Hi, I’m TB

I have no idea where to begin with this, really.  So I guess I just start and see where I go.

For starters, I will say that this post is to a degree inspired by The Disease Called “Perfection” by Single Dad Laughing, which was luckily for me linked by Dys a while back.

Have you ever had someone describe you with uncanny accuracy – someone who has never known you?  When they can describe incidents in your past, and your reactions to them, sight unseen and story untold?

That happened to me last night.  In a 12-step meeting.

So, yeah.  That part’s out.

I’ve been seeing a therapist once a week now for…fuck, I don’t even remember exactly.  There is sort of a fog over the last month or so of my life, and so much has happened that it’s hard to keep straight.  I think the answer is “about six weeks” but it may be more or less time than that.  You see, I know I have problems.  Have known.  I think the time I made the elementary-school psychologist tear up might have been clue #1.  But swallowing my own problems and soldiering on with a stiff upper lip has always been my mantra – even when I was far, far too young to be doing so.  And, you might say, that’s the fundamental problem upon which I have since built layer after layer after layer of new ones.

Part of soldiering on was never admitting that I had a problem.  Not to anyone, and least of all myself.  People with problems are weak, I would say to myself, somewhere deep down beneath the level of conscious thought.  I’m weak enough already.  I despise myself.  I will earn my own respect by showing what I can tolerate.  The world admires – is sometimes awed by – those who can take the load, carry the weight, absorb the pain, and continue on.  I will be the exemplar of that.  That, at least, is always within my power – my ability to regulate my own response to pain.  I may not be able to make anyone respect me, care for me, love me – but I can train myself to be inured to pain.  Pain of injury, pain of loneliness, pain of indifference.

I can take it.  I will take it.  I will endure, and I will triumph when the others have been crushed by the weight and I am the last man standing.

As Dr. Phil would say, “How’s that working out for ya?”  Not very well, thanks for asking, and go fuck yourself.  I’m busy.

On some level I suppose I’ve known I needed therapy for years.  Fuck, decades.  But with one exception, and if I’m perfectly honest a mostly superficial one at that because it was so externally-focused, I’ve never sought it.  I didn’t want to face what I might find, what in my heart I knew I would find.  It would require that I change, and the very idea, no matter how subconsciously expressed, of abandoning the only way I’ve ever developed to cope with the world scared the holy fuck out of me.  But when you’re sitting on the floor in a fetal position, hugging your knees and slowly rocking and speaking in a voice you barely recognize as your terrified wife urges you to get help…well, maybe that’s a time to listen and get help.

I’m tempted to back up and erase that last line, but I’m going to refuse.  Because it’s the truth.

To be honest, I surprised myself with the determination with which I walked into the therapist’s office for the first time.  I walked in and said, essentially, “Hey doc, I know I’m fucked – six ways from Sunday – and I know I need to tear myself down and rebuild from the ground up.  How do we start?”  An hour and a half into my first one-hour session, I had essentially just started to outline the problem.  But at the same time, amidst all my terror of talking to a stranger and revealing my weaknesses, I felt a huge shift in the weights that I’ve always carried.  They weren’t gone – not by a long shot – but it felt different to me.  Easier in some ways and harder in others.

She looked me in the eye and told me that she strongly recommended that I attend support group sessions.  I waved her off.  Talking in front of one person was one thing, and I was stunned that I was doing that so well.  Sitting in a room of people and being open with all of them was far beyond me.  Besides, it was hard enough for me to admit I needed help enough to carve one hour (and then some) out of my week to go seek it.  Twice a week?  Crazy talk.

She reiterated her suggestion.  She didn’t insist that I go…but she did insist that I would benefit from it.  Even though we were, by her admission, making startling progress already in individual therapy (though don’t get me wrong, there is still a LONG LONG way to go – fuck, it took me 5 weeks to even get to the infamous Jamie story).  It was only when she said, “No, really, they call it a support group but it’s over 100 people in each session.  You can sit quietly and not have to talk.  It’s okay.” that I succumbed.

So a few weeks ago I attended my first a meeting of Codependents Anonymous.  I was terrified to go, beyond any rational reason for feeling so.  It was frustrating; my Google directions sent me to the wrong campus of the hospital that hosted it and I ended up arriving late instead of early, which made me feel even worse.  It was standing room only – I sat down on top of a stack of folding tables in a back corner of the room as others stood, and some dragged chairs down the hall to sit in the doorway.

