We’ve all heard that healing isn’t linear and that change doesn’t happen overnight. We scroll past these quotes a few times a day. Do they even warrant a sigh of relief anymore? Do they even register? The words healing and positivity and change have become extremely marketable — hashtags that you can tag onto your posts even if you’ve plateaued in your own personal journey.
I think that’s what happened to me.
If I could trick strangers into thinking I had it all together, maybe I could trick myself as well.
Almost a year ago, I was slammed with the fact that I am a codependent love addict. Sure, I had been called codependent before. But I shrugged it off. “Codependent” really didn’t fit the ~badass image~ I was trying to uphold.
I had been chastised for my revolving door of boyfriends which I’d meet with a smirk. Maneater felt way cooler than codependent.
“I can have another you in a minute,” I would whisper to myself whenever I was feeling neglected. I considered myself a hopeless romantic and when things would turn sour with a partner I would put the blame on them. “They don’t care about you at all,” my mind would hiss which would cause a new cycle of impulsive reactions: texting exes, flirting with strangers, posting selfies, you name it.
I didn’t realize that I was making it impossible to build anything healthy by nervously keeping one foot out the door at all times out of the fear that I’d have to leave before I was left.
Quoting Beyoncé felt safer than admitting that when I was left alone with no one to text for even a few hours I would feel as if I was losing my marbles, huddled in a corner, unable to steady my breathing or stop sobbing as my mind spewed all the same hateful bullshit that it began spewing at age 10 when I first developed anorexia.
“I am Recovered,” I told myself as the voice—my voice—whispered that I was worthless, that nobody would care if I disappeared, that I was a burden. And yes, I was indeed recovered from my 13-year bout with anorexia and bulimia. I took pride in myself for kicking something that I believed would shadow me forever.
Don’t get me wrong, I still feel proud of myself.
If anyone reading this is struggling with an eating disorder and has bought into the belief that it will be something you’ll “just have to manage” for your entire life, let me tell you right now that that isn’t true. It takes work, but there can come a day where calories, pounds, and clothing sizes will be nothing but numbers.
You can be free.
Freedom is delicious, but what I did not realize was that some of the neurotic behaviours that permitted my eating disorders to flourish: secrecy, acting out to numb shame, a vicious need for control, an inability to stop the negative self-talk, seeking validation from others to convince myself that I was worthwhile, had shifted from eating (or not eating) to relationships.
I did not realize that my addiction had just put on a new mask.
I initially thought this was hugely unfair, but what I realize now is that the same childhood issues that aided in the development of my eating disorders made developing substance abuse and an addiction to love an easy next step.
What I didn’t realize was that just because I’d quit starving, binging, and purging didn’t mean that I had healed from the hurt that began those self-destructive behaviours in the first place.
Our society sells the idea of obsessive love as romantic. I would die for you, kill for you, die without you. I could start listing lyrics but I’m sure a number of songs just popped into your head already. We’re fed this shit as if obsession, jealousy, and violence are the true indicators of love.
The amount of people who told me “You just haven’t met the right person” when I confessed my codependency and addiction to love alarmed me. “I need to be the right person first!” I would repeat until I felt as if I was going mad. “No, no, the right person will show up and all of these things will be non-issues,” I would hear in response. “These things” of course was my constant pattern of new relationship, jealousy, boredom, feeling taken for granted, emotional cheating, physical cheating, repeat. I wanted to be accountable instead of putting the blame on my partners like I had been doing for years. I was fed up with myself.
Elements of love addiction have become normalized. This shouldn’t be shocking considering our technological age.
We are hardwired for instant gratification and constant validation. Our patience as a society is at an all-time low. True connection takes effort, mutual vulnerability, and a whole lot of patience. How many of us are willing to put our asses on the line for that?
Dating apps, passcodes, setting messages to secret, and being able to delete specific texts from a conversation make sneaking around incredibly easy.
But what if you don’t want to live that way anymore?
What if the small adrenaline rushes have been marring your ability to immerse yourself in genuine connection?
What does healing even look like??????
I started going to therapy regularly in August.
10/10 would recommend.
My first sessions were spent talking solely about all of the people in my life who had wronged me, but as the months went on I began to take responsibility for my own life.
What a trip.
I have learned that I don’t need to react to every little thing life throws my way.
And most importantly, I have learned that I am worthy of healing.
In January, I bought this book called Mirror of Intimacy: Daily Reflections on Emotional and Erotic Intelligence by Alexandra Katehakis and Tom Bliss (please order it right now). I read the daily message each morning when I wake up and try to share it with whoever will listen. Today’s was on Negativity which I found extremely helpful while writing this post. Each entry starts with a quote and then a blurb on the topic. Today’s quote was by Marie-Louise von Franz: “When we are able to see our own greed, jealousy, spite, hatred, and so on, then these can be turned to positive accounts because in such destructive emotions is stored much life, and when we have this energy at our disposal, it can be turned to positive ends.”
I found this post incredibly fitting because I have learned that the initial steps to healing is accepting negativity within yourself.
“All the qualities we treasure in life—happiness, success, freedom, beauty, love—could never exist without their polar opposites. To define a trait, we must differentiate it, just as to separate wheat we must know chaff. Yet despite their interdependence, we habitually interpret ‘negative’ traits as inferior to positive ones. As long as we impose a hierarchal judgement on qualities, we will experience similar bifurcations in our life—rich versus poor, men versus women—which limit us. So it’s important to integrate our own negativities, keeping in mind that to acknowledge is not the same as to indulge.
