I have recently been experiencing a growing sense of anxiety about everything in my life. I feel like I’ve completely lost control of…everything…and everyone, including myself. Nothing I say or do is getting me the results I need or the reactions I’m expecting. My life is a derailing train wreck. If I could only get my family, my kids, my husband, to take me seriously and follow my rules and values, we could all have the life I’d imagined and be a happy blended family. So being the problem solver that I am, I made a list of things the biggest culprits do to contribute to my building anxiety and friction, and decided to call a mental health counselor to get advice on how to fix them and get them to take me seriously.
Except, she didn’t tell me how to fix them. She couldn’t, because there is nothing broken about THEM. The broken one, it turns out, is me.
I decided to contribute to this site as a way to share my blended family experiences. My goal was to show that it’s possible to be in a cross-cultural relationship building new traditions while staying true to your roots at the same time. Yet for several years now, I’ve been pondering why my experiences weren’t aligning with my heart and what I wanted to share, and why I felt so conflicted about my roots and our new family traditions.
So here I am, eight years into my blended family life, pivoting as I realize something. My engulfing anxiety has little to do with clashing cultures, or step-children who don’t share my life values, or friends who don’t call anymore. My anxiety is deeply rooted in my own childhood trauma, and is the culprit causing a strain on my family. This pivotal realization came suddenly, and felt like a jarring slap in the face followed by a bucket of ice dumped on my head. Stumped with tears welling up in my eyes, I read out loud a laundry list of symptoms my counselor had guided me to during our first meeting.
First, the ACE Score. I had never heard of it before. It’s ten questions that prod into your childhood life to determine if you’ve had adverse experiences that led to childhood trauma. I answered YES to four questions. Only four…whew, what a relief, that can’t be bad. And I certainly have never felt traumatized. Except, that I was. With a score of 4 or more, things apparently get serious.
Then came the CODA checklist. Man did I blow through that one…no really, I had to blow my nose as I couldn’t stop the tears from welling up in my eyes. I could relate to every single codependency pattern on this list. Want to read what the codependency patterns and characteristics are? Knock yourself out, just visit the CODA site.
I was beginning to see a trend here. My counselor was sending me a clear message: honey, you shouldn’t be trying to fix your family, you need to fix YOURSELF.
Brain numbness was beginning to set in as she directed me to a final page. A strange sense of panic swept over me as I watched the header load: Welcome to Adult Children of Alcoholics. No, not this again. Yes, I am an adult child who grew up with an alcoholic parent AND a codependent parent, but that’s in the past now. I have full control over my life, over myself. I don’t drink and I am not in a relationship with an alcoholic. Hell, this is why I always refused to date anyone who drank. I would not allow myself to get caught in that trap. So what in the world does being an Adult Child of an Alcoholic have anything to do with childhood trauma and…here’s the kicker…Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?!
Sigh…Hi. My name is Jo, and I’m an adult child.
This is my story of shuffling my way through the mucky recovery process. My journey has just taken an important turn and my brain has a lot to process, so this is my outlet for those raw thoughts and reactions. You’re welcome to come along. Just remember your story is your own, I can’t help you, but maybe together we can find strength in our journey and motivation to keep moving forward.
Thanks for letting me share.
– Jo –
Guest Post | Featured photo credit: Simon Berger | Unsplash