And for an hour and a half I heard people talk about problems that were just like mine.  Sure, there were variances – we started from different points and moved through different points and ended at different points – but all of the paths were recognizable to me.  I had to admit that my therapist was right.  I learned a lot, I thought a lot, I felt a lot, and I knew it would be a good idea to go back.

A few circumstances forced me to miss the next two meetings, so last night was my second one.  I got there on time this time, and found that they had a packet for newbies – with the twelve steps and so forth written out for you.

This is where I had my fucking freakout moment, people.

See, I’ve read about codependency before, and I knew I probably was a codependent person, but I sort of downplayed it.  On the scale of problems, I thought, codependency isn’t all that bad.  (And compared to alcoholism or gambling addiction and so forth, I still say so.)  And on the scale of things, I wasn’t all that codependent.  Small problem, small level of affectation.  I’ll deal.  I can handle it.  “I can quit anytime I want!!”

Heh.  I figured I might as well go full monte on the cliche.

The first meeting sort of changed that.  These people took this problem seriously.  Not without humor…but they were treating it just as an addiction.  Many of the people in that room were former substance-addicts in various stages of recovery, or the children or spouses of such.  They knew how the program worked, and they were taking it as seriously as any AA or NA program.

The second meeting…when was handed the newbie-packet and leafed through it for the first time…

…fuck me.

This is where that goddamn inanimate packet held a mirror up to me and asked me, point-blank:  “Still think you don’t have a problem?  Still think this isn’t a big deal?”

I couldn’t answer.

Folks, look at that list.  Sure, everybody does some of those things to a degree.  And we all know somebody who does a little too much of them.  But it’s how many of them.  And the level to which they’re done.  I’m not the only one I know, and know well, who fits many of those patterns.  But if I’m honest, I think I have to say that I’m the person I know who fits more of them (over 75% of that list, I guarantee) and to a greater, more compulsive degree.

And if I thought the previous session spoke to me – whoa.  People to my left, people to my right, described situations that turned my stomach with their familiarity to my own.  And what happened?  I began to get angry.  With myself.  There was a moment in which I wanted to lash out, throw a chair, do something to release some of the pent-up anger and frustration I was feeling.  There were several moments in which I damn near broke out in tears – and might have, if I didn’t still have such a deep-seated aversion to hide my emotions in public and before strangers.

I also saw some hope.  Some avenues for change.  Even though they will be extremely difficult – would be for anyone, but particularly so for me.

It was only as I was leaving, though – as I got into my car and drove away – that the last wrecking-ball hit me.  I’m going to write this and you guys may think I’m being over-dramatic, but I am not.  I’m honestly a little afraid to write it because it’s so fucked up and because on some weird level I feel like somebody may lose respect for me for saying it:  but fuck it.  If I’m going to be truthful, I’m going to be truthful.

This is an example of how sick my thinking has been:  I was thinking of something another person had said inside the meeting – something drastic that made everyone else gasp (and later applaud for how she dealt with it).  I was half a mile down the road, sitting at a stop light behind the wheel of my car and I thought, “You know – there have been times that I half-wished for fucking cancer or some debilitating disease – just so I could have a reason to put down all of my burdens and take care of myself, let myself be taken care of, and just live my fucking life for the six months or a year or whatever I had left.”  Goddamn, people.  Is that some sick shit or what?

And that brought my thoughts to a screeching fucking halt.  If I’d had sense, I would have pulled my car into the nearby service station and composed myself.  But I didn’t – my family expected me home at a certain time, and I had promised to pick up milk at the grocery store, so I drove on, because that’s what I thought I had to do.  What I needed to do.  Put my own feelings aside and do what I think others expect of me.

At that point, though, it was utterly clear to me.  I have to admit it.  I have a serious problem.  I have a compulsion – an addiction to people, to use people around me in unhealthy ways in order to meet needs that I can neither express nor even admit that I have, and that are impossible for them to meet in the ways I wish.

