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

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