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.

Tattoos and Depression

I wouldn’t say that I have an addictive personality. I hardly ever drink, I don’t smoke, I take edibles, but not often, I don’t do hardcore drugs, I have sex, but just with my husband, and I guess you could say it is a “typical” amount of copulation for a couple who has been together for ten years, and I usually don’t overeat. I am not used to having that feeling of needing something so badly that it is all that you can think about, that is, until now.

I got my first tattoo when I was eighteen years old, and I regretted it immediately. It was a larger piece on the inner part of my left forearm, and when you are used to seeing a blank canvas to suddenly having something there that is permanent it can be a bit of a shock. I just remember waking up the next day in tears thinking “what have I done?” I promised myself that I would never get another tattoo for the remainder of my life, and I was going to try to save up enough money to get the one tattoo that I had removed. Then, six months later, I found myself in a tattoo shop getting another one.

Tattoo9

I love tattoos. I love piercings. I love the adrenaline rush that I get when I pull up to my favorite shop and see my favorite artists. I love the smell of the ink and the buzz of the tattoo gun. I love sitting in the chair and wondering what my next piece is going to be while I am getting something done. The music, the laughter, the swearing, the connections that you make with the person who is working on you, it all just makes my serotonin levels rise. I feel like I am in my own personal euphoria, and I soak up every moment of it. I don’t crave a lot of attention from others, but getting work done is such an intimate experience. You’re putting your trust into someone to alter the shell that holds you in it. They are changing not only your appearance but in a way, also your life. To me, that is beautiful.

Altogether, I have nine tattoos. I have gotten four tattoos in less than ten months, which is a lot for me. Two of those tattoos were done in the last twenty-four hours. I used to average one tattoo every year and a half to two years, so this is an interesting change of pace for me. I have been doing some thinking, and I think I have figured out why this flux of ink has been taking place. 

Although I am always thinking about tattoos, I tend to want them, even more, when I am either approaching or in a low. Interestingly enough, just a few days ago I had a therapy appointment with my therapist where we were talking about some newer feelings that were arising, and she expressed that she was worried that I was taking a step backward. I do feel like I am starting to revert to what my norm has been for all of these years, but I am desperately trying to nip it in the bud before it takes me down too much. Anyways, I think I have a correlation between my depression and my tattoos. You see, as stated in previous articles, my coping mechanism for a severe low or anxiety is cutting. I am proud to say that it has been a good stretch of time that I have gone without hurting myself, but that is where the tattoos come in.

Tattoo6

The moment the needle touches my skin I get giddy. Even when I am not in a great place mentally, I feel better. Whenever I would cut, it felt like a release. A break from feeling the way that I have felt for so long. I can breathe, and all my worries escape my mind, even if it’s just for a moment. Sometimes a moment break is better than no break at all. I have learned that tattoos give me that same relief, but it is even better. Instead of marking my body with scars, I am marking my body with images that bring me joy. There is only one tattoo that I feel “eh” about, but it will be an easy cover-up. 

Tattoo7

So here is my justification for my tattoos: They help me feel better. Mentally it is an escape, physically it helps me relax and my pieces have helped build my self-esteem. I would rather have my body marked with art rather than scars, so as long as I have the means to continue with my pieces, then you can expect to see me sitting in my favorite shop with my favorite artists.

Personal Boundaries

I have this tendency to love with everything that I have. When I genuinely and sincerely care about someone I will halt my life if they need me, I will make sure that they feel fully supported by me, and I will do anything within my power to help them smile and enjoy their life. When I love I love hard, and that has never been an issue for me until recently. 

I am starting to come to terms with a new life lesson that I am still trying to learn. As much as you might care about someone, there always is that chance that they really don’t care about you at all. And that, my friends, can be difficult to accept. 

