Thou Shalt Not Exist

Growing up an only child of two violent alcoholics taught me to be extremely self-sufficient and a wonderful keeper of secrets. I was responsible, serious, hypervigilant and emotionally constipated. I learned how to problem-solve and self-soothe. Even today those personality traits remain my default settings -especially under stress.

Now that I am in the program I am challenging my tendency to isolate from others and "go it alone," but talking about my problems still feels like the ultimate violation of an unspoken code. The little girl inside me is telling me to shut up. It doesn't matter is the silent mantra I've been repeating since childhood. It's not a big deal. (Because if it was a big deal that would mean I'd have to feel something and maybe even do something that would cause discomfort for myself or others.) I'm starting to understand that this intense need to avoid conflict is often a fear-based reaction -not necessarily a mature, peacekeeping skill. I cannot trust my emotional instincts. Only now am I digging deep enough to uncover the lies I was raised to believe and rules I was expected to follow:

Thou shalt not have needs.
Thou shalt not reach out to others.
Thou shalt not express emotions -especially negative ones.
Thou shalt not consider yourself important.
Thou shalt not draw attention to yourself.
Thou shalt not have expectations.
Thou shalt not think for yourself.
Thou shalt not trust.
Thou shalt not speak the truth.
Thou shalt not rock the boat.

Basically, thou shalt not exist. Children of dysfunctional homes know intuitively that their caregivers are incapable of meeting their needs, and as adults they transfer that belief onto most people who comes into their life. I've done some work on codependency in the past to deal with some obvious issues but lately I have been challenging myself to dig deeper. I didn't know just how sick I was until I started to get healthy.

So I have started to open up to a few people in my life. I'm exposing my weaknesses and my broken bits. I am learning to share the messy truth, and I think it's making a difference. Sometimes I share for encouragement or advice, sometimes I do it to repent or to have my feelings validated, and sometimes I just need to vent. I'm learning what it means to be vulnerable and have real, intimate friendships. I'm beginning to express needs, set boundaries and honor my space in this world. I'm starting to feel fully human.

Starting. The shame is still there, creeping around, rearing its ugly head when I am not focusing on the things I need to be focusing on. But I am moving through the fear, through the shame, through the isolation into a richer, fuller, more complicated life. Yes, more complicated. Because in many ways life is simpler when I only have myself to contend with. Relationships complicate things, but the complication is so worth it! In fact, it's everything.

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