I went to bed last night, after a shitload of journaling and re-reading my newbie packet over and over and over, feeling some sense of hope again.  You know, I’m not alone, there are easily a hundred people just in my town who are facing the same struggles – and most of them were much older than I am when they even started to try to wrap their arms around them.  I can take heart that though I wish I had done so earlier, at least I’m doing so now.

But then I dragged my ass through my morning routine, to work, and sat here to look at all the shit I have to do, and all that hope just sort of rushed out of me again.  NOW you guys see what I’ve been talking about when I mention my richly-overdue fucking nervous breakdown.

I wanted to read through my usual fluffy internet funny stuff – maybe to write, to camouflage my pain behind humor, which is what I’ve done best since I was ten or twelve.  It’s what I do best, after all – to ignore my own pain by absorbing myself in others’ lives in this way or that.  But I read the “Perfection” post and decided, NO, FUCK IT.  Truth is hard, and truth is ugly, but truth is truth.  And this is a small part of my own truth.  So I’m sharing it, however it looks, and however people feel about it.

I have a serious and enduring problem with compulsive behaviors in my relationships with other people, be they friends, partners, coworkers, family members, or others.  I have a serious and enduring problem with accepting that I am responsible for myself first and foremost – with understanding that I am worthy of the attention and affection and respect of others and especially myself, regardless of what I may or may not do for others. That my guilt over what I should do, could do, have done, or have left undone to others should not be the guiding force of my life, and should not convert into shame that makes me question my self-worth.

I’m recognizing those patterns and trying to change them.  Most of those changes, people, scare the ever-loving shit out of me.  That’s just the honest truth.  I’ve lived my life a certain way for as long as I can remember, and I don’t yet know another way to do so.  But I know I have to find one…and so I will.  And as long as I refuse to admit I have a problem, to anyone and everyone, the harder it will be to face it.

So despite the churning in my guts, I’m going to hit ‘publish’ on this one and run away before I change my mind.

My name is TB, and I’m a codependent – a codependent on the first steps down a long road to recovery.

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21 Responses

  1. You are brave. We love you. Everything else is gonna be said in a epic e-mail. But those two points are KEY.

    You are brave. We love you.

    I love you back, ma’am. It hasn’t been so long that I don’t know what a hug from you feels like!

  2. You are brave. We love you.

    Why did you get angry with yourself when you saw situations similar to yours?

    I have had similar thoughts of wishing for a serious illness. In my case, it was mental: I wished for something serious and diagnosable so that I could a) stop feeling like such a pussy for succumbing to what amounts to basic and mild depression, and b) get my mother to take my (basic and mild) illness seriously. You are not so awful; a lot of people have had this feeling. I promise.

    In fact, that’s true for all of this: It is not so awful. A lot of us have felt this way and similar ways. It is okay. (And it is get-over-able.) You are brave. We love you.

    I got angry because it’s so damn easy to see it happening to other people, and so hard to see it or do something about it when it’s yourself. I got angry because of all the time and energy I’ve wasted already.

    While it’s true that this is not so awful – and I thank you for reminding me of it – it’s also true that I want to treat it very seriously. I think if I’m going to get better, then I need to be pretty careful with myself. An alcoholic can walk away from his boozing buddy and stay out of bars. Me, I can’t avoid people forever… so I need to watch myself like an alcoholic at a party. It doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy myself, just that I have to keep asking myself questions about what I’m doing and why I’m doing it – just to keep myself on the right track.

    And what I said to Tiff, about the hugs? That goes for you too, madam.

  3. this may be a weird reaction, but trust me on this:

    CONGRATULATIONS.

    this anger and epiphany are long over-due. it’s not easy to look at yourself in the mirror and realize you need to make some serious changes in your life. it is not for the weak of heart. so i’m saying it again:

    congratulations. you have made it through the hardest and most terrifying step of all.

    you have a lot of people watching your back. we may be random people on the internet, but we will still do our best to take care of you when you break.

    I don’t think it’s that weird a reaction, and I thank you for it!

    I’m an old enough hand at this whole interwebz thing that I don’t take “random people on the internet” for granted anymore. They’ve been good enough friends for me through thick and thin in the past. Y’all will do just fine now.

  4. I love you, and I appreciate your honesty. Very happy for YOU that you did this.

    Thank you…for everything.

