My Efforts to be Codependent No More – Part One: What’s Codependency and Who’s Got It? (Me!)

I was decluttering when I found some pages I had photocopied from Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself by Melody Beattie. They include a list of things codependent people tend to do; I had written a number next to each item to represent how often it is a problem for me.

This discovery inspired me to dig up this post from January 2013. If anything, my codependency has gotten worse since I wrote it. I’ve decided to re-post it as a means of re-committing to what I’d started then but never finished: reading and doing the exercises in the book in order to help myself become less co-dependent.

I look over at Fox; he is sleeping. Anger rushes through me; I feel my shoulders and jaw tense. Why does he sleep so much? Doesn’t he want to spend time with me? Maybe he doesn’t love me. Maybe he’s taking advantage of me … coming here, just to sleep in my bed! Maybe it’s my fault he sleeps so much, I should be a better partner. He shouldn’t stay up so late! Doesn’t he care about his health? About me? And if I’m up late he should ask me to come to bed! It’s not fair that I wake so early and he gets to sleep!

I just wish I could get him to sleep and be awake at the same times as me! That way I wouldn’t be sitting here, unsure what to do with myself and feeling guilty for wanting to wake him. I feel sad and alone, abandoned again …

That’s a typical experience for me, especially since I tend to wake earlier than Fox. Until recently, I was convinced his sleeping was my problem; what I needed was to get him to change.  It wasn’t until I wrote Using Words to Say What They Cannot that I first separated the effects of Fox’s behavior on my quality of life from his actual behavior and intentions. Creating that separation helped me to see how, possibly, the problem may lie in how I am perceiving and reacting to his behavior – not the behavior itself.

I’ve started reading Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself by Melody Beattie. The first four chapters – which make up Part One – clarify what codependency is and help the reader identify aspects of codependency in hirself. Chapters 2-4 end with written activities; I would like to share and reflect upon my responses in this post.

I Can Relate

The activity for Chapter 2 asks the reader which codependents’ stories ze identifies with and why. Without posting the stories for context (and possibly violating copyright), it seems most meaningful to share the aspects of the stories that I identify with the most. Some of them appear in more than one story.

  • losing friends, hobbies, and love for life after entering a committed relationship
  • feeling guilty
  • feeling depressed
  • feeling like I lost myself
  • feeling angry and unappreciated while trying to make others happy
  • endlessly caring for others
  • getting caught up in and trying to control others’ emotions
  • feeling lost or enmeshed in others’ emotions and concerns

These issues come up the most in my relationship with my Mom, followed closely by my relationship with Fox, and to a lesser extent (I think) with Banji – in other words, with the people I’m closest to and who are the most central to my life.

Defining Codependency

There are many different definitions of codependency, each of which explains different aspects of a complex problem. Beattie provides a brief history of codependency to put these definitions into context and convey the meaning(s) of the word more accurately. I encourage interested readers to learn this history.

At the end of Chapter 3, Beattie asks the reader to define codependency for hirself. I combined multiple definitions from throughout the chapter into one:

Codependency is a habitual system of thoughts, emotions, and behaviors directed toward myself and others that cause me pain (p. 38). It arises from allowing another person’s behavior to affect me and wanting/trying to control that person’s behavior (p. 36). It is a result of living much or most of my life with unspoken, silent, oppressive rules that limit my expression of emotion and open, direct discussion of problems (p. 32).

Codependency is why I feel like Fox is controlling me and why I want to change certain aspects of his behavior. It is why I feel so guilty and angry all much of the time. It’s why I find the time I spend with Mom so draining – even when our interactions and endeavors go well! I’m codependent.

But it’s not my fault, it’s essentially how I was raised! My parents and other family members kept secrets and avoided expressing emotion. They didn’t deal with conflict well – they either tried to avoid it, or erupted into screaming arguments that terrified me as a child. They taught me to hide my problems; they didn’t take me seriously.

My responsibility now is to do something about it – not by trying to change anyone else (including my mom, as much as I really wish I could), but by changing myself.

