How to get Dr. Irene's Advice: Look here!

Ask The Doc Board Archives

The CatBox Archives

Stories Archives


Below is an Interactive Board sampler. A fuller listing is found in the "Stories" menu above.

4/14 Interactive Board: Codependent Partners

3/23 Interactive Board: He's Changing... I'm Not...

3/1 Interactive Board: D/s Lifestyle

1/14 Interactive Board: My Purrrfect Husband

12/12 Interactive Board: What if He Could Have Changed?

10/23 Interactive Board: Quandary Revisited

8/24 Interactive Board: Quandary! What's Going On?

7/20: Dr. Irene on cognitive behavior therapy and mindfulness

6/12 Interactive Board: Unintentional Abuse

11/7 Interactive Board: Is This Abusive?

12/29 Interactive Board: There Goes the Wife...

11/4 Interactive Board: A New Me!

10/8 Interactive Board: Seeming Impossibility

9/8 Interactive Board: My Ex MisTreats Our Son

5/1 Interactive Board: I feel Dead - Towards Him

4/26 Interactive Board: Why is This So Hard?

4/19 Interactive Board: I Lost My Love...

4/7 Interactive Board: Too Guilty!

Theressa's Story

Theressa's Story

"Perhaps I am stronger than I think." - Thomas Merton

August 1, 2001

Everybody following the CatBox knows Theressa... With her biblical name, I can't help but  thinking of her as "Theressa of the Sage Advice..." child-like at times, yet knowing and wise when called to bat. Once I heard she posted to "My Story," well, I just had  to spotlight this remarkable lady's tale.  Here's what she wrote: 

Tuesday, July 24, 2001

My story:

It all started along time ago this co-dependent disease I have. But I didn't know about this disease until 2 years ago when I started my recovery.

I didn't have the emotional stuff when I was growing up, (much the same of the rest of us here). Both my mom and my dad are co-dependents. Infact most people I know are co-dependent. (I guess we all are in one way or another.)

I had a friend called "J" she seemed so together, at first her home was basic and she seemed just like me. I used to make up stories so she and her family would like me. This was a talent I had since I had a great imagination. I went everywhere with this family. There were problems at home but not obvious ones. (Not to a child anyway.)

My friend "J" seemed to be able to get her own way anytime she wanted it. I admired this (unknown to me it would hurt me to soon), I never really thought I was right. My friend seemed to be well liked and wear the right clothes. (Her mom dressed up everyday), My friend soon should me her true colors. She would say "DO this or I will beat you up on Monday, if you tell my mom you'll be sorry". I did as she told me to.

I was quite bright academically though she wasn't. She found reading hard, spelling, mathematics. However, she was an excellent runner and good at sports. (I wasn't so great at sports)

She'd always ask me to give her ideas in English classes and always asking me to spell things for her. She decided to become in charge of me. She told me I couldn't dress like her (even though all the other girls did), she made fun when I tried to grow my hair (my mom always had it cut short in case of nits), she belittled me.

Inside I felt worthless, not good enough, I didn't have a clue how to dress (to please her), I lost my ability to decide for myself and ended up checking everything with others. I felt I should appreciate what her family did for me. When my father was very ill her family took me out on days out since we now were short of cash.

(Before this my father had a very good job.)

I thought my friend "J" family were so kind. I couldn't possibly complain when my friend wanted help. Even though it meant I couldn't concentrate on my own studies.

When I was in the last couple of years of school where you pick your examination subjects I prayed that "J" wouldn't be in my class. AND my prayers were answered. Then I met another friend she was much more physically stronger than "J". My new friend "L" made me feel safe.

It seemed to be always me though who still chased "J", if she didn't ring me up for a while, I'd ring her. I'd play games with myself challenging myself to see how long I could go without ringing her. Though I'd give in, in the end.

