How To Know If You're Codependent Before It Kills You
Yes, Unresolved Trauma Doesn't Just Cause Codependency, It Can Kill You.
When we think of the word 'trauma' the first images to come to mind are wars, horrible car accidents or personal attacks. But life-altering trauma happens everyday in homes all over the world. The kind of trauma, that left untreated will rob its victims of joy and a satisfying, vibrant life.
Author of the book, "Healing Trauma," Peter A. Levine, PhD he lays out the six causes of trauma. Four of them are happening in families right now:
- Severe childhood emotional, physical or sexual abuse
- Neglect, betrayal or abandonment during childhood
- Experiencing or witnessing violence
Events such as being left alone for long periods of time or loud noises with no comfort given are common in dysfunctional homes. For better or worse, in many cases, the victims cannot remember the occurrences because it just hurt too much. The pain is kept at bay by amnesia.
It doesn't matter if you remember them or not. If it happened, it has left its mark on you. And if you don't commit to changing your intellectual, emotional and physical way of coping, you will suffer the consequences years down the line.
"If you bring forth that which is within you, then that which is within you will be your salvation. If you do not bring forth that which is within you,
then that which is within you
will destroy you."
The Gnostic Gospels
Are You Codependent?
Codependency means that you have lost yourself while trying to enable, fix, please and control those around you. The 'whys' of it are a whole different blog and I have many on this site. What is important is "how" it has driven your life and your health off the rails. Typical issues include (but aren't limited to):
- Low Self-Esteem
- Anger or Rage
- Overly Controlling
- History of Dysfunctional Relationships
- Sexual Problems
The Short and Long Term Effects of Trauma
Unresolved trauma begins manifesting itself immediately after an event. The following symptoms are but a few that are common shortly after trauma has taken place:
- Nightmares and Night Terrors
- Flashbacks and Intrusive imagery
- On Guard at all Times
- Abrupt Mood Swings
Later other symptoms can take hold:
- Avoidance Behavior
- Panic Attacks
- Attraction to Dangerous Situations
The final set of symptoms occur years later:
- Chronic Fatigue
- Immune System Problems
- Chronic Pain
- Skin Disorders
- Digestive Problems
- Psychosomatic Illnesses (Headaches, Neck/Back Pain)*
This is by no means a complete list but it does show the connection to physical health and mental/emotional wellbeing. Clearly, many of the symptoms of trauma are the same as those resulting from codependent behavior.
- Feeling Frozen
- Mental Blankness
- Inability to Truly Love or and with Other People
- Avoidance Behavior
- Panic Attacks and Phobias
You may be suffering physical issues as well as emotional ones that are the result of terrible things that happened to you years ago that you might not even remember.
What can you do about it?
*from Healing Trauma, Peter Levine
How To Take Charge And Get Healthy
The first step to turning things around is, of course, knowing there is a problem. The physical issues you are suffering from aren't random. Chances are very good that you are exhausted emotionally from faking your way through life because the real you is too damaged. When the body is worn down by stress, anxiety and all the other issues listed above - it leaves itself wide open to every kind of danger.
But knowing isn't enough. that's where codependents get hung-up. We know things in our heads but we don't do the work of changing. Knowing is not doing.
If you recognize yourself in this article, then the next step is make a decision to do whatever it takes to reclaim your health on every level.
When I wrote my book, "You're Not Crazy-You're Codependent" in 2012, the word Mindfulness wasn't a thing yet. Now it has so saturated the market that many people think of it as a gimmick - a buzz word - that isn't taken seriously anymore. Just like the word "kind." This well-meaning, important word turned into a social media movement. When a line of cleaning products is named "Kind," you know it has reached its saturation point!
Never the less, mindfulness has been around since Buddha, and long after it has ceased being a mini-movement, it will still be as viable and necessary as it ever was.
And it is an essential part of my book. There's a guide to recovery through mindfulness which spells out steps to facing and overcoming personal issues using this simple, ageless technique.
For instance, a family member says something that triggers you. Without thinking, you respond with a defensive, harsh comment. When using mindfulness, you would take an extra breath to give yourself a second to notice what you're about to do. And you choose a new behavior. You walk away. That's it. You are practicing mindfulness.
Lost in a codependent world of dysfunctional, learned behavior, almost everything you do, say and think will need to be observed without judgement.
If you are a people pleaser, you will need to take a breath and make a decision that right now your own well being is more important that trying to keep another person happy and therefore liking you.
If you are a perfectionist, you will have to learn to look in the mirror, take a breath and remind yourself you do not need to look perfect to be accepted in this world.
If you are controlling, you will learn to take a breath and let the other person make a poor choice knowing they will have to live with the consequences. You are not in charge.
These types of changes may seem trivial but over time they result in a new sense of calm because you chose your behavior. You weren't a victim to compulsive responses that only bring the same non-satisfying results. You are being mindful.
By committing to this not only will you eventually stop being a codependent doormat - terrified of rejection at every turn- you will also be giving your body positive 'food' to grow and get nurtured from. Sickness cannot thrive where a healthy mind and body live.
It Costs Nothing To Do It - But It Costs Everything Not To
My own personal road from trauma riddled codependent to a relatively normal, happy person has been a hard one. And I've learned there is no end point. I also know that the pain and issues I had at the beginning of this epic journey were much, much bigger than the ones I face today. I wrote my book to help others who are in similar situations. Most are determined to do what needs to be done because they've reached the end of their ropes. Others find it easier to be cynical and criticize things they don't have the strength to take on. Everyone in their own time, I say.
When I was practicing mindfulness, I didn't know it was called mindfulness. I wasn't jumping on a bandwagon. I read a lot of books searching for answers and help. I learned how to transform my ever vigilant self-judging into a non-judgmental observation. I gradually learned to be my own parent. I had to learn to nurture myself. that's what mindfulness is. Being both the errant child and the wise parent in one. Able to stop myself from saying or doing something destructive and giving myself pat on the back for making a better choice.
Maybe you're dealing with life threatening problems, which I trust you are seeing physicians for. Or you could be stuck in a black pit of depression with a multitude of physical maladies that make life miserable. Either way, you can begin this process. Do it so that you can feel good about something.
Trauma can be worked through as can codependency. It may never leave you but it will no longer run your life. You owe this to yourself. Be brave and go for it.
© 2018 Jeanette Menter