Dear Miranda, I’m going to use a gardening metaphor way to much. Sorry, but not really.

One of the issues that not just a lot of codependents, but a lot of PEOPLE have is “Boundaries”. You hear counselors use that word a lot and I didn’t know what it was really until I my psychologist recommended the book aptly titled by the same name. Basically boundaries, in a very simplified version are anything that tells you where one person ends and another begins.

Skin is a physical boundary. It’s no wonder that those who have been sexually abused often have difficulty with boundaries as even the most basic of boundaries was violated and seems fairly unreal. Emotional boundaries are even more difficult for some of us to grasp. Codependents like myself have an extremely difficult time knowing were their own feelings begin and end and not taking responsibility for other peoples emotions. We are pro at anticipating other peoples feeling and responding… but we are not good at ” tending to our own garden” if you will.

For me boundaries are really blurry and obscure and after half a lifetime of busily pulling up weeds in other peoples gardens my own became so overgrown I couldn’t even see what’s in it anymore/where it was. A lot of the the beautiful flowers that once grew there are long gone and I can’t remember what they were or how I planted them. So I have started the task of weeding and planting MY souls garden.

I know that might sound daunting and in some ways it is, but it is also so tremendously exciting and even fun. I mean. I don’t know what the hell *I* like to do. I don’t know what I enjoy. So I started small.

I know I like to read and so I have been reading books that are helpful to my “gardening” (sorry, but this is seriously the most perfect metaphor ever and I’m going to wear it out). The first book I read was about how a souls garden gets as messy as mine has and some ways to identify if you are spending all your time pulling up weeds in people who wont pull their own weeds’ garden. Now I am reading a book on building a fence to protect my garden from those who would just take what they want and to remind me were MY garden begins and ends so I don’t wonder off before I have taken care of it. The book reminds me that I need a gate to let the good in and toss the bad out. It’s a fence after all… not a brick wall. It can be moved if it has to be but not easily and not without cost.

Therapy and these books coupled with prayer and a lot of introspection are my “weeding”. And slowly I am starting to see the shape of the garden of my soul. I’m working on building my fences and figuring out where they go but I am also sorting through all sorts of seeds to figure out what I like and what I want to plant and grow.

Other than reading the only other thing that I could think of that I knew I liked was being outside. I know that I want to get in shape and that working out makes me feel so much more mentally clear so I decided to try biking. I got a bike for me and Zac got one and we got one of those little carriages for Emily.

I honestly am shocked at just how much joy this has brought me. I LOVE it. It’s been so beautiful the past few days here and we have been biking every chance we get. My legs are a little sore and I’m a little breathless when we are done, but I feel SO happy.

The sunshine/fresh air/outdoors aspect of it lifts my spirits. The physical activity makes me feel productive and clear headed. The fact that it’s something that ALL three of us thoroughly enjoy is such a blessing. Family time and seeing Emily doing something that doesn’t involve electronics makes my heart smile. Biking is a blooming rosebush in my garden.

So now I have three things that I know make me happy… or three baby plants to tend to and grow. Reading, Biking, and Writing. For the longest time this was my ONLY healthy habit. Writing to you is therapy in an of itself. A big strong Oak Tree.

And I feel free Miranda. I don’t know what all I like but for the first time I feel like I not only have the right to try new things and find out… I feel responsible for doing it. It’s MY life. It’s MY enjoyment. There is NOTHING selfish about tending to your own life and learning JOY for yourself as apposed to constantly tending to others. 

I’ll end this letter by saying that the other thing I am learning is that what other people do or don’t do with their gardens isn’t my problem. Hahaha! Isn’t that great. People who are used to others constantly dealing with everything for them tend to be very angry/upset when you stop doing everything for them/playing into their guilt/ect. They get pissed when they trespass on your land and there are now consequences and that they get thrown out the front gate and onto their ass.  But some of the people around you are also really grateful for the fence because it helps THEM know what to expect from you and what you expect from them.

This doesn’t mean you can never leave the confines of your yard to help another, but it shouldn’t be all the time and it shouldn’t be at the expense of your own soul/self/garden. We all need help from time to time, but we all need to do our own share as well. I don’t own other peoples flowers and they have no right to come and take mine. I get to decide what I will allow for myself.

If you have any gardening tips of your own, I’d love to hear them. Love you!

-Me

Dear Catie, The ‘I don’t give an F meter.’

Hey B,

I know it’s been a long while since I last posted. I’ll be doing a post on my new years resolution progress after this one to catch up on that, but this post is going to be about my ‘Give an F” meter. For sake of making this post a little less explicit, we’ll call it ‘I don’t care” (IDC) meter.

