Codependency covers a wide variety of behaviors. A good book to read is "Codependent No More." If in an a relationship with an alcoholic/ addict your behavior could be to try to consume their life by trying to catch them using and get them to recover by starting fights and ridiculing them. Then the next day they will let it go and clean up the mess that the other's using caused. Often they spend so much energy living in denial and lies that they never have time to focus on their own happiness and interests. They like to have the things that they have control over perfect. Cleaning and re-cleaning the house almost in a trance, always keeping the house immaculate. A good movie that tells this story is :The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio" (2005), based on a true story. Julianne Moore plays the wife of Woody Harrelson who plays an alcoholic.
I can relate to this because my ex wife put up with me for four and a half years while I was addicted to pain pills. She always set down ultimatums but never stuck to them. She caught me at least once a month. She would find out I didn't pay a bill or noticed something was missing that she knew I had pawned. Sometimes she even found the pills, but she loved me.
After about a year into our relationship I started asking her to marry me. I would wait until she hadn't caught me for a while but she still had some pride left and told me know. About a year and a half into our relationship I was sitting on the couch getting ready to go to work. She hadn't caught me in a while because as all addicts do I got better at hiding it. I had some pills in my pocket to take to work with me but as I stood up they fell out onto the couch. She found them before I got out the door and we started fighting. I told her I would leave and packed my truck up to go stay with my mom. The next day I called her crying telling her how much I loved and missed her. She cried too and told me that I could come back home. She met me at the door and we started kissing and making up. She asked me to "ask her again." I asked her to marry me and she said yes. This was how distorted her reality was. She convinced herself every time that I was done and always forgave me as this went on for the next three years. We even had two kids together. She had a daydream of a loving husband and father so much so that I think she actually believed she had it. But all was not well behind closed doors and she never told anybody about it. This was the codependent behaviors that she displayed. Mine and most depressed people's codependent behaviors are different.
When I found out I was extremely codependent was when my dr gave me a homework assignment. He said to turn to a new page in my journal and title the homework "On a Deserted Island." He told me to imagine what it is like on a deserted island. Imagine how your mood would be and what it would be like not to have other people around. I thought long and hard about that for a few days. What I realized was that without people there I would have no one to compare my looks to. I wouldn't have to worry about saying the wrong thing or being insecure because of the childhood I had. My self worth was based on what others thought about me. My mood was easily elevated or brought down by the flattery or criticism of other people. I was passive aggressive (which I will talk about in a little bit). If I was praised for something I would be confident and my mood would be elevated. If I was told something I said was wrong or was stuck in a room where discussions were going on that I had no intelligent input that would include me in on it, my insecurities would bring me down. This was a roller coaster ride that could change minute by minute. If nobody noticed me when I walked in a room I would sit away from everybody and try not to make a noise so that they wouldn't notice me. I had low self worth. I had to start working on these codependent behaviors by changing the way I communicated with others. The three main ways to communicate with those you come in contact with are passive, passive aggressive, and assertive.
Passive people are pretty much doors mats. They don't think for themselves at all and don't take a stand on anything. They will usually not be the person to initiate a conversation or use "blanket terms" to try to get a conversation started. I call statements such as "nice day out today,", or "goodness , it is hot out today" as blanket statements. You believe you have nothing interesting to talk about so you try to get the other person to initiate a conversation. If the other person say "yeah it is," and nothing else, you will drive yourself crazy trying to think of something to say instead of realizing that you don't have to talk at all if you don't want to. Passive people have low self worth.
Passive aggressive people are different. They will be passive to the point that they get angry and lash out at even close friends that they are comfortable with most of the time. A good example of this that a lot of people will be able to relate to is the decision of choosing a meal. Most of us have been in the situation where we are riding with a friend and they say "where do you want to eat at?" A passive person will say "wherever you want to eat at." If the friend asks them again they will say the same. If the other person says something like "if you don't pick somewhere than we are not going to eat," the passive person may name a restaurant but if the other person doesn't like it they will do the same thing all over again. It is a depressing and uncomfortable position to be in.
If a passive aggression person is in the same situation after being asked once they will say "wherever you want to eat at." Asked again they might say "it's up to you, I don't give a sh!t. In the same scenario as the passive person, if told "if you don't pick somewhere than we are not going to eat," the passive aggressive person could escalate to anger saying "I DON"T CARE IF WE EAT OR NOT!!!" The passive aggressive person will be a doormat but wipe your feet on them too much and they will aggressively pull the mat up knocking you to the ground.
Assertive people have great self worth. They stand by there morals and values. In the military soldiers are taught to do what they are told and not question it. That doesn't make them passive, it is required for leaders to be able to make decisions without those decisions being questioned by those soldiers beneath them. The best scenario for explaining assertiveness for me as a soldier is to talk a bout lawful and unlawful orders. Orders are carried out from the top down. If a higher ranking person gives you a lawful order like shoot at that enemy that is firing at us, unless the soldier freezes up, he/she has to carry out that order. A good reference for the execution of unlawful orders is the movie "A Few Good Men." An unlawful order is an order that is against the Geneva Convention, or against the Military code of conduct. If a higher ranking person gives you an unlawful order it is your right, and well your duty, to disobey it. An unlawful order could be a higher ranking person to telling to execute someone suspected of terrorist activities because he/she doesn't want to have to deal with deviating from the mission that they are on. This is where you will quickly find out if a person is passive, passive aggressive, or assertive. A passive person might say "please don't make me do that." A passive aggressive person might say the same but if pushed may carry out the order out of anger or turn the aggression on the person giving the order. An assertive person, would assertively say "NO sir, that is an unlawful order and I will not carry it out or allow it to be carried out."