I consider myself to be an intelligent being. I consider myself to be very intuitive, and I also feel like I could be considered empathetic. Although I don’t crave a lot of relationships with others, these traits allow me to still be good with other people. I can sit there and listen for hours to someone venting and seeking out advice, I can be a shoulder to cry on when someone is seeking out sympathy, and I can usually understand why someone may feel a certain way. I am just really good with people which is incredibly ironic since I am such an introvert at heart. The thing that I don’t understand about myself is that there are a select couple of people in my life that I am willing to do anything for even though I know that they really want nothing to do with me. Well, let’s clarify that. They don’t want anything to do with me unless it is convenient for them. And I have known this for a very, very, VERY long time, but I still hold on to that hope that one day our relationship could evolve into something that I have wanted it to be. So I keep being there for these people, I keep giving them everything that I have to ensure that they know that they matter to me, and each time that happens I am met with the same feeling that I always feel at the end: disappointment. 

Albert Einstein may have had a point with this one. “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”

I hate myself for this. I am a smart person, and I know that each time I am there for these people nothing will come from it, and yet I still have this need for it to be the way I have always envisioned it to be. I have always wanted a solid friendship, I have wanted trust and that feeling where I could go to them for anything. I have just wanted a friend. I have started to become resentful, which is dumb because I was the one who set myself up for disappointment. I have shown these people that they could take advantage of me because no matter what I will always be there for them in the end. They know that they don’t have to inquire about me because I will always be there for them in the end. They know that they can ask me for literally anything and I will give it to them in the end. I have taught them that. My grasp on hope for this relationship took over my common sense and my intelligence, and now I am left looking like the village fool. 

So what now? Do I keep repeating this cycle? I have spoken to my therapist multiple times about this issue and we have come up with a new challenge for myself: setting up my personal boundaries. I can still care about these people, but I am no longer going to go out of my way to be there for them. I have learned that letting go of the relationship that I have wanted for so long is not an actual loss because it never existed to begin with. If they call me because they need help with something I am allowed to say no. I can say no to whatever I want because at the end of the day they want nothing to do with me unless they need me, and that isn’t a relationship, that is one person allowing another person to take advantage of them. 

Having hope can be a beautiful thing, but holding on to hope when you know nothing will ever change can be incredibly damaging. You are allowed to have boundaries, so don’t let anyone, whether it is yourself or others, tell you otherwise.

Social Media

Back before social media became a big thing, I primarily only used the internet for my school work. I didn’t care what other people were doing, and other people didn’t care about me. Those were the days that were a lot simpler, and those are the days that I sometimes wish still existed.

Back when I was young, the platform that was primarily used was Myspace. Myspace was so much fun, but it basically sucked your soul in. I used to spend hours changing my background, finding the perfect picture to put on my wall, and deciding what song would play on the background of my page. I used to look at other peoples pages, look at their pictures, and look at what people had to say. I would choose my top friends list meticulously, and if you were on the list that meant that you were in my good graces. Myspace was kind of my social media gateway drug, and if I could turn back time, I would have stayed far away.

In high school, I kind of graduated from Myspace and went on to Facebook. Facebook was a lot more sophisticated than Myspace. You couldn’t personalize your home page, and it was just a lot less work to maintain. With that being said, Facebook ultimately became my mind. I know that sounds weird, but allow me to explain. As many of you know, Facebook allows you to post statuses, and in the status box it says “What’s on your mind, Brookana?” And boy, I let everyone know what was one my mind. I would share anything and everything, from going to out dinner, hanging out with my friends, and going to see the gynecologist. (Telling the world that I was going to the gynecologist was one of my more regrettable statuses.) Looking back, I hate the person that social media turned me into. I constantly wanted to show off my pictures so people thought that I was living a thrilling life, I posted statuses about my life so that people would know about it, and I was just completely consumed in the world of the internet.