I wanted to be liked. I eventually grew my hair and had a perm and a mass of curls. At last I looked like a teenager. Though I still found it hard to choose anything for myself. I just had no confidence. (EVERY SCHOOL REPORT said: "lacks confidence". Though they never helped me to gain any did they. Oh well that is the past.

I always wondered why I pushed guys away. I would sit saying "No one ever fancies me." Then when I look back lots of guys who treated me too darn good for me to want them I pushed away. I always felt I didn't want to be used. Some of my new friends had babies at 15 years old. I didn't want one. So I stayed clear of guys. Most of them wanted only s*x I saw enough girls being used. They weren't using me.

Though as I say there were some nice guys but I thought they were wet lettuces since they didn't treat girls harshly and use them, that must mean they aren't real men. (irrational thoughts) Yes, but contempt for those perceived as weaker than themselves is exactly the dynamic expected in victims of abuse...

fI ell for the trap once or twice, but I'd emotionally beat myself up after. Then I met a nice Catholic boy. He lived in London. I thought he was a nice guy too, he didn't force me to have s*x when I met him. Even 6 months later he still waited.

Though it didn't feel right. I just was chasing a fantasy. I didn't really want to be with him. BUT I wanted the boyfriend to have the "be wanted" feeling. I refused to sleep with him telling him that he'd never come to live in my town so I wasn't risking getting pregnancy, we ended the relationship on that note.

Then a few months later "PRINCE CHARMING CAME AND RESCUED ME ON A WHITE HORSE" He was a real man. Or so I thought!! He knew how to live, he looked secure, he taught me lots of things, he was always there when I felt unsure. He approved clothes for me, he made all my decisions. He mothered me.

GOSH was this guy real, was he a god send, since now I felt safe, protected. WOW is this guy special. "YOU BET" he came to teach me the lessons I needed badly to learn to heal from my co-dependency.

I felt so unsure after the last guy from London "Was there something wrong with me being with a guy for 6 months and never sleeping with him, maybe something is wrong with me." With that I decided I was gonna sleep with this guy after 4 weeks. Did I know him?

Not really, No, but I couldn't have the irrational belief that something wrong with me being true. SO sleeping with this new guy, my prince charming would prove I am okay, wouldn't it!!

SO I did, I had fun, and to hell with the consequences. I was so fed up of being goody two shoes. So I threw caution to the wind. If I got caught, then my fantasy would be complete. I'd have the perfect little family, prince charming and the little house with the pretty thatched roof. WOULDN'T I?

Dreams hey, they usually come true!! Don't they?

My prince charming I will call him "P".

"P", trained me up. He belittled me when I got things wrong. He made me feel so bad. How on earth is it possible that a mother could be so useless at being a mother?

Well that is easy. She had no knowledge of being a mom. Though lots of people who there with advice. SO confused, I tried to please them all. Though I never measured up. More criticism. I dreamt of getting back to work. I was good at being a worker. I got praised and got that right.

SO I went back to work. I put my head in to doing one course after another. I felt so guilty that I was so bad at being a mom. A rubbish housewife, partner. I began to feel resentful. What was the point in doing things if they never measured up?

SO I reacted as a means of surviving and trying to protect my shattered self esteem. I acted out, and did as little as possible around the house. IT never valued up to what my partner did, so why bother!! why indeed!!

So the battles went on the less I cleaned, the more he criticized, so the less I cleaned since I felt no value in cleaning to be criticized.

Things hit an all time low many times. I would leave but find it so hard to stay away. As soon as he pushed the right buttons and told me he loved me. He'd treat me so nice for a few weeks, and then slowly back to where we left off before I left.

Then to complete my initial dreams, we bought our first home, after years of working and living in rental properties. The funny thing is all my friends apart from one (my now closest friend) didn't know the truth about "P" and "ME". They would go on about how lucky I was having a intact family. They never knew I'd left him.