It is time for me to unlearn my codependency.

How Am I Codependent? Let me count the ways …

Chapter 4 is essentially a list of characteristics codependents tend to have. It’s very long, and the majority of items apply to me at least somewhat; many to a strong degree. They are organized into categories: caretaking, low self-worth, repression, obsession, controlling, denial, dependency, poor communication, weak boundaries, lack of trust, anger, sex problems, miscellaneous, and progressive.

The activity at the end of the chapter invites the reader to mark each characteristic with a 0 if it does not apply at all, a 1 if it is “occasionally a problem,” and 2 if it is “frequently a problem.” As I did the activity, there were some items for which I wished I could apply a 3!

This was not part of the activity, but I wanted an easier way to see which categories I need to focus on most to overcome my codependency, so I developed a scoring system. I added my 1’s and 2’s to determine how many “points” I “scored” for each category, then divided it by the maximum possible “points” (number of items, times 2) to learn my percentage. Some of the results surprised me:

  • I scored highest in Anger (91%), followed by Repression (83%), Lack of Trust (79%), and Controlling (75%).
  • Caretaking (68%), Low Self-Worth (67%), and Dependency (67%) did not score as high as I thought they would.
  • Somehow, I scored 66% in Denial. I don’t see how …
  • I only scored 50% in Obsession and Weak Boundaries; I only scored 47% in Poor Communication! These were categories where I would have expected to score much higher!

[June 10, 2014 Update]

I’m kind of in denial about my new scores for these categories; clearly I was too quick to give “2”s to items that should have received “1”s and “1”s to items that should have received “0”s.

I scored 100% in Repression (+17%), 88% in Controlling (+13%) and Anger (-3%), 85% in Dependency (+18%), 82% in Low Self-Worth (+15%), 79% in Lack of Trust (no change) and Progressive, 72% in Caretaking (+4%), 69% in Weak Boundaries (+19%), 63% in Denial (-3%), 60% in Poor Communication (+13%), 56% in Miscellaneous, 50% in Obsession (no change), and 47% in Sex Problems.

[/Update]

Preparing to Change (Myself)

I’m scared to change myself. I don’t want to let go of how I’m used to understanding myself, or my old familiar comfortable habits (even when they hurt me). I don’t want to risk people I love liking me less because of the change.

But I know I really need it and I think I can do it – if I try really hard and allow myself to make mistakes, while remaining committed.

If I begin to change I hope I’ll start to feel better and be happier, more confident, and more capable. Maybe people will like me more – or, at least, I’ll find social interactions easier.

Changing won’t be easy, especially since it’s scary and I think the people I’m closest to and need the most support from will try to keep me the same. But maybe I can tell them what I’m trying to do and ask them to be understanding / try not to take it personally if I’m more assertive, etc. I’m doing what I need to get better!

So Now What?

Part 2 of Codependent No More is comprised of 16 chapters with information and written activities intended to teach the reader how to care for hirself. If I want to do it right, it will take quite a while for me to get through the rest of the book. I’m inclined to do the chapters in order; I might blog about some, most, or possibly all of them.

What are your thoughts on codependency? Do you think you might be codependent? Do you think anyone you know is codependent? Do you have any advice?

Relaxation: There’s an App for That

I’ve been taking some steps toward taking better care of myself, largely relying on the apps that are available to me now that I have an Android tablet.

Icon for the app "Stop Panic and Anxiety" by Excel at Life

Icon for the app “Stop Panic and Anxiety” by Excel at Life

The app I’ve found most useful so far is called “Stop Panic and Anxiety” and is available for free. It plays “audios” (streamed from the internet, which admittedly is not always ideal) for panic assistance, emotion training, and relaxation. I’ve been listening to one of the relaxation audios – essentially, guided meditation with music – to help myself fall asleep at night. My muscles seem to melt as I listen to it and I start to feel better. It should help even more if I listen to the other audios (not the one I use to fall asleep) at different points during the day.