The foundation for fighting depression is learning to control your thoughts. With or without medicine gaining control of your thoughts is the best thing you can do to keep you out of depression. This is the first thing I learned about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). When I was admitted to treatment at the beginning of August last year I met with the same psych dr that I had last year. The difference this year was that I wasn't detoxing. It didn't really make it any easier since I was stuck in manic depression. I was much further into depression than I was last year when I came in detoxing. It lasted for 3 weeks and on the second week I tried to end it. This is how I came out of it:
The first exercise that my dr started me on was the thought stopping exercises in CBT. He wanted me to write down my thoughts and what feelings those thoughts caused. While in the manic depression it was very hard to do. It was very basic but trying to catch a thought when you are depressed is like trying to catch a moving train. I would literally have to work hours just to catch a handful of thoughts. Once I started catching them he made me write them out in one column on a piece of notebook paper and in the next one write down the feeling that it caused. It sounds easy but it was exhausting. I didn't want to write, I just wanted to lay down and isolate. The only thought that I could catch at first was "I am never going to come out of this depression." The feeling it gave me was exhaustion. This carried on for a few days.
The whole first two weeks was just me going to groups and not saying a word. I couldn't concentrate hard enough on what the therapists were saying. They would say something and then ask me for input on it but I had already forgotten what they had said. I would just say "I don't know, I can't understand." On my time out of groups I would go into the quiet room and work on my thought stopping techniques. Like I said on the second week I tried to end it. After that didn't work I decided to fight. I journaled all day. I took the notebook to all the meals with me, ate as fast as possible, and started working again. I started getting good at thought stopping. My mind stopped racing slowly and I was able to catch more thoughts. Some of these thoughts were "I don't want to make my bed, I am too anxious to go sit in the cafeteria with all those people, or I don't feel like going to group today."
The book recommends that you yell out "STOP", but I had another technique that I learned from one of the therapists. I placed a rubber band on my wrist and when I had a negative thought I would pop it. The pain that I felt depending on how hard I popped it was enough to stop the thought. It released endorphins and it is a much safer and less harmful then cutting, which is in the same family. As I got better at that I started putting two or three rubber bands on each wrist and using them for different thoughts. I had one for suicidal thoughts, one for angry thoughts, and different other types of negative thoughts, you get the idea. This categorized them into more manageable sub groups and gave me something else to think about before I acted on an emotion such as violent out bursts.
By the end of the third week I had gotten the depression down to a level that let me move onto the next exercise my dr started me on which was codependent behaviors.
If you are not so deep in depression that you are still able to function, it would benefit you greatly to gain control over your thoughts and to learn how to stop negative ones. If you can't get out of the bed because you are in such deep depression, you will have to start at the point that I had to start at and it will be a process, but it will make you better at fighting depression.
Once you gain some control over your thoughts start becoming aware of the impact you have let or are letting people have on your mood and your behaviors, try to avoid cognitive distortions such as:
All-Or-Nothing thinking: Avoid using never and always. Don't say I never get a question right, or I always get picked last. There leaves no room for shades of grey.
Over-generalization: A good example of this is thinking that because you were hurt by a person of a different race, all people of that race must be the same.
Mental Filter: A good example of this is say you are going in to see your boss and he/she tells you several things you are doing right but you choose to focus on the one thing that he/she said you could improve on considering yourself a failure.
Mind reading. It can also be associated with having too much empathy. Assuming you know what someone is thinking or feeling. You may get it right sometimes and sometimes you may be creating a self fulfilling prophecy.
Fortune telling: You assume things are going to turn out bad. Like saying "I will never be able to learn how to sing."
Magnification: Making a mountain out of a mole hill.
Minimizing: Making a mole hill out of a mountain.
Catastrophizing: Assuming the worst possible out come. "I am late for work, I am probably going to get fired."
Should Statements: This is often something that gets addicts. Thinking that they should be stronger or they should be able to beat this by their self. Putting too much pressure on yourself creates an elevated expectation that if you don't meet sets you back that much further.
Personalization: Thinking things are your fault that you had no control over. "Everybody is in a bad mood today, it must be my fault."
When you stop the negative thoughts replace them with positive affirmations which can be gained quickly by setting daily goals that are S.M.A.R.T: (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timed)
Using the statement "I am going to lose 10 pounds by March" fits all of these categories:
Specific- The goal is to lose 10 pounds by March
Measurable- You can measure your progress by weighing yourself
Attainable- If you say "I am going to lose 150 pounds by March," it is not an attainable goal.
Realistic- The statement above is a realistic goal. Saying "I am going to find a job tomorrow or I am not coming home." is not.
Timed- Putting a time limit on it is better than saying "I am going to lose 10 pounds." Without putting a time limit leaves you too many excuses for why you haven't don it yet.
Another statement could be "I am going to walk for 30 minutes 4 days a week."
Or the goals can just be for the day if that is all you can do at the beginning just follow the S.M.A.R.T. method.
Another challenge that you can throw in is if you reach the goal in less time than you had planned on keep going. If you set out to run on the treadmill for 3 miles and you can keep going, why not?
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