I left after a burst of counseling and went to stay with my grandmother. Though I seemed to spend every weekend with my partner. Though after 6 months I went home to my partner again. This was in 1998. Therapy helped me see what was wrong, but I didn't have a clue how to deal with my anxiety and fear of being alone. Nor how to change my poor traits (people pleasing etc), so the same old resurfaced and continued. I still thought all of the problems were "P's" problems/issues.

Then in January 2000 I left and went to my mom's house. We'd only had the house five months. I was miserable. He complained about how I fixed the curtains. I really started to try. This was our new home. SO I wanted to be a perfect housewife. BUT with working I found it hard. IT never measured up. "P" would tell me how he did more.

One evening he went on about the way I pleated the curtains. I stood in tears. Another he left me to try and shut the back door which was very stiff. I couldn't and I sat up crying. Telling my self if at first you don't succeed try, try again. NO ONE told me this is not true if you find you don't have the strength. (we do have weaknesses and this is okay)

Anyway I read "The emotionally abused relationship" and left. I went to my mom's. I felt scared rigid. How could I stay away. I wrote a letter to "P" telling him I didn't want to come home, unless he could accept me as I am. I wasn't gonna change for him anymore.

He came and got me from my mom's full of promises. On both sides. Though he couldn't stop criticising and I acted out more than ever. I became so defensive. Life became so hostile. I was so scared of enforcing boundaries. I didn't know how to sort out my own anxiety, poor traits. Infact I still was unsure of my role.

We sold the beautiful house and went into rented once more. After going to buy another dream house after my partner landed his dream job. Even though we knew things were from we kept thinking as we'd done many times before that it was due to family pressures, (our extended family interfering), to job pressures, where we lived, everything BUT OURSELVES NEEDED CHANGING. Really???

So we moved into the rented house. Things were hostile. I did nothing "P" asked and denied anything was really wrong. I detached in an aggressive manner. (Acting out fashion), We stopped sleeping together.

Funny thing is all the years before this time I'd gone into a fantasy world about s*x when we did it. Though now I didn't want to, so I could do it, couldn't perform. (not surprising, the body never lies - my body knew the way things were, was not okay)

Anyway I decided to leave. I made the plans with the help of a good friend who does hang out on this site "Gordon". I faced my biggest fears of being alone. And then I left.

I cried for a few months. I hated being alone. My child was playing up big style. I read every parenting book I could find, but it only added to my guilt of not being a good enough mom.

I joined the catbox team, they have helped me come on in leaps and bounds. As soon as I left I had a counselor. Ron my therapist I thought was NUTS. He told me to stand up to "P" and start living my own life. The only trouble was I realised that some of the time the things I was doing were still "ACTING OUT". I'd not be on time when "P" wanted to pick up his daughter.

I was in a state of confusion, some were saying live your life stop reporting to him. I was confused whether this was ACTING OUT. I think it was. "P" seemed to come around allot though, never really letting go.

Then in October 2000 two months after I left he asked me to go out on his birthday. I did with his family and friends. He looked miserable as I was having fun. He stormed out and then ruined the birthday gift I gave him. He wrote to me saying "You can't love me... you'll never understand me blah blah. It is definitely over blah blah etc..."

I cried allot that week, then I decided to move on. It was hard, my daughter still played up. Then Christmas came, my lowest point. I went to stay at my sister's house. "P" doesn't like her or her partner. (They've never got on!!)

My sister's partner helped me do the DIY jobs. "P" came around a few times and didn't look pleased. On boxing day I was late bring our daughter to "P" he was livid. I told him it was how it was. Then on her birthday I was late home and he missed her. (THIS REALLY HURT HIM, subconsciously I think I did this to hurt him)

Then on Christmas night I met a guy and we had a one night stand. I didn't care. My family were shocked.

I ate none stop. I had, had "P" go on about weight control for years, so why should I care (ACTING OUT SOME MORE!!!, I'll get him, by getting me!!!)

