Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Codependent, Empath and Anxiety/Anxious

I have recently discovered a common thread among codependency, empathy and anxiety. I happen to have all three characteristics (overachiever.) I’ve known about the anxiety for many years, discovered that I am codependent about two years ago and was informed on February 13 of this year that I am an empath.

          The definitions:

Anxiety means you freak out intensely, worry, obsess and panic a lot. Self-talk and self-awareness are keys to recovery/dealing with anxiety, and an occasional Xanax. I have had this my entire life. It is most often inherited/genetic.

Codependency does NOT mean you are dependent, not in the way one may think. In simple terms, we are rescuers and enablers. Though our hearts are in the right place and we feel we are helping, we are usually creating bigger problems trying to save the world single handedly. Codependent people are usually not slackers. We will run off fumes trying to accomplish a task (even if it is not our responsibility,) or die trying. It takes quite a while to hone these unhealthy skills and sadly, it is a lengthy process undoing the behavior. I went through approximately one year of class and counseling on codependency, healthy speaking/acting and boundaries. This required a lot of self-reflection, and as stated in another blog, “self-reflection sucks.” Codependency is typically a result of emotional abandonment, usually from childhood. These traits can also be learned behaviors.

Being an empath is a new term to me, but certainly fits me and has explained a lot of things about myself that were confusing. An empath senses/feels other’s feelings and emotions, therefore having a unique understanding of another person without actually walking in their shoes. This gift/trait dances along a fine line for me on a spiritual level and has been something I have devoted a lot of time and energy into understanding. It can easily be categorized as psychic, which is quite controversial. I am not into weegie board/evil/satanic things and want no part of such. Yet, I have this ability to see, feel and understand things beyond what most can. To me, it is “common sense” to everyone. After flying to Long Island, NY for an appointment with Pat Longo (a spiritual advisor, Theresa Caputo/The Long Island Medium’s advisor,) I learned it seems this way to me because this is something that has always been available to me. In reality, it is no different than someone with a photographic memory, naturally excels in sports, can do arithmetic in their head … and so on. It is simply a part of how I am wired. This is also genetic/an inherited trait. It typically is accompanied by anxiety, because being super sensitive to deep things such as energy and other’s feelings in addition to their own, makes anyone overwhelmed and anxious.


Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Learning about both is frightening, hard work, overwhelming; yet, empowering. THEN, raising two children solo-style while walking the road of self-discovery … knowing all three traits/issues will most likely be a part of your children … now that’s a little scary.

I got good practice a week ago …

My oldest daughter (my first person to teach, but has taught me) is now 18 and has graduated high school. We are trying to make intentional efforts to sever some cords, and I am a bit overprotective, so it doesn’t always come very naturally. Anyway, I try to stay out of her business and decision making.

She is doing some independent work over the summer for extra money, house/dog sitting and babysitting primarily. Last week she committed to stay at a house and tend to a dog, spending the night there every night. On Monday (my busiest work day … 14 hours, followed by a 10 hour Tuesday,) she came into my salon and said my nephew had contacted her and needed a sitter that evening. She has such a heart for him and his situation. He and the mom are very young parents (not much older than her) with two babies in diapers, and are no longer together. I didn’t ask questions about her schedule, since I’m staying out of her business, I just said, “Ok, it’s up to you.”

Before I realized it, we were in a life-lesson moment …

I began putting two and two together. She said my nephew had to work until midnight, but it could be about 3am. As I was trying to understand her game plan while simultaneously applying hair color, it became clear that we had a problem.

I asked, “How are you going to do that? You won’t even be here … and you are already committed to keep the dog.”

She responded, “Well mom, he needs help. I figured I would play with them until they are really tired, get them to sleep and then go to the dog.”

Silent pause.

My response, “Honey, they are babies. You can’t just turn them off and put them to sleep. They wake up in the night.”

Another silent pause.

I needed parental guidance, so I called my Dad.

“What do I do Daddy?! I have taught her this. I can hardly get on to her because she has watched me not be able to say ‘no’ … but I have worked all day and have to work all day tomorrow, now I am going to be the one babysitting. I have to help her see that she made a decision for me. What she did is what I went to those classes for, codependency. She didn’t say no because she had other obligations and I NEED to say no because I do too.”

Daddy said, “I really don’t know the answer, but be careful not to put out the fire within her. Her heart was in the right place and she has a compassion for others, that’s a good thing.”