  5. I think everyone should be in therapy. We’re born with this inherent desire to have meaningful human connections, but the minute shit gets real, society (or maybe the Marlborough Man) tells us to go on lock-down and deal with it privately. It doesn’t make sense.

    We are social creatures. It’s in our DNA. Our entire existence is based on community. And when you surround yourself by other people who recognize that and have been through similar experiences and who are ABLE TO BE HUMAN, the better off you will be.

    You are SO FUCKING RIGHT.

    I have a really hard time with this part of it – but part of the deal is that people can’t support you if they don’t know you want it or need it. I spend so much time trying to deny my own problems that I just can’t make myself talk about them or ask for help – and then I feel lonely and bad for THAT, which is just a stupid fucking spiral, and one that I want the FUCK OFF OF, RIGHT FUCKING NOW.

  6. I love Marie’s answer, and I think she has a lot right. There are a lot of things that we are taught that do not feel right at all. We have to deal with things privately. Fuck that.

    Be the TB you want to be. Not some imitation of yourself, but the genuine person you want. I have been on the path myself. It’s hard, but it’s worth it.

    I know it has to be. It’s scary as hell, but it HAS to be worth it.

    I have to figure out what the genuine person looks like, really. So much is formed of what I think people want me to be that I have a hard time imagining what I want myself to look like. But I’m working on it.

    Thanks, man.

  7. Holy smokes you are an amazing guy. Brave and truthful, very commendable the steps you are taking to get yourself right.

    I’m off to read on codependency and I truthfully hope I don’t find myself there.

    Thanks, Shmode. I hope you don’t find yourself there, as well – but if you do, you at least know who to commiserate with!

  8. My heart and thoughts are with you. And, yes, you are very brave and you have the strength to make the changes you need to make. You might not think so at times, but I KNOW you do. Apparently, so does everyone else here.

    I had never wished for a disease but there have been times where I really didn’t care if I woke up in the morning. I didn’t have thoughts of suicide, but I honestly didn’t care if I died.

    Yep, I’ve felt that way too, a time or two. The wishing for a disease wasn’t so much conscious as… I don’t even know what the hell it was. But it’s pretty damned fucked up.

    Thanks, Miss Feather. I remember what your hugs feel like, too. 🙂

    • hi iamheatherjo, i know exactly what you mean. i would never ever commit suicide. but.

      there was a time in my life (more recently than I want to admit) when if death had approached me, most likely in the form of a car crash because i’m otherwise young and healthy, i wouldn’t have fought it. i would have accepted death.

      i *knew* i was thinking these things and i hated myself for it. i can’t really tell you how or when i stopped feeling that way. slowly over time i must have decided to start living again.

      Speaking for myself? I’m glad you did. And if you ever start feeling them again and need a sympathetic ear or kick in the butt, see the email address in the sidebar.

  9. *raises hand*

    “Hi, my name is Nick. I don’t know what you are going through, nor do I claim any great insight into the universe at large; In fact, it kicks my ass more days than not.

    What I do know, is that you are my friend. I expect nothing from you except that you be you. Regardless of whatever that person ultimately reveals itself to be…co-dependent, loving father, busy university dude, guy like me…I love you as you, for you, without condition. Nothing to earn, nothing to lose.

    I respect you for what you have accomplished. I deeply respect you for what you’ve said here. I respect you for who you are. I will respect you as you go down this path of change.

    You’ve made a promise to yourself by starting down this process, and as your friend I will make a promise to you:

    I will be your friend tomorrow.

    Good day or bad day, success at a meeting or skipping a meeting, bottling it up or expressing it all, hugging your wife or yelling at your dog…I will be your friend.

    I have no idea how to be a safe person for someone dealing with these issues. I’ve done the “safe person” thing for friends in AA and for a co-worker dealing with a gamboling addiction, but I have to say I’m not sure what behaviors or reactions are helpful or harmful in this circumstance…

    So I’ll just step back and say, I’m your friend. Nothing to earn, nothing to lose…just your friend. I want nothing from you except for you to find and walk the path that makes you the best you that you can be.”

    Damn, Nick. You rendered ME speechless.

    I swear, sometime in some past life, you and I were knights in the same Order. Or something.

    Thank you, my friend. From the bottom of my heart.

