Day 5 Analysis: By the time we had reached this point, William was very upset. We needed to take various breaks in order for him to find composure and avoid the memories that were flooding back. He was only comfortable portraying his story up to his early twenties. After that, he said, he had no more excuses and he needed to deal with it himself. A process that he himself admitted had continued to this day through various relationships, situations and jobs. Had he really come to terms with his childhood? I saw plenty of understanding and awareness but little action taken to really deal with the shame inside him. He felt very protective towards his mother especially and the burning hatred he felt for his father had colored the way he saw himself as a man. He was horribly codependent on his wife of ten years and used various escape methods to cope including alcohol, shutting down and avoiding conflict. His wife dominated him, which he enabled fully and without boundaries. Has he committed to change this? He says so but he also said that he feared what change might look like and the work that goes with it. To me, he seemed broken but full of hope that he could finally get through this. Was it a good idea to write his story? He thought so and he said it helped him access some subdued memories. I have since put him in touch with a therapist who I feel may be able to help him. Our friendship will continue and I have empathy for William who was brave enough to face his shame for the first time in his life. We parted company and promised to keep in touch.
In the next post about William, we will look at methods that may help someone in that situation.
William’s story unfolds in Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, and Day 4.
My relationship with the man who owned the farm I lived on, was very important for me. Having three daughters, I felt he treated me as a son and spent time teaching me important things about life. He showed me practical things and later when I wanted to buy my first house, he helped me navigate the paperwork and the general process. I wanted him to be my father and in comparison, my father was a joke who taught me nothing. At this point, I was living a dream built on sand. I was in a codependent relationship with a mentally ill woman but felt obligated to the family I left behind. (In effect, they were only ten miles away). As I was earning money while studying they, of course, wanted some of it and I was often called to see if I would lend some here and there for this and that. I never said no but felt terrible afterwards because I really wanted to. Why did I want to? Punishment, revenge? Who knows but I never did it. My girlfriend (later my wife in an impulsive, codependent decision-making process) was always angry when I told her, so I stopped telling her and even lied about it many times.
Why was I doing this for the people who had treated me so badly? I felt obligated. Years of being told I was not this and that and I should be ashamed of myself for who I am, had not built a healthy core in me. I was still always looking for attention and validation, especially from my mother. I felt in competition with my father concerning her validation and did all I could to ensure his life was not easy. Even though, I was away from them, they consumed my daily life to the point I was giving them money, helping them out and hiding it from the people around me, heightening my shame.
My landlord, the farmer was very perceptive concerning these things and recognized that I was depressed and suggested I see a doctor. I came away with medication and suggestions for relaxation courses. We were living in a rented house, me studying, both on medication and the relationship was not moving forward. One day, I went back and found that she had gone back to her parents, in what was a temporary move and she returned one month later. In that month, I was having difficulty concentrating on studying and my sleep was disturbed. I started taking sleeping pills and so a strange cycle started happening. I often slept all day at the weekend and stayed awake all night. Night time was when the world was asleep and I didn’t need to deal with anyone. I lost myself in studying and nothing was there to face. Days on campus were difficult due to this.
The relationship was bad. We were both codependents and spent a lot of time in conflict until someone from our families attacked our relationship and then we found a sense of togetherness that amazed us. We attacked right back and gave everyone the impression we were doing great. In the background, I felt guilt about giving money to my parents and concealing it. In the meantime, my girlfriend’s mental health got worse and she was finally diagnosed with a personality disorder. Looking back, I should have involved her parents but instead it was a great opportunity to be codependent. She lost her job, so I got a second one and then a third to cover the loss of income. So suddenly, I was working three jobs, studying and looking after a mentally ill partner. How I did it, I have no idea but I did and it helped me focus on something other than myself. I had value and a purpose for once and I gave it all I had. I suffered stress and burnout more than once but hearing her say “I couldn’t live without you doing what you are doing” was enough.
I look back on that time now with sheer amazement that I actually did it and under those circumstances. I really would have liked to have had access to proper mental health provision at that time. It carried a huge stigma and I am happy that there is more awareness around this and how children develop than there was then. I have tried my best in life to do what I needed to do but often felt lacking despite being a successful entrepreneur and living comfortably. What would I change? Nothing because I was destined for that story from the day I was born. What did I try to change? Everything, mostly unsuccessfully. What will I change? As much as I can. It is never too late. My friend Nick keeps telling me that the inner child never leaves us and will cry for attention until we acknowledge and heal it. He says that this must become a daily practice to integrate the lost child into our lives and he talks about his experiences doing the same thing. I hope I can follow in his footsteps.
My parents have both been in the ground for over twenty years and their lives ended in the way it has always been for them. They were young when they died mostly because they avoided proper health regimes. I am not going out like that.
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Dr. Nicholas Jenner, a therapist, coach, and speaker, has over 20 years of experience in the field of therapy and coaching. His specialty lies in treating codependency, a condition that is often characterized by a compulsive dependence on a partner, friend, or family member for emotional or psychological sustenance. Dr. Jenner’s approach to treating codependency involves using Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy, a treatment method that has gained widespread popularity in recent years. He identifies the underlying causes of codependent behavior by exploring his patients’ internal “parts,” or their different emotional states, to develop strategies to break free from it. Dr. Jenner has authored numerous works on the topic and offers online therapy services to assist individuals in developing healthy relationships and achieving emotional independence.
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