house in three days.

I am falling.

I am isolating.

I am falling.

I am not sleeping.

I am falling.

I wonder what it is like to not have to experience depression and anxiety. Is it as sweet as I imagine it to be? Not having to worry about sinking, not having to worry about bleeding, not having to think about how your own mind is trying to sabotage your life. How freeing it must feel to not have anxiety that dictates what you can and can not do, to have this warden in your own personal prison, to have the power to literally take your breath away and make you feel like you are dying.

I am falling.

I imagine my life is a giant rabbit hole. I keep falling and falling until I can finally grip something and pull myself up, and then out of nowhere I slip and I am falling again. If I hit the ground, that means I am gone, but if I can eventually pull myself up I could finally experience living.

I am falling. 

My cat won’t leave my side. I think he can sense something is wrong.

I am falling.

This time around, I refuse to say that I am fine until I actually feel fine.

I am falling.

I am breathing. With each breath that I inhale and with each movement of my chest reminds me that I have more life to live. 

I am falling.

I need time to work through this.

I am falling.

Just like every other time I sink into a low, I know I will be okay.

I am falling.

I am strong but I am fragile

I am strong but I am fragile. 

I have had people tell me that I am weak because of my mental health. I have had people tell me that I need to cope better with life. I have had people tell me that I need to grow up. I have had people tell me to put my big girl panties on.

I am strong but I am fragile. 

I feel like I am like a windshield with a crack. With time the crack gets bigger and bigger until you fix it or it just shatters. 

I am strong but I am fragile. 

My strength stems from not following through with the things that my plagued mind wants me to do. Pills, knives and the garage give me haunting thoughts that chill me. I don’t want to do anything, but sometimes I do. I am constantly in a fight with myself, with my heart and my mind constantly playing an intense game of tug of war. I want to stay but I want to go. At the end of the day, I choose to stay so my heart always narrowly beats my mind. 

I am strong but I am fragile. 

I have worked so hard on making the best out of my life. Medication and therapy have been incredibly helpful. The days where I wake up and I don’t feel like I want to die are my favorite days. Being in love feels sweeter, being outside with the air caressing my skin feels freer, friendship feels more special, life just feels like it is finally getting easier. I can breathe, I can appreciate, I can feel bliss. 

I am strong but I am fragile.

As hard as I work on my strength and my well-being, it can also be easy for me to crash right back down. My mind is funny that way. I have a strong inkling that my mind is sitting at the edge of its seat, just waiting for something inconvenient or unfortunate to happen so it can have another chance to bring me down. Sometimes my mind can swoop in so fast to bring me down that I can almost feel my heart break from defeat. Here we go again, time to fight for life once more.

I am strong but I am fragile. 

When my mind wants me to end my life I do whatever I can do fight against it. I listen to music. I snuggle with my animals. I clean. As much as I try to distract myself, my mind can sometimes be stronger than me. It has this need for me to harm myself, and it won’t shut my thoughts down until it is somehow satisfied. So it is almost like we make a deal, or a compromise one might say. So when I dig into my skin with that razor it is almost like I can breathe again. I held up my end of the bargain, and now I can have a few moments of freedom from my tormenting mind. 

I am strong but I am fragile. 

I am sick, but I am trying to get better.

I am strong but I am fragile. 

I want to live.

I am strong but I am fragile.

Misophonia

Everyone has their pet peeves. But what if your pet peeve brought on an intense feeling of anger? Or what if it made you feel the urge to cry? What if it gave you anxiety or made you sweat? I have a pet peeve that has the ability to make me feel all of those things. Hi, my name is Brookana and I have Misophonia.

 

Misophonia is basically when certain noises result in a reaction that may seem senseless to others. My “trigger” noises consist of the following: gum chewing/popping, loud breathing, loud obnoxious eating, pen tapping, crunching, and slurping. I know that these are noises that most people can’t help but make, but I can’t help but feel a rush of emotion whenever I hear them.

 

I haven’t had Misophonia my entire life. I believe I was about six or seven when I experienced my first rush of anger after hearing a noise, and the first trigger noise to present itself was gum chewing. My middle brother always chomping on gum and it never used to bother me, in fact, I don’t really recall ever really noticing it much in the past, but there was just one day where his incessant chomping just filled me up with rage. I just remember wanting to punch him every time he chomped on that gum, and that was the day that my life started to crumble. 

 

Trust me, I understand how utterly ridiculous and dumb this sounds. Every time I would become upset over someone eating or chewing gum I would feel so bad about myself. I have never understood why these trigger sounds have to get under my skin the way that they do, and I am positive that my friends and family who know that I have this think that I am crazy. Hell, even I feel insane sometimes. The term “Misophonia” is fairly new, and when I found out that more people were talking about this and that there was an actual disorder for the thing that I have been feeling ever since I was young made me feel so validated. Perhaps I am not as crazy as I always thought I was, and that felt great. 

 

I feel like the older I become the more intense my Misophonia presents itself. I avoided the movie theater for years because I couldn’t handle the sounds people would make with their candy and their popcorn. Going out to dinner has become increasingly difficult because if I hear people around me eating it is all that I can fixate on. Being with my family can be hard for me because I have quite a few family members who make sounds as if they are starving animals fighting over their prey. Although being in public can result in me feeling upset and defeated, I have found new techniques that help me cope better with the sounds that can make me feel so horrible. I have started carrying earplugs with me everywhere I go so that if I start feeling overwhelmed by noises that I can’t control, I have the power to just turn them off. It may seem odd or silly that I put earplugs in public, however, if I can have solutions to help soothe my escalating emotions I will most certainly take advantage of those. 

 

Although there is not a cure for Misophonia there are ways that you can cope with it to help soothe yourself in stressful situations. I have learned ways to help myself when I am starting to feel anxious over my trigger sounds, and although it may come across as rude I would rather be rude with my coping mechanisms than be rude with my outbursts. Some ways that I help ease my emotions when they are starting to escalate are:

  1. Walking away when someone is eating and I feel my anger starting to form.
  2. Using my earplugs to help cancel out unwanted noises.
  3. Exercising my right to alone time whenever I need to calm down from a situation that I couldn’t walk away from. 
  4. Using headphones and listening to music to cancel out undesirable noises. 
  5. Distracting myself with a book while using earplugs to keep my mind off of the noises.

 

Everyone has their own coping mechanisms to deal with their Misophonia. Every now and again I learn new ways to deal with my emotions. I feel like although my Misophonia has become more intense and I have acquired more trigger noises, the way that I have handled them has improved. There once was a time where I used to wish that I could go deaf so that I didn’t have to hear these noises anymore. Or I would just hide in a bathroom and cry hysterically because the noises would make me so mad. Now I still get angry, but I have learned to walk away or use my earplugs to prevent me from getting even more overwhelmed. The truth of the matter is that I will never be able to escape the sounds that bring me so much angst. Hearing people eating or chewing gum is unavoidable when you live in a world where over seven billion people exist, and expecting people to change themselves just to appease you and to make your life easier is just plain selfish. Adapting and finding ways to cope is the best thing that you can do for yourself and for the people around you.

 

Just remember this one thing: having Misophonia doesn’t make you crazy, it just makes you a little more quirky and interesting!