Icon for the app "Depression Inventory" by Handcarved Software

Icon for the app “Depression Inventory” by Handcarved Software

I’ve also been using 2 other free apps, “Depression Inventory” and “eMoods”, to track my symptoms. My score on the Depression Inventory has been remaining steady in the mid-40s, securely in the “moderate depression” range.

Icon for the app "eMoods" by Yottaram LLC

Icon for the app “eMoods” by Yottaram LLC

eMoods is nice because I can track some contributing factors (medication, hours slept, verbal therapy, etc.) as well as my depression, irritability, and anxiety. I’m not entirely sure how useful tracking is right now as I’m not really seeing any change, and it can be very easy to keep giving the same responses. I think eMoods would be more useful if I had a way to measure my anxiety and irritability, as I’ve been using the Depression Inventory to measure depression. Back to the app store!
(eMoods is intended for people with bipolar and also measures elevated mood.)

Icon for the app "Assistant" by Speaktoit

Icon for the app “Assistant” by Speaktoit

Another app I’ve been using is “Assistant”, which I found by searching for Android equivalents of Siri. It’s the only one I’ve found that lets you set reminders that repeat every day (but not weekly, e.g. every Thursday). In theory it’s very useful, except that I find it way too easy to just ignore the reminders. If I pay $3/month or $20/once I’ll be able to teach it my own commands, customize its appearance and voice, etc. I’m still debating whether I think the upgrade is worth the cost. It might be if I can teach it what “every Thursday” means – and decide to stop ignoring the reminders!

Finally, I’ve renewed my commitment to actually using all the prepaid massages I’ve accumulated at Massage Envy. The way their membership works, you pay about $60 per month and can get a 1-hour massage at no extra cost (other than tip/gratuity). Any additional massages you get that month are at a reduced cost. If you don’t use your prepaid massage one month, it carries over to the next. And so on.

I let so much time pass between massages that I estimate I have about 13 prepaid massages available to me after using 2 of them on hot stone therapy on Sunday. I can’t afford to keep paying the membership fee while I’m not working, but if I cancel my membership I’ll lose the prepaid massages and have wasted hundreds of dollars! Ideally, if I use the massages they will help me feel well enough to find and keep a job; then I might be able to afford to continue my membership. Otherwise, I’m hoping to gain some benefit while using up my existing massages so I can cancel my membership guilt-free.

The massage on Sunday was good, but I left feeling a bit disappointed. I think the biggest factor was that the muscles in my scalp and face were very tense, but my therapist didn’t massage them because doing so was not part of the hot stone therapy (nor, I learned later, one of his areas of expertise). It was very hard for me to feel relaxed and rejuvenated when my jaw was sore from clenching, even though I’d enjoyed most of the massage and felt the muscles that were massaged relax. I also think (and realized then) that I was wearing depression goggles: it’s really hard to feel good about something when you feel completely drained and sad.

The most useful part of Sunday’s appointment actually happened afterward. I politely told the receptionist that my face and scalp were very tense, but the therapist had not massaged them, and asked why. She suggested a different type of massage and went out of her way to schedule me an appointment with the best therapist available on my preferred day who specializes in the technique. We made it a 90 minute massage (using 1.5 prepaid massages), with 30 minutes of cranial sacral massage and an hour of full body. Based on the recommendation of the hot stone therapist, I might request that the hour be spent on just my upper body.

Ironically enough, Massage Envy also has an app. It’s not compatible with my device, though, and several of the reviews advise against using it because it’s not for making appointments. That’s okay, though, in this case I think I’d much rather talk to a human being.

Planning A Head

I have had enough. Enough feeling horrible. Enough choosing not to go out because I don’t want anyone to see me. Enough living in clutter because I feel completely unmotivated to do anything about it. On Monday I didn’t even want to eat, that never happens (if anything, I usually overeat).

Saturday night was a lot of fun; Fox and I went out with some friends to a game store, where we could play board and card games to our hearts’ content and socialize with other people. It got a bit loud and overwhelming, but I was able to enjoy the social interaction and have fun playing the games. I even won Ticket to Ride: Europe and a hand of Magic: The Gathering. That felt really good!

