The weekend has been tough so far. In our small town, new confirmed cases are being reported every day. There is a sense of surrealism about the whole situation and you get the clear feeling that people are struggling and will continue to do so for a while to come.
Following new orders from our government, we are faced with staying indoors for all but essential trips to the supermarket or pharmacist unless you are helping elderly relatives or friends. The normal Saturday that we generally experience here of bustling streets and full cafes are now a distant memory. Nobody is on the street and rightly so.
There is plenty of advice available about how to handle isolation and its effects from staying in the moment, meditation, projects, etc but everyone has to find what works for them and everyone is different. Some like to keep abreast of the local news, some to catch up on unfinished projects and some are using the time to be mindful of changes needed when normality descends upon us again. See what works and keep doing it.
One group of people who might find isolation challenging but also exciting are codependents. While they will struggle as much as the next person, they will also find ‘caregiving’ an added boost to their sacrificial natures. They will be looking after everyone and especially homing in on those who are struggling badly. While there is nothing wrong with helping others, it cannot happen to the detriment of mental health. Many codependents will be using the situation to control how others see them and relate to them, giving them a temporary boost of self-esteem. They will be trying to control others and making plans for how they cope. They will also feel guilt around looking after themselves while others are not doing well. Many might well be trapped at home with emotionally distant or narcissist partners in a nightmare scenario where the feelings of being alone and abandonment issues associated with codependency will be more profoundly felt.
Codependents might well find it difficult to meet their own needs during this difficult time and the basics of self-care must be observed. By self-care, I mean healthy sleep (going to bed early, waking up early), healthy eating (as much as shortages will allow), relaxation and exercise (many workouts can be done at home and many fitness coaches have transferred their services online). These four basics are the prerequisites of self-care and need to be observed under any circumstances. Codependents often neglect this important aspect of life when they lose themselves in a relationship.
While I have stated in a previous post that isolation could well lead to improvements in relationships, it might not always be the case. People who were in conflict before the crisis might well be in a situation where they are isolated with a person where it just doesn’t work. For codependents, this will be difficult as their never-ending quest for connection is met with distancing and emotional withdrawal. There may be some codependents isolated alone, a nightmare scenario for them. In these cases, self-care is an essential part of any strategy to get through. It is also important to try to maintain social contact through social media and video technology.
We will all be finding this time hard and uncertainty will be difficult to handle. For codependents who live in an insecure world at the best of times, it will be crucial that they do something that they have never been taught to do. Look at themselves first.
Dr. Nicholas Jenner is a counseling psychotherapist in online private practice working with individuals, couples and groups, dealing with codependency issues, severe depression, bipolar, personality disorders, anxiety, PTSD, eating disorders and other mental health issues. He has been practicing online for many years and recognized early that online therapy was a convenient method for people to meet their therapist. Working outside the box, he goes that extra mile to make sure clients have access to help between sessions, something that is greatly appreciated. He also gives part of his spare time up to mentor psychology students in a university setting.