A friend asked me the other day if I had ever thought that what I have been through the last few years would help others and I told her that I didn't, but I'm glad it has. Just the last few weeks I have found myself in a couple of situations where my trials with co-dependency, therapy and depression equiped me with what I needed to help others. With one of the situations, as I sat there listening to my friend as we worked through some things, I realized how grateful I was that I could understand and help. I guess that is where the gratitude for a trial comes into play. She needed my words and love and I could give them to her because I truly understood.
In my other conversation with a different friend, I was encouraging her that it is okay to step back and let others take care of her for a change. The challenge she is facing is breaking my heart for her and her realizing that she has to deal with it now before it completely breaks her is a hard thing to admit. In the book Belonging: Bonds of Healing and Recovery by Dennis Linn, Sheila F. Linn and Matthew Linn they say:
What cripples us is the way we've turned on ourselves and disowned how we feel about what happened to us. Then we no longer belong to our true selves. We use addictions [for me it has been co-dependency] to fill the void where our real self should be. Healing comes when we can love and care for our disowned feelings. The feelings are stored in our bodies and thus focusing is a way of letting the body speak to us about our true self. . . . Co-dependents feel ashamed of their needs and afraid to ask on their own behalf. Thus, they try to get what they need without asking for it . . . , or they "give" as a way of getting. This is very different from asking directly for what we need and leaving others free to say "yes" or "no." Asking for what we need is a healthy way of taking care of ourselves and affirming our right to need other human beings.
Being co-dependent, I understand how difficult it is to ask for what you need instead of giving what you believe others need. But my friends, in their current trials, must reconnect with their own needs and make sure they get them in order to heal and move forward. When I did this, it was really hard for me, but I knew I needed to do it. I remember asking my husband one day if it would bother him if I didn't really do much for awhile. I was already feeling guilty about being home but mentally and emotionally not being able to do much and I just needed to know that he was okay with me focusing on my healing instead of focusing on our home for a little while. He understood and supported me in this and was grateful that I had just communicated with him as to what I needed for a change (that wasn't something I was usually very good at).
Connecting to what I needed was a new experience for me and very hard for me to ask for what I needed. It is a long and hard road to learning what you need and learning how to ask for it. The disconnect from myself started at a young age and lasted into my forties. Being disconnected with myself for that long was a hard thing to change. The Belongings book talks about using affirmations to reconnect to yourself, it says:
Shame originates when the interpersonal bridges that connect us to others are broken and we are left feeling that we don't belong, even to ourselves. Affirmation restores those broken bridges and creates in us a sense of belonging to our real selves, others, God and the universe.
Another quote from Belongings that I liked was this one:
The opposite of affirmation is denial. Abuse is an extreme form of denial. No human interaction is neutral; we always either contribute to others . . . through affirmation or we deny them.
We are either affirming ourself, or denying ourself, we are either contributing or denying. When I first read this, it made a real impact on me. If I wasn't confirming good things about myself, then I was denying myself. I realized that I needed to start being more positive with myself.
The last quote I want to share from Belongings is this:
The two most powerful tools for the development of self-esteem are the ability to ask for what we want, and the ability to receive what we want. Straight forwardly asking others to care for us in these ways is not co-dependency.
Asking and receiving are so hard to do when you are co-dependent, but are crucial in learning how to care for yourself. I am have gotten better at this, but still find myself caught in that co-dependent trap sometimes. I have to stop, and try again. Use the tools I have acquired in learning how to properly take care of myself and others. I get better every day, and if not, tomorrow is always another day to try again!