I’m seriously discovering that I just might actually have an IDC meter. For example, about a month ago, here’s what would happen:

  • Wake up super early for work. It’s likely that by the time I actually rise from the bed, my alarm has gone off around four times. Thus, I’ve wasted valuable ‘getting ready’ time and already in a rush. The IDC meter depletion begins.
  • Wake up Elijah and clothe him because the poor guy got my lack-of-morning-person personality. He’s basically dead weight for the first hour. And cranky.
  • Food things. Feel guilty about the food things being Fast Food things both for health reasons and an unnecessary expense. Stress / Anxiety / Catastrophic thinking IDC depletino.
  • Drop off Elijah / pay for day care. Stress IDC depletion.
  • Go to work / work all day. This is where most of my IDC depletion happens.
  • Work out after work at trail. This one is hard to make happen after all the IDC meter depletion.
  • Drive home in guaranteed rush hour traffic. Some IDC meter subtraction.
  • Food things again. Likely fast food, because my IDC meter by this point is so depleted.

Like, seriously, after work, it’s kind of like my IDC meter is just done. Like, the rest of the things from the day are just extra things I have to really push myself to give any of the Cares about. And that makes just about everything that wasn’t a necessity in my life very difficult to manage. I started paying my bills and doing my budget and doing my schedule and writing and things while at work because by the end of the day, I just didn’t care and it wouldn’t happen because I’d be vegging out on the couch because.. I mean, come on, my brain is DONE.

 

This is something I didn’t realize would significantly change when I moved in with my Mother. I knew there would be positive change financially for me in this decision because I wouldn’t be paying rent and could pay off all of my debts much faster. But, what I didn’t realize, is that my IDC meter INCREASED in amount. So did the spending .

  • Wake up super early, still, because now I live 30 minutes farther from work than I did. But, I also go to bed earlier, because part of the condition of moving in was to not disrupt my little sister Melody’s schedule. Wakes up at 6am. Bathes at 7pm. Story at 7:30p. Bed by 8pm. So if Elijah is on the same schedule, as to not disrupt it, then I am done putting him to bed by 8pm. And if I am done then, and I still want to do the things such as gaming, reading, or lounging, then I can still do that for a couple of hours before going to bed at a reasonable hour myself. Tadaaaa. Therefor, no more IDC points taken during this activity.
  • Wake up Elijah. He is still dead weight in the morning, but he wakes up in about 20 minutes now instead of an hour. I don’t have to fight him much, and since he has his own room, I can wake him up once I am ready so I don’t have to battle both of us at the same time. Less IDC points taken!
  • Food things. Because we need to eat. So, oatmeal is yummy and he partakes. Myself, instead of buying food on the way to work, I eat breakfast there because it’s there and I can and I feel better both health wise and financially. Less IDC points taken!
  • The drive to work is always going to be rush hour. And that kind of sucks. BUT, mom suggested to me that I start listening to audiobooks in the car to make the time go by / take my mind off of the ridiculous traffic. IT WORKS. I am so rapped up in the story that I don’t notice how long I’ve been chilling in the same spot in traffic. Road rage depleted, and IDC points saved. (Plus, I feel like I am accomplishing / completing tasks I have held off on forever now because I never have time to read. So listening while doing something I HAVE to like driving makes me feel like it’s less of a chore and more of a, “YES I FINALLY READ THAT BOOK HUZZAH.”)
  • Drop off Elijah / Pay for daycare. This one still makes me sad because dat money, but I’m considering finding him another place to be that does Pre-K since he can’t do Kindergarten this year and has to wait a whole other year because September Baby.
  • Go to work. This one doesn’t cost so many points and it didn’t before. I like my job, I do. The only points depleted in it were having to do other not-work related things at work, which made things harder because multitasking. This is just never going to not take some points.
  • Work out after work. This one takes points, but it’ll be worth it someday, I tell myself. It makes me feel good about myself, like I did productive things, like I am gettnig stronger, ilke I might have my shit together if I can finally do this and not hate me.
  • Drive home in rush hour traffic. Same as driving to work in rush hour. Dat audiobook. Plus, I get to wind down from work out.
  • Food things. Not fast food, because I live with my parents and they cook the things. So that’s less fast food I’m consuming.

 

Basically, the TL;DR (too long; didn’t read) version of this is: Life at Mom’s isn’t that bad and helps my Give an F meter. Go team.