The lotus flower symbolizes enlightenment because it springs, gorgeously pristine, from muck. The danger of valuing only positive thinking is that it can mask denial of equally valid negative states. Are you strong enough to bear witness to your own negativity without being thrown off centre? When we fixate on our treasured states and deny the reality and necessity of negativity, our negativity about negativity—our immature interpretation of it—destabilizes us. Much of our early programming focuses on teaching us what’s positive and negative in our character and behaviour. This gives us social standards, but often creates lasting mental distortions. Innate, legitimate emotional states such as sorrow, frustration, and anger become tainted by a judgment as ‘negative’ that can block their potential to illuminate and transform.
When we judge the so-called negativity of others, we usually violate boundaries through unsolicited advice, verbal abuse, or emotional hostage-taking. Better to see the world—even the negative parts—through another’s eyes, to tap into our true god eyes. Then we see the situation more fully, which creates empathy. And empathy holds the skeleton key to unlock the valuable kernel of truth in any negativity we honestly experience in others and our self.”
Healing is sitting with your negativity, your mistakes, and treating yourself with love and understanding regardless.
True healing encapsulates the difference between guilt and shame: I made a mistake versus I am a mistake (any Brené Brown fans out there? Let’s be friends).
If you allow reflecting on your past regrets to send you down a negative spiral, too often you will wind up self-soothing with the same impulsive patterns that reinforce the shame-based belief that “I am bad. I am hopeless. I am a mistake” which will only keep you stuck in the cycle of addiction.
Healing is hard work.
It’s accepting the consequences of your actions and choosing to be better instead of wallowing in “Welp, I’ve really messed up this time. I guess this is who I am now.”
It’s accepting that nobody owes you forgiveness, but even despite the lack of forgiveness from others you are worthy of forgiving yourself.
It’s telling yourself that although you are not proud of all of your behaviours you won’t turn a blind eye, you will delve deeper into the hurt and fear that was at the root all along.
It’s holding space for yourself.
It’s creating empathy for yourself and for others in a society that is incredibly quick to judge and dismiss people without questioning what was going on behind the scenes.
Healing is having faith in yourself even if it’s for the first time in your life. Even if it feels uncomfortable.
Healing is not a straight ascent. We are habitual creatures. If toxic patterns have been your schtick for as long as you can remember it’s going to take constant monitoring, checking in with yourself, asking yourself “Is this really what I want or is this merely a reaction to feeling A. Scared B. Lonely C. Self-conscious?” It’s honestly listening to your answers and changing your plans accordingly.
Healing is training yourself not to react to Every. Little. Thing. Life. Throws. Your. Way. This was often how I’d lose myself. Don’t get me wrong, I still catch myself, I still lose myself. But more often than not I am able to remain neutral and prevent myself from getting sucked into the spiral of self-centred thinking.
“Hey bitch, not everything is about you, okay?”
It’s “Check yourself” and “This looks a lot like you trying to hop back on your buuuullshit, honey.”
Healing is ugly crying. It’s empathizing with the frightened child that developed these defence mechanisms in the first place. It’s releasing as much pain as you can.
Healing is being brutally honest with yourself. It’s telling yourself that although this is gruelling work, binge-drinking and chain-smoking are not proper coping mechanisms. It’s calling yourself out on your slippery-slopes.
Healing is being comfortable enough with yourself to enjoy your own company. It’s the realization that when you get into a new relationship, you will be bringing more to the table than you ever brought before.
Healing is FINALLY understanding that whilst pouring all of your energy into other people you were abandoning loving and caring for yourself.
Healing is realizing that it is not your job to ensure another’s happiness just as it is no one else’s job to ensure yours.
Healing is ugly truths, what the hell was I thinkings, and I can’t believe I did thats.
Healing is journalling, therapy, SO MANY SELF-HELP BOOKS, lying awake at night drawing conclusions to help better understand why you are the way you are. It’s understanding your triggers. You might hate that term, but we all have them, and the quicker you learn yours, the happier you will be.
Healing is creating a network of supportive family and friends and actually utilizing them when you are feeling extremely overwhelmed and h o p e l e s s—it’s realizing that your “I can take care of myself” attitude was a defensive trap that kept you isolated.
It’s becoming obsessed with Brené Brown and accepting that vulnerability is bravery.
Healing is taking the lessons from your experiences and being grateful for them even they were messy.
My ex and I used to hug each other as tight as possible and I’d say “Let’s morph into one person!” Just bringing it up causes a sink in my stomach and a longing for the sweet, loving innocence of it. Healing has taught me that we are two separate people and that the end goal of love is not to morph into one, but to care for ourselves and each other for the beautiful individuals that we are.
Healing is hope. It is getting excited about your next relationship, not because you need someone to make you feel whole, but because you are genuinely excited about getting to love someone wholeheartedly for the first time in your life.
Healing is the realization that taking a risk—even if you fail, even if you fall, even if your heart gets blasted into smithereens—is so much more worthwhile than never allowing yourself to fully experience love out of fear of rejection and abandonment.
Healing is completely possible.
You’re not alone.
You got this.