Then on New years eve I met "C". He was charming, he pushed the right buttons, he listened to me, he was fun, and he wasn't bothered about my weight. We tested each other, sat up all night chatting. THOUGH the RED FLAGS, he was always unreliable. He'd call and change arrangements at the last minute, I always sacrifice and arranged my time to accommodate him, even getting minders for my daughter just so we could be together then he'd cancel.

I told him I didn't want to go fast. I was confused again, my therapist said "There was no harm in fulfilling our needs" I took this on board and slept with "C". I told "C" "Okay, why not we are both adults, lets have some fun" I enjoyed it fully, but later I was plagued with guilt. I felt cheap, I was angry. I blamed my therapist.

"C" didn't ever ring me again. I felt used. USED more than I'd ever been before, or so I thought. BUT the truth is this guy never implied he wanted to be with me for good. Infact it was me who said "what I thought he wanted to hear" BUT didn't think was it what I really wanted.

I wanted someone to save me. Someone to love me. The day after "C" got his friend to tell me it was over. "P" sent me a letter asking could we try again. I decided No, I didn't want anymore heartache.

Though one sentence in that letter said "We never know it could work out". And I was hooked. Though this card was hidden. This was my anxiety card that I was soon to play.

I asked "P" to come to my play. I felt empowered and told him, it is over for good, I don't want to know anymore. "P" got up and left.

THEN I played the anxiety card. The words "You never know" rung in my ears. I went around to "P'S" and said "We can't leave it like this" We spoke and decided to still live separately but take things slowly.

SLOWLY now there is a good word. Did I follow my own good advice. What do you think? Did I No certainly not, I was far too excited building a new dream.

The excitement of another chance to fulfill my dream why would i take it slow. I had two holidays booked within inside a week, and a weekend away for our anniversary of 8 years together.

My family told me things were going too fast, so did my friends. WHAT did they know!!!

I have a habit of assuming things. (IF in doubt check it out) I never use. SHOULD / DO I KNOW!!

Ron my therapist saw my energy levels plummet. As I tried once more to please "P". After a month or so though I realised what I was doing and attempted to get out of the denial. I regained my strength. I could stand up to "P" and I started to get my needs met. I learnt to accept No and look at my sane options. The funny thing is the more I did this the more "P" said yes when he felt he had a choice.

Ron was relieved. Though my fears were still there helping me to keep my head in the heap of sand (denial), my body was yelling out when things were unacceptable but I didn't want to hear. THE REALITY WAS TOO PAINFUL.

"P" disappointed me and rained on my parade many times. He spoilt days out. I was ever so defensive. He wasn't gonna rule me again. I made assumptions about things he'd said.

THOUGH on the whole things looked brighter, "P" helped me to mind our daughter now, he was supportive of my college course. We went out and "P" paid since he knew I couldn't afford it.

Though the assumptions played on. So this person who before making this assumption about something that was said was having fun in bed, now found it hard to focus, or be motivated to sleep with "P".

"P" said "he thought today's men and women were more casual" I assumed he meant he was just using me. I never checked this out, I just shut down.

It didn't feel right. Though I wasn't about to speak up. I have read many books, that have helped me. Manipulation, Fear, obligation and Guilt (DOC'S book list), has taught me to say NO. To take care of myself.

Then recently I read Co-dependent No more by Melody Beattie. A GOD SEND.

Anyway I plodded on and I told my pals in the catbox how the sparks had gone. BUT I didn't dare tell "P" what if he said "Lets call it a day!!"

I forgot to mention a couple of times in the last two months "P" tried to end things. I begged him not to. I sent him a text "Are you sure" YUK

Then I wrote him a letter saying "If that is what you want, but I am going to therapy so I can love your more." BEGGING, BEGGING BEGGING!!

Though as always REALITY catches us up eventually. A fortnight ago the facade was up. "P" told me he thought things were wrong. That he could go on like this. (YIKES, he realised!!!), At first when he phoned me to come to see him. (I put the phone down and cried), then I looked in the mirror and said "FIRMLY - You can cope".