-Mojo

 

Dear Miranda, This letter isn’t actually to you…

So I wrote a letter to a friend who is Nutrition Therapist that I am going to be seeing. I wanted her to have a handle on my situation and needs before she made a plan for me but I also realize it’s a really great explanation of what is going on with me and were I am at right now so I wanted to share it with you.

Madison-

As I was filling out my paperwork last night I realized that with 300+ questions you might get a good handle on some of my needs but you really probably wouldn’t have a grasp of what I wanted or why I was doing this. And frankly I think it’s really important. This may seem a little convoluted and unrelated at first, so bare with me.

I recently started therapy, because my life had become unmanageable. My anxiety had become so bad that my emotions were constantly bubbling over and I found myself in tears daily for no reason at all. No matter what I did I could not seem to relax. I have always been a bit of a perfectionist but recently my need to control my environment was overwhelming. My mind was constantly spinning, my adrenaline was constantly pumping, and my immune system had started to shut down. I had no energy and was completely frazzled. Something was wrong with me. I felt like I was going crazy. I needed help.

I started seeing a therapist and what I have been learning is astounding. I’m not crazy. I’m the adult child of an alcoholic and codependency is not at all what I though it was. I thought that I had dealt with the fact that my mom is an alcoholic. I though I had let it go. But the problems run a lot deeper then I ever imagined. You see, codependency is not some feeble minded person who clings to an abuser, like I thought. To quote Melody Beattie, “Codependent’s are created out of the unspoken rules that develop in the immediate family of chemically dependent (or otherwise needy) people. The rules prohibit discussion of problems; open expression of feeling; direct honest communication; realistic expectations, such as being human, vulnerable, or imperfect; selfishness; trust in other people and one’s self; playing and having fun; and rocking the delicately balanced family canoe through growth or change- however healthy and beneficial that movement might be.”

I have all these unhealthy coping skills that I learned as an adolescent that tell me I am responsible for other people’s actions and feelings. That feelings are dangerous. That the smallest mistakes can cause absolute catastrophes.  None of these things were ever taught to me in direct words… they were learned from my environment. Codependents seem rigid and micromanaging because everything in and around them was out of control. They seem hostile or overly emotional because anyone who’s been through what we have would be angry/emotional, and angry was the only defense against being crushed. We can seem indirect because we learned early on that honesty isn’t tolerated, and we feel responsible for a tremendous amount because the people around us were responsible for so little. I have experienced the same amount of pain as an alcoholic… without the numbing effects of alcohol. It is no wonder I was wound so tight.

Now let me be clear. I don’t blame anyone for who or what I am now. I simply am trying to explain the cause and effect that led to me learning extremely unhealthy coping/life skills that followed me into adulthood and haunted me long after I had forgiving my mom for her mistakes and come to understand that alcoholism truly is a disease, just like Alzheimer (or Rabies) is a disease.

Currently I am working on learning a whole new set of coping skills and unlearning bad habits. It’s freeing to know I am not selfish, I am not a failure, and most of all I am not responsible for anyone’s feelings or actions but my own… and I DO control those. Learning that my feelings are just emotional energy and not dangerous is difficult but rewarding. I’m talented and lovable and I don’t have to be perfect for that.

I’m also working on goals to help me maintain calmness and clarity so that I am more able to sort through my thoughts and feelings. This is Essential. In order to do this I am continuing therapy, I am reading a bunch of really helpful books, I’m planning to start a meditation and prayer routine. I am attending Al-Anon meetings (a support group for those affected by alcoholics). I’m also planning to start exercising again. And last… that leads me to you… I need to improve my eating habits. It is no longer optional for me to feel Blah or have fuzzy thoughts. I need energy and clarity now more than ever. 

I know my eating habits were very poor (the only times they were really great was when I was using that as a distraction from the chaos) however I also know I am capable and willing to make changes. I don’t want to completely cut out any food group and I wont totally give up coffee… it is my one vise, but other then that I am willing put forth an effort. That being said, try and keep in mind that I work full time at High Sky and don’t get home till 7 at night. I am a mom and some days I might not have the emotional energy to pour into cooking. 

People who have suffered childhood trauma can lose up to 20 years of their life because of the stress (See this TED talk for more info on that http://www.ted.com/talks/nadine_burke_harris_how_childhood_trauma_affects_health_across_a_lifetime… it’s a problem that could be affecting up to 60% of the people you work with). I want to minimize that as much as I can and I for sure don’t want to help contribute to it. So just keep all this in mind, chew on it for a bit, while you work on a plan for me.

 Thanks so much. 

-Catie