A map of Europe with colorful train tracks connecting major cities.

The outcome of a 5-player game of Ticket to Ride: Europe. I played as blue – and won!

Unfortunately, it went a bit on the late side, and when we got home we were too excited to go to bed. We ended up pulling an all-nighter (sorting through Magic cards) and were a mess for two days. Our sleep cycles have been completely thrown off, our diets far from balanced (meals? what are they?), with barely any energy or motivation to do anything useful. We both seem to have some kind of cold or something. Yuck.

(Potential) Psychiatrist C-1 called while I was in my session with Wakana on Friday and I didn’t have a chance to call him back until Monday. No answer. I left a message. No return call. Now it’s late in the day on Tuesday. Nada. It’s been two business days, he might not even be in. But I’m sick of this nonsense. I know it’s unreasonable to blame him and I really don’t but I need to do something. Psychiatrist C-2 hasn’t called at all.

It’s time – past time – to take the matter into my own hands. I’ve had enough – more than enough – of this nonsense. I’ve written about treatment plans before but did I act on them? No. Well, not this time.

I really really hope, not this time!

Wake Up on the Right Side of the Bed

On Monday I made a 25-minute playlist of 5 songs to help me feel energized – or at least less dead – in the morning. I listened to them soon after waking up today (Tuesday) and wow, what a difference they made!

MP3 player next to a quarter.

This tiny little mp3 player is awesome.

The first two songs are from Barefoot and Flying by the Ebony Hillbillies, who play Black string music. They’re fun and active without being overly energetic or hectic, and I’m madly in love with the bass. The vocals are quite enjoyable, too. One song has a violin part that outright tickles me, and I enjoy the unique rhythms and timbres from the washboard and other percussion in both.

Two more songs are from Dance of the Celts: the first starts kind of mellow and picks up speed and energy as it goes along, while the second includes didgeridoo. The low drone and unique timber of the didgeridoo do amazing things for my mood; listening to it (for me) is like eating the most decadent chocolate while having absolutely fantastic sex. If that can’t perk me up in the morning, nothing will.

Finally, I ended the playlist with The Chieftains Reunion, an 11:22 monstrosity with a variety of changing instruments, very fun energetic rhythms, and a unique female solo vocal part around 8:30 that I can’t resist singing and sometimes even dancing to.

By the time I finished listening to the list, I felt calm, alert, ready to face the day, and even happy. I noticed that my mood started worsening pretty soon afterward, though, and the high energy to … well, nothing – because I wasn’t listening to music anymore – seemed to be the key contributing factor. I think adding a mellow, soothing song or two to bring my energy down more gradually would probably help quite a bit.

Break Your Fast

I’m usually pretty good about eating something very soon after I get up, even if it’s just a handful or two of raw nuts. Add some water, and I’m pretty much good to go – or at least less grouchy. My ideal would be to have eggs and whole wheat toast for breakfast every morning; it’s the most satisfying and energizing breakfast I’ve ever had.

A field of flax flowers, whose seeds will provide me with Omega-3. image from informedfarmers.com

A field of flax flowers, whose seeds will provide me with Omega-3.
image from informedfarmers.com

The harder thing for me to do is take pills. If I’m going to take them at all, around breakfast is the best time. I’ve decided to resume taking an Omega-3 supplement (1200mg flaxseed oil, which includes Omega-6 and Omega-9 as well but at lower doses) and a complex that has multiple forms of Vitamin B and includes Vitamin C for some reason. I’m thinking I should see if I can find a similar complex by a different manufacturer, though, because the one I currently have includes “inactive” ingredients I expressed concern about in my post, Ingredients.

I ran out of the Vitamin D supplement I’d once been taking, in part because I thought I’d be okay if I didn’t take it in the summer. Unfortunately, I just don’t seem to get enough sun for my body to produce what it needs. So maybe I need a lower dose of the supplement in the summer than I do in the winter, but I still need to supplement whatever my body is able to make naturally. I plan to resume doing so as soon as I’m able.

