Monday, July 13, 2009

That Way Lies Death

We are all codependents. If we aren't then we're probably sociopaths. Some are drill sergeant codependents, ordering everyone around for what we think is their own good. Others are helicopters, hovering over people, trying to keep them happy. Both believe that what they're doing is for other people's own good. Both are controlling, and both styles prevent other people from learning life lessons they need to learn. Both do for others what they should be doing for themselves. Both end up being resented. Some people alternate between both styles.

The style that is most associated with eating disorders and food addiction is the people-pleasing, keep the peace at whatever cost, submit to the controlling person, negate yourself, take care of others at the expense of yourself style of codependency. The fact is that nobody else can control what or whether or not you eat. Parents of young children soon find this out with their toddlers. People may binge on food to keep from feeling or to medicate the depression, anxiety, loss of sense of self, suppressed anger, etc., or they refuse to eat at all in an attempt to regain some form of control in their lives. Nobody can make me eat, and nobody can stop me from eating.

For women especially, Christianity compounds the issue because it gets justified Biblically. Blessed are the peacemakers, submit to your husbands, in humilty each consider the other better than himself. I'm not going to get into the twisting of the Bible that has led to this form of codependent mentality, but I am going to say the the Bible Belt has some of the largest concentration of women suffering from depression as well as women suffering from obesity.

Being raised in a family affected by substance abuse also contributes to codependency. So does physical and sexual abuse. Even the constant badgering by someone determined to control the thoughts, emotions, beliefs, and actions of those around him/her is a form of abuse that creates codepedency. Its emotional, spiritual, and mental battering.

How do we counteract these influences when they were so much a part of the way we were raised? It doesn't happen overnight.

I can remember a rough time in my life when everyday as I would walk around the neighborhood I would chant, "I am somebody, I am worthwhile, I am somebody, I am God's child." I journaled, I expressed myself through poetry and art. I wrote letters to God in which I poured out my feelings of despair and anger. I attended 12-step programs for codependents. I went on medication for depression. I got counseling. I got a job. I started doing things that made me feel good, that I was good at. I got many change back messages from my family and sometimes I was not nice in the way I broke off some of my codependent behavior.

I still struggle with codependency. I am one of those who can alternate between the people-pleasing form of codependency and its frequent recourse to manipulation, passive-agressive behavior, and avoidance of any form of confrontation, and trying to control the situation by giving lots of advice. When I'm really feeling powerless in the face of someone else's attempts to control me, or treat me like I'm dumb and don't know what I'm talking about, I have been known to yell.

And I eat. I don't think its any coincidence that the times I was successful in getting off the weight, I felt in control of my own life. Everytime I gained it back, with interest, I felt like I had given up my control in order to please someone else, that I was avoiding needed confrontation about behaviors that were jeapordizing me emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and financially. That I wasn't taking care of myself in these ways.

I am far from having it all together. I think the times I've resorted to yelling have been times when the pain of suppressing my feelings and thoughts was so great I've had to vent some of the steam before I could channel it and use it to say and do what really needed to be said and done.

I know this, God did not design me to be a doormat for people to wipe their feet on. And I'm not doing those who would try this any favors by letting them get away with it. Hopefully, I'll find balance and appropriateness in the way I express myself. But I need to express myself and not ignore the feelings or stuff them. That way lies death.