I agreed, but my heart was in the right place when I put my husband through college to help achieve his life dream, about killed myself supporting our family solo for 7 years because the job he wanted wasn’t available, moved in his elderly grandparents for 6 of those years, paid far beyond my share of expenses while owning a huge salon … because I didn’t want anyone else to struggle … all while helping at the elementary school twice a week because no other parents in the class would. It is a grueling, endless cycle once it starts. Someone is always going to need help and if there is one person who will do it, people will let them. Balance is key. Helping is great, but saving the world, doing everyone else’s responsibility because they “can’t,” to the point one cannot fulfill her own responsibilities is a problem.

Always, what happens next: the rescuer gets exhausted and sees herself (or himself) as a victim, never realizing her issues were indirectly self-inflicted. I did all of that to myself because I didn’t know when or how to draw the line. My heart being in the right place caused severe resentment, loss of respect for my husband and fatigue beyond belief, which ended my marriage in divorce. The grandparents living with us was overall good, I was just disillusioned, thinking my efforts would make them like my grandparents, not in-laws. I had no grandparents left and wanted that relationship. After the divorce, their connection with me changed. The fact that I was the person behind their move didn’t give me the status of grandchild once I divorced their grandson. I get that, but my thinking was hopeful. As far as the salon, I just wanted a nice place for myself and other stylists. I tried to assume all responsibility, but was not wise financially. All in all, I threw tens of thousands of dollars away, lost my 401k and STILL owe about $4000 on a debt from it. It’s been closed for 5 years. BUT, I spared the others any financial burdens by absorbing costs. Yay me. It was quite a sting when a few of them, the ones whose rent I had lowered, made comments about me making money off of them. The truth was, I never profited one dollar. I stayed in the hole. Not to mention, I lost countless hours of time with my children investing all of that time and energy into what ended up being a sinking ship. Time never to be regained.

Back to my codependent-in-training child … I pondered and pondered, asking for parental guidance from those I respect, explaining the depth of WHY it was a big deal. One of my childhood friends and her husband came in for a hair appointment that evening. Her husband is a man of few words, very gentle and soft spoken. His comment was quite helpful, “Well, personally, I don’t stay up past 10:00 for anyone … But 10-15 years from now, you just want to be sure you are the one she calls when she needs help.”

For some reason, that’s what put things in perspective to me.

I sat my daughter down and explained the good and bad of her situation, which was now “our situation.” I praised her for her love of others and her good intentions, then explained the hidden problems underneath stretching yourself too thin, especially when it spills over on other’s plates.

My girls are both aware of my struggles and efforts to do things in a healthier way because I share with them as I go. It is an exhilarating thought that maybe, just maybe, I can teach, help and spare the girls of this seemingly tiny characteristic … yet it can silently overtake your life. The truth is, I pride myself in being truthful, as does my oldest daughter. But in cases like these, we are NOT truthful. The honest answer would have been, “I would love to help, but I cannot this time because I already have other commitments.” That simple. So, that tidbit of information and those suggested words are the tools I gave her for her mental toolbox.

It made sense to her when she said, “But mom, there was no one else to help,” and I responded, “But honey, that’s part of being a parent. They will have to do the same thing I did with you girls. If there was no one to care for you, your dad and I had to miss a day of work. This certainly won’t be the last time they need help, trust me.”


It’s moments like these when my codependent, anxious, empath ways shine brightest. Like they unite together as one strong force and I find myself swimming upstream. I want to rescue my child, though it will be hurting her in the long run if she doesn’t learn to suffer through consequences of her actions. I feel her emotional, innocent longing to help, her bewilderment mixed with panic as she realizes what she’s done, and how upset she was because she got in trouble for doing the wrong thing when she was trying to do the right thing. I too wanted to help … but our conditions simply weren’t favorable. Then, all of that makes me internally anxious.

The end result: By the time I realized the full predicament, my nephew had already packed up the kids and was almost here. At this point, MY daughter, who is my responsibility, had created a situation. I was tired, but it was possible for me to step in … only if she clearly understood the big picture.

I explained (to my daughter) the situation at hand would be handled by exception because she truly didn’t understand what she had done, but in the future, she would have resolve it on her own. We compromised and became a team. She had her little sister help, but paid her part of the babysitting money. I did take care of the babies through the night and had her come home at 6:00 when they woke. She apologized, thanked me, and said she’d be more aware in the future. That’s about all a mama can ask for, at least it works for me.

It was just a few nights ago that my friend, her son, my daughter and I were all out to dinner and the discussion came up about what had happened. She ever so quickly said, “I would have just went to the house and dog sat!”

Now, why didn’t I think of that?


A work in progress,

No comments:

Post a Comment