Growing up, my Moms Alcoholism set the pace for life. On her good days, things were quiet. Life was relatively normal. But the chaos and dysfunction were never far away.
There is a closeness that comes when people experience trauma together. You get too close. Growing up we spent too much time together. My Mothers addiction created an environment where we depended on one another for survival. So much time that our personalities melded together. We became enmeshed, our individual traits unrecognizable. One unit simply just trying to make it until tomorrow.
We survived. I made it to adulthood, but the problem is that in the process of surviving I never learned who I was. That created so many issues for me in early adulthood issues that I am still overcoming. Children are supposed to become independent as they grow older. They are supposed to be given the time to explore the world around them. To build confidence in a safe, supportive environment. They are supposed to be given the room to discover what they like and who they want to be.
My childhood lacked that. My life was centered around addiction, uncertainty and chaos. It was geared toward survival, not growth. I grew up in a survival mindset, and that is limiting. I learned to be cautious and to hold back. I learned to be quit and not to assert myself. Walking on eggshells was safer than getting hurt by putting my neck out there.
I learned that if I took care of others, I could assure my own safety. My value was derived from helping others, to protecting them. My value was derived from what I could do, not who I was.
All of this shaped who I became. My personality was geared towards survival. I did not take chances. I stayed quiet. I did everything in my power to fade into the background because that is where I felt safe.
We live in a very individualized society, and I grew up with no sense of self. Naturally I struggled. I thought I could find happiness in making others happy. I lacked boundaries, and overextended myself, and became miserable. I could not find my place in the world or set meaningful goals. I saw those around me doing well and thought there was something wrong with me. As I reached my late twenties, I became hopeless.
Thankfully, In my darkest moments, I started to look backwards. I discovered the ACOA program, and the work about Childhood ACES and Codependency. I began to realize that my childhood was having a direct affect on my present. I was so used to serving others, that I had no idea how to take care of myself.
I have spent the last two years coming to terms with that legacy. With the damage that codependency inflicted. I always gave too much, and it was rarely reciprocated. It brought me to a place that is hard to remember. Where I was tired and sick constantly. When I was depressed and thought I had no value as a person.
I had to fight my way back from that place. In many ways I am still fighting my way out. I still struggle with my self confidence, and boundaries. But now I recognize that I matters. That I deserve to be happy without having to prove it. I am still working on what that looks like, but I believe that will come with time.
After so many years of being helpless I am free.