I kind of figured out why I became obsessed with sharing my life, and I think it was because I wanted attention. Every like, every comment, and every view was just another notch on my self-esteem belt, but little did I know, it was starting to have the reverse effect. Every time I posted a status or a picture and I didn’t get attention from it I would start to question myself. Was I not funny? Was I not wise? Was the selfie that I posted not as pretty as I thought it was? I would refresh my page to see if someone finally paid attention to what I had to say, but every time I would not have a notification it would sting my heart just a little bit more. My self worth became wrapped up in social media, and it wasn’t until recently where I finally realized how unhealthy my relationship with the internet had become.

Listen, I am going to be honest about something. I have 390 “friends” on Facebook, and I maybe have an active relationship with about twenty of them. Most of the people that are on my list are people who I haven’t seen or spoken with in well over five years, and I don’t even know who they are anymore. There are some people who are complete strangers to me and who I have never met, some people that I don’t give two shits about, and some people who I lack the desire to have any kind of relationship with. I know for a fact that I am in those categories with other people as well, so why did I always find it necessary to allow these people into my life? I think it is because I just wanted that attention, and I just wanted people to see me. I never really made an effort to have a plethora of friends, especially since Stephen and Caille had always been more than enough for me, but I still wanted people to like me. I still wanted people to think that I was funny, that I was pretty, and that I was a good person. I just wanted people to care. Looking back at it now, I think it was extremely silly how much I wanted others to care about me, because you can’t force people to like you.

I think the beginning of the end of my obsession with social media was after the last presidential election. I’m not going to get super heavy on the topic, but I’m not a Trump person. I disagree with a lot of his viewpoints, and I was unhappy that he was elected. But the thing is, he was elected, he is our president, and now it is just something that we have to deal with. For about a year after he was sworn into office, everything online was about Trump and Clinton and the election. People were fighting about politics non stop, and people would cut deep with their insults. I sat there and saw people tear each other apart without any mercy because of their opinion, and honestly, I couldn’t take it anymore. I am happy that there are people who are passionate enough to fight for what they believe in, but there is a difference between being passionate and being violent, and people no longer saw that line. Political debates happened within my own family, hell Stephen and I just had one yesterday, but when you are constantly seeing it and watching people go at each others throats every second of every day, you kind of start saying enough is enough. So I slowly backed off of social media because of that, and I am grateful for that because it isn’t that important to me anymore.

I care about what people think about me, but it is the people who matter to me the most whose positive opinion is what I strive for. My family and my friends, those are the people that I want to be proud of me. I sincerely hope that everyone who is on my friends list is living an amazing life and that they are flooded with bliss, but at the end of the day, how much do we all actually mean to each other? I don’t really post much on Facebook anymore, but when I do, I do it for me. Whether people like what I have to say or show them no longer will define my self worth, because my self worth will come from how I perceive myself.

Social media can be a wonderful thing, but before you allow yourself to get completely sucked into it, just be warned.

Regrets

I hate when people say that they live a life without any regrets, but only because I can’t possibly fathom how that could be true. There are times, especially when I am in my “lows,” where all I think about are my regrets, and I wish I could change things in my past. I try to look at everything that I do as a life lesson, but damn, some things that have happened really haven’t taught me anything other than I can be an imbecile sometimes.

Most of the regrets that I think about are from when I was in high school. Back then, I didn’t have a filter, I thought that my opinion was the right opinion, and I acted before I considered the repercussions of my actions. I have hurt people with my words, and I have been punishing myself for those instances ever since the moment the words left my mouth. I graduated high school seven years ago, and I still can’t seem to forgive myself and let go of the mistakes that I made back then. Perhaps this will be an issue that I will have to deal with forever, and to a certain extent, I definitely deserve it. I used to act on my anger and frustration, and when I would do that, I wouldn’t care about what harm my words and actions would cause. When someone hurt or upset me, all I would see was blood, and I wanted to hurt people like they hurt me. It was not wise, I was not being logical, and I was just being mean. Grown-up Brookana definitely wishes that I could go have a major talk with teenager Brookana, because teenager Brookana used to be really superb at turning on the “bitch switch.”