Finally, I’ve decided to go ahead and self-medicate with SAM-e. It’s a supplement that is supposed to help one’s brain produce the neurotransmitters it needs to run, well, considerably better than mine has been. Unlike Protazen (see previous post) – which explicitly has not been subjected to efficacy research “in order to avoid raising the cost to consumers” (according to their customer service representatives) – SAM-e has multiple empirical studies backing it up. It’s probably not any more – possibly less! – expensive than taking a brand-name drug, even with a prescription (insurance) plan. And I can get it in about 3 clicks, no phone tag required. I took my first dose today.

After shopping around a bit, I’ve decided to buy my SAM-e (and possibly other supplements) from Now Foods. They (say that they) use “natural” ingredients – things you could find in nature or synthetic chemicals that are essentially identical – and explicitly avoid the strange substances I expressed concerns about in my post on inactive ingredients (link). I’m hoping the stuff they use will be a bit nicer to my body and possibly even help (or at least not hinder) the active ingredient.

Spock Helps Those Who Help Themselves

So after I wake up to the sound of music, pop a bunch of pills “natural” supplements, and eat breakfast, I get to focus most of my energy on trying to feel good – or at least less like dying. (That’s not an exaggeration.)

a rat on a girl's shoulder

furry little companions make everything better!

The rats are wonderful. They’re cute and fuzzy and happy to see me – especially in the morning when they’re hungry. It’s really hard to interact with them without a smile breaking out across my face, whether I think I feel like smiling or not. The more I can spend quality time with them, the better.

Hey, you know, Fox is pretty wonderful, too. When he’s not being grumpy pants … and sometimes even when he is. 🙂

Our herb and vegetable garden is doing pretty well, all things considered. Sure, the parsley is a lost cause and the basil has seen better days (literally) and I’m not sure we’re ever going to get cucumbers from the strange prickly vine that’s waiting to ambush us from its pot. But the weed chocolate mint is thriving (seriously, looking for a delicious ground cover? get this stuff and hope your neighbors can appreciate it, too), our peppers are getting fat and starting to turn orange, and on Monday I harvested the first of our beautiful red Roma tomatoes! Just thinking about it makes me very happy. It would do me a lot of good to at least check on the garden every day, even if it doesn’t need weeding, pruning, or watering.

I’m enrolled in several free online courses on Coursera as well. To be honest I haven’t been paying much attention to the one that’s already started, but that’s okay because it won’t affect my GPA, I didn’t pay for it, and I’m taking it entirely out of interest. This gives me something to do and an opportunity to learn about diverse topics I’m interested in, for the fun of it, no need to stress. Win-win.

I’m still seeing Wakana twice a week, though we’ll have some breaks because she’s traveling in August. I stopped being consistent with massages but they’re still on the radar as something to help relieve stress. Aromatherapy can be added to the massage; maybe I’ll even get around to trying it at home, too. For starters, I can use the extra lotion I took home from past aromatherapy-enhanced massages. And I’ve been increasingly tempted to go see a chiropractor as my back, shoulders, and hips become increasingly painful.

Yes, I know, 30 minutes of exercise per day has been shown to help fight depression. It would probably do wonders for my chronic pain, too. I’m just not quite there yet. Nor am I ready to get out, join social groups, try new things, etc. – at least not without a lot of support, poking, and prodding by people I trust enough to share a bed with them. Let me practice on the foothills until I can climb halfway up one without struggling to breathe, before you ask me to climb Mt. Everest.

But speaking of climbing Mt. Everest, I have no idea where the Out of the Darkness Overnight is going to be in 2014. Wherever it is, I want to do it next year; whether I can attend the event or not, I want to start training for it ASAP. The more time I can give myself to get in shape, the better.

book cover: Codependent No More by Melody BeattieFinally, I’ve got some self-help books I’ve been meaning to read and do the exercises in. They have to do with time management, unlearning the lessons of an abusive childhood, and cognitive therapy for depression. One of them isn’t a self-help book per se, but might provide useful information for selecting music based on its potential therapeutic effects. (Just to clarify: that’s not music therapy, because I’m doing it for myself. However, it is one thing music therapists often do as part of their work with clients.)

