Change is a terrifying thing. It leaves anxiety clawing at your heart every second of the day, and you end up exhausted before you’ve even done anything. Change is so disconcerting, it’s like someone rearranged all your furniture just an inch to the left, and now you bump into everything. It’s painful.
Emotional change is the worst. At least, in my opinion. It’s the kind of change that can roll over you like a boulder, and force a domino effect of changes. Emotional change sucks.
Recently, I began to realize that some people I hold very dear were, without meaning to, manipulating and using me. They took me for granted, and even worse, they discouraged things that might have made my life easier or better. It was a unique situation, and I don’t think I’ll ever find another person who had something similar, but let me try to explain it to you.
When I was seventeen, my mother abandoned me in Colorado, at my request. I had found myself a foster family of sorts, and everything was fine. Until my foster sister and I got into a car crash, and she broke her leg, and I had a nasty concussion. They couldn’t care for me any more.
So these very good friends of mine stepped in, and took me in. Off and on for most of my adult life, I lived with them. Whenever I had no place to go, I had them to rely on. They were as close as family.
This last time of living with them, I was there for five years. I moved in because I was homeless and had nowhere else to go. I promised to clean, watch the kids, and help with transportation, so long as I got free room and board.
Over time, it became something… toxic. Our friendships were growing twisted with confusion at being so close, and worse, their children were starting to call me their third parent. I made rules to teach the kids independance and tried to raise the kids in a way that made sense to me, but there were always disagreements. Always. I took on that duty because they asked it of me. They asked me to treat them as if they were my own.
I have only realized recently how damaging that must have been for the children. To have three adult role models, always arguing over how to raise you? It must have been so confusing.
Recently, I got a boyfriend. That’s a whole complicated situation too. But it really hit me, when I told them I wanted to go see my boyfriend overnight, and they declared that I wasn’t going, that I had let them have so much control over me, that they thought they were entitled to tell me what to do.
I was so entrenched in the ‘this is family’ way of thinking I’d adopted, that I invited my boyfriend over and had them all meet. The next day, my boyfriend said to me the same words a lot of people who are important to me have been saying all along.
“They’re using you, and it’s not right. You should leave.”
I talked to my therapist, and while she didn’t tell me what to do, she made it clear that she thought, “It doesn’t have to be all or nothing, unless it does.”
Even my writing mentor, who has known me and my situation for years, had been telling me I needed to get out of the situation. I was creating a situation where I was abused and used, and instead of keeping healthy boundaries, I let it all bleed into one another. I was as much to blame as they were.
I was as much to blame as they were.
I truly believe that. I allowed myself to be used, thinking it would gain me the recognition I so craved. Codependent. A new word for something I’d had all my life. It’s when a person is so desperate for validation and love, that they create a situation where they are invaluable. This invariably leads to abuse and trauma for all involved.
I had a lot of work to do.
So, as of a week ago, I found a place to live. It’s a similar situation, with a good friend, I watch her children three days a week, the rest of the week is mine. I got a part time job, as a gamemaster in an escape room. It’s the best job I’ve ever had. I’m starting to become excited.
But there’s that change again. What will come of my relationship with these friends? What will I do, if I fail at adulting again? I honestly don’t know. But I have so many people backing me right now, that I’m pretty sure, I would be able to stand back up again.
I sincerely hope that our relationship can mend itself into something healthy. I really do hope that we can still be friends, despite my running when they needed me most. I hope that they don’t think too horribly of me.
Have you ever had a change so dramatic and drastic as this? Leave a comment below, and tell me about it. Perhaps we can commiserate.