Once my life finally got better I seemed to fall apart. It’s like when someone runs away from danger for an entire night and finally succeeds, they sleep soundly for a few days knowing they’re at peace from having outlived the chaos. That’s how I felt in every area of my life. I didn’t want to get out of bed, see anyone, do anything, or go anywhere. I just wanted quiet. As the dust settled though, I found myself to be really bitter and angry with everyone pretty consistently. I didn’t understand where that was coming from or what to do about it, so I started looking things up on the internet and learned about counter-dependency.
Counter-dependency was something I’d never heard of and just recently found. I’ve been this way for my whole life but this mixed with my trauma made me bitter and more isolated. It was as though once I was at peace with certain areas of my life, I’d notice these other rough spots keeping me from relaxing. It’s my understanding that counter-decency is a result of early childhood traumas such as abuse and neglect. I bought the book ‘The Flight From Intimacy,‘ by Janae B. Weinhold, PhD and Barry K Weinhold, PhD. It came with the following checklist:
I scored a 90 or ‘very high’ on this quiz. When I spoke to my doctor about it she told me that it’s more common in men than women and as we talked through some items I was shocked at how true this condition was for me. For instance, I have never wanted children and really never wanted to marry. In fact, I would date men that I didn’t want to be in a long term relationship with and knew that I didn’t want a long term relationship from the very beginning. When I would start dating, I would get immediately depressed and try to end the relationship as soon as I could because I had no interest in being in one. I was a ‘no second chance’ kind of person and would be very up front with that when I started dating someone. Within a month, I’d feel suffocated and worried I was being held back. I was a great friend but romantically, I was a different story.
Once my therapist asked me if my parents allowed me to be myself. They didn’t. They would make fun of me, embarrass me, and shame me. I had stopped keeping a diary as a teen because my step-father would read it out loud to my mother and they’d shame me. Most of my life my mother would compare me to other people who were better kids than me to their parents, which was typical narcissistic behavior. She would remind me how valuable my grades were and when they changed I wasn’t a good kid anymore. I also had a lot of behavior rules such as: don’t talk back, don’t get upset, don’t express your feelings, remember that your parents’ needs and feelings are always first. As a teen I was mainly allowed to either do homework at the dining room table or chores. I was not allowed in my room, I was not allowed to watch TV in another room from my parents, I was allowed to be on the phone for one hour a night and it had to be in front of them and I was taught to be quiet and not share my needs. That said, my therapist and the book advised that I wasn’t allowed to develop healthy narcissism. While I don’t have some of the items on the list, I have no interest in getting close to people and my favorite word was ‘no.’
In fact, in many relationships I would have to be worn down into dating in my adulthood. I was terrific at keeping people at arm’s length and this was something my family did as well. I had started with a wall up because each time I made a mistake I’d be screamed at, hit, and mostly shamed or made fun of by my parents. I had felt fundamentally flawed and certainly didn’t want to carry that into a relationship. If they fully saw me then they wouldn’t want me anyway. I will say, I am grateful that I took time to learn more about my narcissistic mother to help with my recovery and avoid becoming a narcissist myself. I could not, however, seem to raise my self esteem.
In relationships I’d be told I was too fat or was unattractive. Boyfriends would comment on how attractive other women were and seem to light up when a pretty one spoke to them in front of me. This didn’t help my self-confidence and I had no patience to put up with it so I’d either blow up and leave or ghost them. I am a feminist and never let someone use me as their personal property nor would I compromise myself to fulfill their desires. I did have a firm sense of boundaries and self respect even though I had a low self-esteem. I felt better alone than in a relationship. I learned from my molester that men will lie to get what they want, which is generally sex, and hide their true selves. I, on the other hand, would lie to get out of dating or being close to someone.
Through therapy I’ve discovered our life patterns are our self-fulfilling prophecies. How we begin shapes us into what we strive for, settle for, love and hate. In my trauma, I learned to distrust, disassociate, self-hate and self-shame. I coped by overeating, smoking, workaholism and isolation. I was never scared of my feelings, I just eventually stopped feeling all together. I was exhausted. So many bad things had happened over the course of my life I was completly enervated. For me, I just needed to get to a safe spot to heal. I know that if we have unhealed trauma from our childhoods it will impact us into adulthood. That meant that even though I survived each event in my life, I’d still be held back. Since I am counter-dependent, I’m having a harder time.
I had let my bad, isolating behaviors build up to the point that I had no idea how to live any other way. I still don’t want to date. I hate the idea of working on intimacy for any reason in a romantic regard. I also don’t want to keep turning away from it due to the wrong reasons. If I have unresolved developmental trauma I want the freedom from it. Today I am happy alone and I am still actively trying to remain that way. However, I want to have a healthy relationship with my self-worth and my self-esteem. I think the best investments we can make are ourselves. I don’t want to look at others as suffocating or needy. I don’t want to look at my self as an ugly, fat, loser either. The purpose of me doing this work is to stop keeping myself at arms length, to stop holding onto things, to let go of my anger, to know that I have achieved enough, and to be more empathetic and compassionate. Others aren’t the reason I’m this way and I don’t want to punish them for things they have no part in. Bad parents make bad kids or become bad parents. I don’t want my lack of coping skills to be a form of self medication and I don’t want to confuse that self medication as “self-investment.” I also don’t want to find that my fiercely independent personality isn’t empty somewhere without realizing it. It is time for me to forgive the things that have happened to me. I am open and ready.
If any of these areas resonate with you, I urge you to at least try the book. Take a look at yourself and your life. Are you confusing hiding yourself as safety? Are you not allowed to have a voice in your current life? Do you feel trapped in relationships? If you do, then please do this for yourself. My Adverse Childhood Experiences haunt me and I desperately want to break free. Don’t you? Doing this work is a relief not a burden. Healing myself to help others and be someone I’m personally proud of isn’t something I or you should ever be ashamed of.