A student told me this morning that I am a very independent person. I believe he meant it in the best of ways, because he said that almost every time he asks if I need help, I tell him “no”. He said that he should start asking me if I “want help, because you don’t seem to need anything, Mrs. Slamans.”
I told him that I was proud of my independence. Perhaps it makes him feel helpless, because he truly is a student who helps with EVERYTHING. But I dare not apologize for who I am, because it took a long time for me to get where I am.
I grew up in an extremely dysfunctional and co-dependent family. My particualar co-dependence was not based on some of the typical things one would find (i.e., drug abuse, physical/sexual abuse, violence, etc). My co-dependency had to do with living with family members who were mentally ill. The codependence that occurs from this illness is the most subtle, in my opinion, and is the most difficult from which to break free.
If you are not familiar with codependency, it can be defined as:
Codependency (or codependence, interdependency ) is defined as a psychological condition or a relationship in which a person is controlled or manipulated by another who is affected with a pathological condition (as in an addiction to alcohol or heroin); and in broader terms, it refers to the dependence on the needs of or control of another. It also often involves placing a lower priority on one’s own needs, while being excessively preoccupied with the needs of others. Codependency can occur in any type of relationship, including family, work, friendship, and also romantic, peer or community relationships. Codependency may also be characterized by denial, low self-esteem, excessive compliance, or control patterns. Narcissists are considered to be natural magnets for the codependent.
My codependency began in the womb, when I shared it with my twin sister. I know it seems strange to think this way, but I have discovered this through reflection and counseling and even discussing with family and friends. In fact, I cannot remember a time when my sister was not mentally ill. With that said, I really had no “onset” of my codependency on her. It has always been there.
Needless to say, it has taken me this long (and I still haven’t figured it all out) to “break free” from my mentally ill twin. Again, the language sounds harsh, but it is a freedom that I needed to fully accomplish if I am truly able to help her…and it is something that I am very proud of.