I arrive home from my first therapy appointment. I share with my husband my experience. He asks me what I thought about the therapist. I said, “She’s OK” and show him the recommended book, Codependent No More. We chat a bit about me not knowing what to do at check out. He assures me everything is fine. I kind of am able to put it aside, but truthfully, I tuck it all away inside.
I am a bookworm. I love books! I own hundreds of books. I have a list of want to ‘own or read’ that surely rivals the Library of Congress catalogs. I welcome reading Codependent No More, especially learning that the answers to my current life flailing’s were within these pages. That is right, all the answers to correct whatever is wrong. That very night, I embark upon the ‘Introduction.’ Here are a few enticing sentences I highlighted:
I saw people who constantly gave to others, but didn’t know how to receive. I saw people give until they were angry, exhausted, and emptied of everything.
Yet, these codependents who had such great insight into others couldn’t see themselves. They didn’t know what they were feeling. They weren’t sure what they thought. And they didn’t know what, if anything, they could do to solve their problems…
Sadly, aside from myself, nobody knew how badly I felt. My problems were my secret.
I was so responsible, so dependable. Sometimes I wasn’t sure I had a problem. I knew I felt miserable, but I didn’t understand why my life wasn’t working.
I saw people who had gotten so absorbed in other people’s problems they didn’t have time to identify or solve their own. These were people who had cared so deeply, and often destructively, about other people that they had forgotten how to care about themselves. The codependents felt responsible for so much because the people around them felt responsible for so little; they were just taking up the slack.
And, the pain that comes from loving someone who’s in trouble can be profound.
It’s difficult to convince codependents – those who by comparison look, but don’t feel, normal – that they have problems.
These few insights lured me into a place of hopeful thinking. All I needed was to complete this book, attend and talk in a few therapy appointments, and I could wrap this investment of time and money up in about (my thinking – 20 chapters, read one a week and do the exercises, see the therapist every other week) 20 weeks, about five months! I can do this; this is nothing! I like to read; I like to write; and I like learning. I will know what is wrong; what to do to fix it; and permission granted to speed along my fair maiden! And, they lived happily ever after! The end! WHAT A FANTASY! I had no inkling about what lie ahead!! Ignorance is NOT always bliss!
I buzzed through chapters one and two like they were children’s books, picking up ideas, words and phrases like fatigue; some things were becoming an effort; my family and friends think I am a tower of strength; always in control, always ready to help; fear; believing lies; sick of shouldering the burden and feeling responsible for the success or failure in relationships; guilt; I’m falling apart very quietly; have I been depressed for years?; I should be able to snap out of this; long ago I had shut off my need to give and receive love, I had frozen that part of me that felt and cared, I had to survive; I am trapped and cannot find my way out; something dreadful that I couldn’t explain had happened to me and has now snuck upon me; “adult child”?
The only chapter assignments thus far were to purchase a large notebook and record my responses to assignments, the above being the first, identifying these things (and people, which I did in my large notebook!) All done in two days! Hmmm…this might move a bit faster than I first calculated. But…all this is something to be considered. Little did I know that this was like peering at the Hubble Deep Field, ten billion light years away!
You can be assured that I did not stop at chapter two. In fact, I sailed through half the book and exercises up to chapter eleven by the time of my next appointment. I learned a couple definitions of codependency. One particularly stood out, referred to by Robert Subby in his book, Co-Dependency, An Emerging Issue seemed most to have a ring of truth for me:
“An emotional, psychological, and behavioral condition that develops as a result of an individual’s prolonged exposure to, and practice of, a set of oppressive rules – rules which prevent the open expression of feeling as well as the direct discussion of personal and interpersonal problems.”
You see, silence and secrets fell on me like snow on the mountain peaks. I never spoke to anyone at any time about my childhood; about feeling alone in this life having to figure it all out for myself; about learning to survive on my own; about my husband’s problems and the struggles in our marriage; about an entire host of things inside of me that I did not, could not, and should not discuss, and furthermore did not weigh in as conscious topics to be discussed. For the first half of the book I sponged in information, identified concepts, learned characteristics, learned about detachment, undependence, removing the victim, the concept of setting myself free, and living my own life. I cognitively had an influx of information. Now I am one to extract knowledge, think on it, dwell on it, break it down, shred it apart, ponder on the pieces, mince it to fragments, toss it into the fire for purification (scripture reading and prayer,) and construct my truth. This I had done and I was all set for appointment number two!
