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Recovering From the Codependency of My Past Abusive Relationships

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Editor's Note

If you have experienced emotional abuse, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

My relationships have always been one-sided. I have always put their needs above my own, and I have always felt intense guilt and as though I am selfish when I say “no” and decide to put myself first. Sometimes, they actually call me selfish and make me feel like I don’t care, just for putting boundaries and rules in place, because I want healthier, more balanced relationships.

An ex was an alcoholic and treated me like shit whilst I constantly helped him to unsuccessfully improve his life, whilst also neglecting myself and my mental health. Everything wrong with his life was “my fault,” apparently. Apparently, I didn’t do enough to help him, and his life went downhill after he met me. This didn’t make sense to me, because I constantly put my needs on the back burner to ensure his were met.

Somehow, I always attract people who are a little “messed up.” Somehow, I always fall into the role of counselor and cheerleader. I don’t even realize it’s happened until they leave me, apparently “cured” and in a “better place” now, apparently thanks to me. Apparently, they’re thankful for the time we spent together; apparently, I’m their best friend and apparently they feel amazing, largely because of me.

Meanwhile, my heart is broken and I’m sobbing my eyes out because someone else left me, because I wasn’t good enough yet again, because yet another person didn’t want to commit to me, because I haven’t walked away with similar revelations. Far from it. I’m broken again, and all my hopes and dreams are in tatters yet again.

It took a while to figure out where I was going wrong. It wasn’t a sudden revelation. It was more gradual.

As I became focused on my recovery, I took a stroll down memory lane. This included revisiting all my past relationships and psychoanalyzing them. I ripped them apart. I studied them. I found patterns. I learned where I was going wrong.

So, I decided to do something about it.

I started saying “no.” I started saying “I can’t do that now” or “I won’t do that.” I started cutting back on social media, messaging people and phone calls. I started taking time for me.

Firstly, I made my five-year plan:

1. Get a college/university education — something to further my job prospects and fully utilize my intelligence. which up until now hasn’t been put to good use or reached its potential.

2. Pass my driver’s test. (Anxiety holds me back.)

3. Lose weight healthily and get fitter — I have a history of eating disorders, including binge eating.

4. Learn to control and manage my borderline personality disorder (BPD). (I’m on the road to recovery.)

5. Put myself first.

Not necessarily in that order.

I started trying out hobbies. I took time for me. I got back into gaming. I paint. I make candles. I go shopping. I watch movies. I do things by myself, for myself.

I put boundaries and rules in place in my interpersonal relationships. I limit how often we talk, and I absolutely refuse to do anything for them. I merely advise, and if they don’t listen, so be it. I cannot make someone want to improve themselves. Merely support. But never so that it takes over my own life and needs.

I’ve become happier within myself. More reliant on myself. I’m content and I finally feel whole as a person.

Yet the guilt still lingers. I feel selfish, sometimes, and sometimes feel like I don’t care. I’ve often been told I am selfish. But then I take a few deep breaths and remember it’s not selfish to focus on yourself and work on yourself.

It’s not selfish to want to put your own needs first.

Photo by Rachael Crowe on Unsplash

Originally published: March 26, 2018
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