When I went to see "P" he told me "two weeks ago you stayed at my house for four days, I realised then I couldn't ever handle living with you again. You still seemed to depend on me and check everything with me. You still didn't take responsibility for cleaning your environment, it felt like going back in time, I do not want to mother you anymore"

I started to agree with "P". I agreed we needed to be apart. It hurt but I knew I had to accept what he wanted. AND I knew deep inside it is what I needed to do. I knew what he was saying was true I was still being dependent on him. AND I still wasn't trusting myself instead of asking him to rescue me.

I still had work to do.

That night I stayed at my best friends "CL" She told me she thought we were not meant to be.

The next day "P" told me maybe it wasn't over for good, maybe if we just sorted out our own stuff then maybe we could try to live together.

I said "Ok, we can see how things go and just be friends."

I have had fears that maybe we might never get to the destination of perfection. Infact I know it is impossible to. AND today I read Robert Burney's site and realised the goal is not to live happily ever after. The goal is to enjoy each moment, and to learn.

SO it is okay to enjoy and not have future expectations. So it was okay to enjoy my time with "C" and not feel guilty, if it is what I chose. It was my expectations that I wasn't honest about.

I recently realised my thoughts, how I define things produces my feelings and emotions about things/people.

I realise all we can do is live in the moment. Make sane choices, enjoy life. Allow our feelings to teach us what thoughts we have about things, and to change them if they are unrealistic. YES it is okay to enjoy things without living feeling guilty. We need to not buy into Fear, obligations or Guilt WE should only say YES if we are not tired, ill, have no other arrangements. Not saying yes because of Fear, obligations, or guilt. AND ESPECIALLY NOT because of a score card. "I did this for you so you must do that for me"

Score cards do not work, do things because you can.

The trick is this, you are given a certain amount of energy, how do you want to spend it? How does it benefit you? How will it improve your life.

I found out giving and giving when it doesn't benefit you, makes you feel used. Then you beat yourself up for allowing others to use you.

AND the biggest lesson I learnt is mistaken are opportunities to grow, not times to beat yourself up emotionally. WHEN you berate yourself you waste energy.

When you let others berate you, you give away your energy (power), set a boundary and don't let anyone treat you bad.

"Please calm down". "I will leave if you continue" and also I learnt to not waste energy on unimportant things, instead if someone is being awkward I go and do something else instead.

Such as if my partner acts out and turns over the TV I don't bite I just find something else to do. He only wins if he gets my energy, and doing this he isn't.

I know I have along way to go yet, and I've been using the Co-dependent No more list of co-dependent traits to help me get rid of them.

The other thing I am learning is to MIND my own business and not start trying to run others lives. OR JUDGE THEM.

"I realise they have a choice of how to run their lives, and use their energies. It is not up to me to judge others. Also I need to accept rejection. It is always another choice how they respond.

e.g. if "P" doesn't want to share my energy and chat that is his choice.

Life really is about choice. It isn't easy. BUT the best way I learn is I look at the interactions I have each day and I see if they are working.

I used allot of anxiety (people pleasing traits to survive), I bend the truth sometimes so my partner doesn't go mad. He ends up doing anyway.

I add on things during conversations so things seem better than they are. I compare myself and others. Instead of praising or receiving praise in its own right.

AND I find it hard to detach. BUT i am learning.

So it is possible to feel rock bottom and to climb out, though at times it feels like one step forward and two back, I know the lessons keep coming until they are learnt.

YOUR MATE IS YOUR MIRROR. (You can only attract what your are, if you are insecure you attract an insecure mate)

**I know it is best to improve for yourself, cuz you deserve to. AND it is not a good idea to act out and not take care of your home, self to spite others, you end up spiting yourself.

Well That is my story. I feel I've come along way. The thing that got me here was support. Therapy (RON), and the catbox.

Take care, thanks for listening Theressa

Thank you dear, sweet, sage Theressa.    

Dr. Irene.