  10. I’d like to second my husband. I’m here. I’m your friend. I still will be when you come out on the other side of this journey you started.

    Thank you so much, Sunshine. I greatly appreciate it!

  11. I’d like to reiterate what Bad Pants so eloquently said. Well put, sir!

    He’s damn good that way, ain’t he?

  12. Whatcha doing bringing that weak ass shit?????? There’s no crying in blogging!

    Hey! Someone had to say it!

    TB! Man, let me tell you, you are a cool, great, funny, talented guy I’ve been entertained and enlightened by. There isn’t a person in the world who isn’t flawed but there are far fewer who’ll suck it up and do something about it. For that alone you have my undying respect.

    You always know where I am if you need to have me make fun of you, oh no, wait, help you. Yeah, that’s it. Sorry, I always go to dork first.

    Seriously, TB, you have many people who care about you (hmm, could that be a problem for a co-dependent? Hey! I didn’t say I was going to be serious for long!) and you have a long list who’ll be there whenever you need it. Keep getting well, my friend.

    As an aside, you came up in one of my fucked up moments the other day. Someone was asking me about my shaved head. She then asked if I used the little Hot Wheels looking thing. I told her I didn’t but knew someone who did. To which she asked,

    “Does he have a shaved head too?”

    Oh yeah, and here you are thinking you need help!

    Good on ya, TB!

    Chris

    Dude, I can always count on me to give me shit even while you’re patting me on the back. Thanks for that.

    And for your female friend: No, I don’t have a shaved head at all. That’s all Photoshop. I use the little hot wheels thing to shave my sack, actually. I like making race-car noises while I do so.

  13. I just want you to know I read this, and even if it doesn’t seem like it, I support you. I’ve been where you are. You know that, you read my blog. None of this makes me think you are weak. I admire you for being real. >:d< <-that's a hug.

    Thanks, Becca, I know it, and I appreciate it.

  14. I don’t know you personally, but I’ve like you in writing ever since I started reading your blog nearly two years ago. I like you even more now. I have a tremendous amount of respect for you for being brave enough to be take off your mask.

    And you should always keep the sentences you want to delete most because you’re afraid to say them and/or you think we’ll go running. Those are the ones we can most relate to, because we all have thoughts that scare ourselves to admit.

    I agree – that’s why they stayed in. The sentences we want to leave out make not only the most compelling reading, but the most therapeutically useful writing, wouldn’t you say?

  15. I am sure unraveling all of that is going to be a hard road in the coming months. But rock on for doing this for YOU.

    Sometimes getting angry at yourself can be such a powerful motivator. Use it for something good.

    It’s been working this week, at least.

    Thanks, Beej.

  16. Gee, TB, I think I can use a direct quote from you to get to the root of the problem:

    “Dude, I can always count on me to give me shit. . . ”

    I think you’re too hard on yourself, dude.

    Well, you’re right about that, certainly. But hell, sometimes we ALL need a good joke to bring our head outta our ass, right? Why so serious?

  17. After asking how things are working out for you, Dr. Phil then tells you to get your shit together and then the show ends. He’s so not helpful.

    TB: funny how others perceive us. But however you feel about yourself, well, that’s the sticking point. It doesn’t matter that I always thought you were confident and strong, funny, smart, gentle, and caring. Working out ones internal strifes is a struggle, one which I don’t want to do so I continue to mask my anger and frustration and eat ice cream and cry.

    You, on the other hand, are a brave man because you’re taking that step to be healthy. Now you’ve added even more reasons as to why I admire you.

    Thank you sincerely, madam.

    My therapist and I had that talk for a while yesterday. I think I’m getting better, but I still have a long way to go. But it DOES feel like my feet are on the right path. That’s always encouraging.

  18. Sweetheart, I’ve been so out of the loop with blogging, and I am ashamed to say I’ve only just read this now. I just wanted to send you a quick note to say I’m thinking about you, and wholeheartedly agree with the other commenter’s words. This has been a very powerful and moving post to read. You have huge personal strength, even if you don’t know it yet. I hope you realise how many people’s lives you have touched. I think of you and Dys very often, even though I haven’t been around recently. I know you can work through this, even if it takes the rest of your life- isn’t that what we’re all doing to an extent? Love ya. xxx

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