I briefly spoke about this before, but one my biggest regrets was how I treated my mom and step-dad. I punished them for years, and as I got older, I knew how to push their buttons better. I was incredibly vindictive, and I wanted to hurt my mom by withholding a relationship from her. I knew my mom loved me, and I loved her, but I was mad at her and I wanted her to know that I was angry. I would ignore her, I would blow her off, and I would leave her out of things that was happening in my life. For example, junior year of high school the journalism team threw the talent show, and I was going to be one of the emcees. It was a big event for me because I was never into sports and I wasn’t apart of any clubs, so my parents never got to see me involved with any school functions. Well anyways, I didn’t tell my mom about it, and she only found out about it after someone else had mentioned it to her after it had happened. That was deeply hurtful for her, but at the time, I didn’t care. I was so cruel to my mom and my step-dad, and I regret that because I hate that I caused them so much pain for so many years. As I have gotten older and as I have matured, I have been able to see them for the people that they are, and my parents are incredible. My mom will have hour long conversations with me when she is exhausted or has a migraine. Last year, I had to have two major surgeries on my hand and my mom flew down to Dallas both times to take care of me. If my brothers and I were on a railroad track with a train heading our way my mom wouldn’t hesitate to push us out of the way. My mom has a beautiful soul, and I can’t believe that I hurt her so badly in the past. My mom is literally an angel in my life, and I love her so much.

With my regrets, I know that I am basically mind-fucking myself every time I think about them. When I think about them I become borderline obsessive, and it eats me alive. I think about all of the scenarios that those situations could have turned into and how I could have saved myself from hurting others. I think about why I lashed out, and why in some cases I completely overreacted. I wonder if my words haunt the other person as much as they haunt me. I wonder if I should reach out to the other person, or if I should pretend like nothing ever happened. I have confided in Stephen about my regrets, and I truly envy his mindset. Stephen has never really done anything to be sorry for, so he doesn’t quite understand why I have all of these ghosts. His advice is to “stop thinking about it” or “get over it” or “that was so long ago, it doesn’t even matter anymore.” Is it bad that I find those statements to be maddening? Like yeah, that’s great and all, and I really fucking wish that I could get over it that easily, but obviously I’m struggling here. Thanks Stephen for your awesome advice, but my obsessive mind won’t let me forget what I have done.

Please don’t judge me, but there have been times where I was driving myself so completely crazy with my regrets that I once looked into hypnotherapy to see if it could help me forget. It is so odd, I can cope with my bi-polar disorder and depression and I can cope with my diabetes, but these regrets are something that I just can’t shake. I don’t think hypnotherapy would do anything to help me, but in a way I am glad that I wouldn’t be able to do it because that would be the easy way out. I made my mistakes, now I need to learn how to forgive myself and to cope with the past.

The truth is, I don’t think that I have ever said or done something that was truly horrible and devastating. The worst thing that I have ever done was to my mom by blocking her out of my life, but we are in such an amazing place right now and we will only continue to grow our relationship. At the end of the day, I actually have learned somethings from what I have done. I have learned how to control my emotions so that if I do need to say something to someone, I can have a clear head space to avoid hurting them. I have learned that not everything that upsets me needs to turn into a battle, because usually when that happens it goes from bad to worse. I have learned that I don’t need to be friends with everyone, because sometimes toxicity will leak into your life that could cause a lot of harm. I have also learned how to reflect on a situation that turned out poorly, and learn what I could do differently the next time.

Honestly, I doubt that people who say that they don’t have any regrets actually feel that way. I mean, if that were true, that is amazing and I would be jealous, but if I were to guess I bet those people just know how to cope with their regrets better than me. I am hopeful that one day I can breath in and then exhale out my regrets, and finally be able to forgive myself, but for now, it is a work in progress.