I took another look at the chapter on Detachment in Codependent No More by Melody Beattie. I’m not entirely sure I’m done with it, nor whether I want to write another post about it, but I do plan to continue on through the rest of the book from there.

And How Will You Know If All This Stuff Is Working?

The Burns Depression Checklist is a very valuable tool for measuring severity of symptoms and tracking changes in said severity over time. It’s a self-report measure that’s been tested and found to be quite accurate and reliable. It’s used by many mental health professionals. The link above is only one of several that can be found via Google search; I selected it because it includes the scoring scale and will calculate your score for you.

I filled in the checklist Monday evening and my score was 60, indicating severe depression. It’s easier for me to focus in on one day at a time, but the severity of my symptoms can fluctuate pretty drastically from day to day or even over the course of a given day, depending on a multitude of factors. There were times Monday when I felt like I was perfectly fine, and yet also enough shitty moments that my responses earned me a 60. So, I think it’s probably best if I complete the checklist multiple times per week, focusing on a single day each time, and then take the average score for each week. Over time a pattern will emerge, and that pattern will help me see how my depression is doing.

It might also be helpful to make note of anything that might be having a particularly strong impact on my symptoms. “So-in-so visited for a few days and I was very happy to spend time with zir. It was great while ze was here, but a bit of a letdown when ze left.” “I had a very fun high-energy social evening, but didn’t get enough sleep afterward. Sleep deprivation made my symptoms a lot worse until I managed to fix my sleep cycle.” … I think you get the idea. Then instead of throwing up my hands when there are too many variables to have any clue which ones are having an effect, or whether the positive effects of my treatment are just being utterly thwarted by the shit life’s throwing at me, I can actually look at all (well, most?) of the variables and get a better feel for what’s going on.

My Efforts to be Codependent No More – Part One: What’s Codependency and Who’s Got It? (Me!)

I look over at Fox; he is sleeping. Anger rushes through me; I feel my shoulders and jaw tense. Why does he sleep so much? Doesn’t he want to spend time with me? Maybe he doesn’t love me. Maybe he’s taking advantage of me … coming here, just to sleep in my bed! Maybe it’s my fault he sleeps so much, I should be a better partner. He shouldn’t stay up so late! Doesn’t he care about his health? About me? And if I’m up late he should ask me to come to bed! It’s not fair that I wake so early and he gets to sleep!

I just wish I could get him to sleep and be awake at the same times as me! That way I wouldn’t be sitting here, unsure what to do with myself and feeling guilty for wanting to wake him. I feel sad and alone, abandoned again …

That’s a typical experience for me, especially since I tend to wake earlier than Fox. Until recently, I was convinced his sleeping was my problem; what I needed was to get him to change.  It wasn’t until I wrote Using Words to Say What They Cannot that I first separated the effects of Fox’s behavior on my quality of life from his actual behavior and intentions. Creating that separation helped me to see how, possibly, the problem may lie in how I am perceiving and reacting to his behavior – not the behavior itself.

I’ve started reading Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself by Melody Beattie. The first four chapters – which make up Part One – clarify what codependency is and help the reader identify aspects of codependency in hirself. Chapters 2-4 end with written activities; I would like to share and reflect upon my responses in this post.

I Can Relate

The activity for Chapter 2 asks the reader which codependents’ stories ze identifies with and why. Without posting the stories for context (and possibly violating copyright), it seems most meaningful to share the aspects of the stories that I identify with the most. Some of them appear in more than one story.

  • losing friends, hobbies, and love for life after entering a committed relationship
  • feeling guilty
  • feeling depressed
  • feeling like I lost myself
  • feeling angry and unappreciated while trying to make others happy
  • endlessly caring for others
  • getting caught up in and trying to control others’ emotions
  • feeling lost or enmeshed in others’ emotions and concerns

These issues come up the most in my relationship with my Mom, followed closely by my relationship with Fox, and to a lesser extent (I think) with Banji – in other words, with the people I’m closest to and who are the most central to my life.