This time, I did not feel like I was driving to my funeral; I was filled with a little more confidence; I knew where I was going; I was prepared with my homework in hand; and I moved with familiarity. I arrive at the facility around 5:30 pm for my 6 o’clock appointment. I assumed I was to check in with the back receptionist as I did on the first visit, as the sign indicated. When I got to the back receptionist, there was no receptionist; in fact, there was no receptionist at either the front or the back desks. I thought maybe because the appointment was after normal business hours that I should wait in the back waiting room, where I sat at the first appointment. I sat there thirty minutes; no one came, not one person. There was not another patient, another therapist, another body anywhere; there was silence. At 6:30 pm, I thought perhaps I was wrong on the appointment day and/or time. Maybe I already missed the appointment, maybe I wrote down the wrong day, maybe I’m not supposed to be here, maybe I went to the wrong place and don’t even recognize it, am I in the right place, and onward my inner confusion mounted. I decided I would leave and be done with this entire unsettling mistake. I stood up quietly and quickly began to make my way to the exit. I get a couple steps past the front receptionist desk and here, “Deeon?” I turn around and there stood my therapist in her stilettos and fine clothing. She asks, “Where have you been?” I said I was in the waiting room where I was last week, there was no receptionist to check in with, and so I waited back there. Now, I am quite keen on discerning people; she was miffed! She looked at the clock, and said, “Well, we have a half hour, so let’s go to my office.” I felt like a child being whisked away to the naughty room. I sincerely felt terrible about the confusion. When we sat down in her office, she asked why I had not gone up to the receptionist area again to check in. I again stated there was no one there. She boldly told me that I was responsible for checking in, otherwise no one would know that I was there. Between her edge and my guilt, internally I took full responsibility for the mishap, blamed myself, and completely lost my voice to speak. I have no idea what she said for the remaining twenty minutes, not a clue. Departing, I took a deep breath and said, “What would you like me to do with this homework?” She said, “I’ll take it” and she did. And then she further stated in a nonchalant manner, “There is no one to check you out or set up another appointment. You will need to call in tomorrow to schedule your next appointment.”
I was never so glad to step out into the dark night and cold air. On the drive home, I wondered if I was losing my mind. What are you doing? Why are you doing this to yourself? Maybe I should not be doing this. I do not think she likes me. Why doesn’t she like me? Why didn’t she check for me in the waiting room? I do not think I should call tomorrow for another appointment. I think I should stop now. Maybe this is how therapy goes. Maybe you are the one responsible. Maybe they do not tell you how to do things to see how you will do things. Maybe you are being over-sensitive. Perhaps your misery is actually just your own melancholy, your personality type. Maybe some pastors are right – maybe my issues are really a deeper spiritual challenge. But, I read my Bible every day on morning break, I pray every day throughout the day, I go to church, I try to live a responsible life of integrity, and I certainly sacrificially help others. What is wrong with me? You know that self-talk? I had so much chatter going on in my head; I thought a large family of hungry squirrels had taken us residency.
By the time I arrived home, I was convinced this was not what I should be doing and shouldered the responsibility for this failure. Now, my husband is an easy-going type of guy. Through the years, I have learned that he will take the opposing side, but had not wisened up to that yet. I shared with him the situation and he convinced me that everything would be fine, I needed to call the next day to establish my next appointment, it was just a coincidental mistake, and she likes me otherwise she would not have told me to call for another appointment. In his own ignorance, he neutralized and counterbalanced my thoughts, he too not knowing what lurked ahead. I called the facility the next day. My next appointment was scheduled out for two and one half weeks later. Truthfully, that did not set well with me either, but I thought it must be normal. Despite my internal uneasiness, I did not know what was abnormal.
To be continued…
Love you, mean it!