Defining Codependency

There are many different definitions of codependency, each of which explains different aspects of a complex problem. Beattie provides a brief history of codependency to put these definitions into context and convey the meaning(s) of the word more accurately. I encourage interested readers to learn this history.

At the end of Chapter 3, Beattie asks the reader to define codependency for hirself. I combined multiple definitions from throughout the chapter into one:

Codependency is a habitual system of thoughts, emotions, and behaviors directed toward myself and others that cause me pain (p. 38). It arises from allowing another person’s behavior to affect me and wanting/trying to control that person’s behavior (p. 36). It is a result of living much or most of my life with unspoken, silent, oppressive rules that limit my expression of emotion and open, direct discussion of problems (p. 32).

Codependency is why I feel like Fox is controlling me and why I want to change certain aspects of his behavior. It is why I feel so guilty and angry all much of the time. It’s why I find the time I spend with Mom so draining – even when our interactions and endeavors go well! I’m codependent.

But it’s not my fault, it’s essentially how I was raised! My parents and other family members kept secrets and avoided expressing emotion. They didn’t deal with conflict well – they either tried to avoid it, or erupted into screaming arguments that terrified me as a child. They taught me to hide my problems; they didn’t take me seriously.

My responsibility now is to do something about it – not by trying to change anyone else (including my mom, as much as I really wish I could), but by changing myself.

It is time for me to unlearn my codependency.

How Am I Codependent? Let me count the ways …

Chapter 4 is essentially a list of characteristics codependents tend to have. It’s very long, and the majority of items apply to me at least somewhat; many to a strong degree. They are organized into categories: caretaking, low self-worth, repression, obsession, controlling, denial, dependency, poor communication, weak boundaries, lack of trust, anger, sex problems, miscellaneous, and progressive.

The activity at the end of the chapter invites the reader to mark each characteristic with a 0 if it does not apply at all, a 1 if it is “occasionally a problem,” and 2 if it is “frequently a problem.” As I did the activity, there were some items for which I wished I could apply a 3!

This was not part of the activity, but I wanted an easier way to see which categories I need to focus on most to overcome my codependency, so I developed a scoring system. I added my 1’s and 2’s to determine how many “points” I “scored” for each category, then divided it by the maximum possible “points” (number of items, times 2) to learn my percentage. Some of the results surprised me:

  • I scored highest in Anger (91%), followed by Repression (83%), Lack of Trust (79%), and Controlling (75%).
  • Caretaking (68%), Low Self-Worth (67%), and Dependency (67%) did not score as high as I thought they would.
  • Somehow, I scored 66% in Denial. I don’t see how …
  • I only scored 50% in Obsession and Weak Boundaries; I only scored 47% in Poor Communication! These were categories where I would have expected to score much higher!

Preparing to Change (Myself)

I’m scared to change myself. I don’t want to let go of how I’m used to understanding myself, or my old familiar comfortable habits (even when they hurt me). I don’t want to risk people I love liking me less because of the change.

But I know I really need it and I think I can do it – if I try really hard and allow myself to make mistakes, while remaining committed.

If I begin to change I hope I’ll start to feel better and be happier, more confident, and more capable. Maybe people will like me more – or, at least, I’ll find social interactions easier.

Changing won’t be easy, especially since it’s scary and I think the people I’m closest to and need the most support from will try to keep me the same. But maybe I can tell them what I’m trying to do and ask them to be understanding / try not to take it personally if I’m more assertive, etc. I’m doing what I need to get better!

So Now What?

Part 2 of Codependent No More is comprised of 16 chapters with information and written activities intended to teach the reader how to care for hirself. If I want to do it right, it will take quite a while for me to get through the rest of the book. I’m inclined to do the chapters in order; I might blog about some, most, or possibly all of them.

What are your thoughts on codependency? Do you think you might be codependent? Do you think anyone you know is codependent? Do you have any advice?