Abuse Hides in the Dark. Turn on Your Light.

Growing Up Co-Dependent

When I was little, I had to be quick. I had to take any opportunity to pierce the armor of silence my parents wore. This isn’t to say that they never told me they loved me. They told me often. At least once a day, every night.

“Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite! I love you! Turn the hall light on, please,” I’d say.
“Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite! I love you, Kellie,” they would say followed by the click on of the light switch.

At least once a day, they said it. There were hugs and kisses, too. There were doll babies given to me, and I fought the feeling that the dolls were substitutes for what love my parents couldn’t give. I truly loved my dolls because I put everything of me into them that my parents weren’t able to receive from me.

I wanted to give myself to Meme and Pap. I wanted them to adore me. I caught glimpses of their love for me. My mother would sing “You Are My Sunshine” as if it were written for me. My dad would sometimes talk to me for awhile about most anything; I usually let him choose. If my dad wanted to talk, I didn’t care what it was about.

He was a tough nut to crack, but so obviously fragile. Sometimes I felt that my mom should take better care of him; he wasn’t made to stand out, he wanted to fill every hidden crack in the wall that he could.

But Meme insisted that she was the fragile one. Not in so many words, of course. She never said she was about to fall over and break, but that’s what it seemed like to me. My mom wanted to break, and my dad wanted to hide in dark crevices. There was a fine line between “happy” and “tragedy”. (Sad isn’t enough of a word to oppose happy – tragedy was what would happen if no one could pretend to be happy any longer.)

I felt very much outside of my family.

I felt that I was supposed to do “something” … I was supposed to be the shining light that both of my parents could point to and discuss instead of whatever it was threatening to break or scare them. They didn’t have to address anything scary so long as I was around.

I was love, yet I was incomplete somehow because I couldn’t reach them. I wasn’t powerful enough to be a constant in their lives, so I had to be quick instead.

If there was an opening to bring light to them, I had to see it first and act. I had to do good things at just the right time if I was going to succeed in gaining their attention long enough to share myself. That’s what love was to me – giving myself at certain times when it would do the most good.

It’s tough to realize that love was all about the giving, not ever the receiving.

So when did I stop receiving the love? When did I make it all about giving? When did I begin to be codependent?

My existence as a person depended on my parents being receptive to what love I had to offer. That’s backward. If someone doesn’t want to receive “me” then why try to force them into it? Why try to make them love me?

Well, because they were my parents and tiny, small, baby Kellie wanted Meme and Pap to love me more than anything else in my limited world. And in order to get the love I craved, I had to make up an incomplete definition of love. They could love me when they were happy, so it was my job to make them happy.

I dare say, that is not any child’s job. It’s not anyone’s job.

As a side-effect, I was happy when they were happy, and it was a tragedy when they were not happy. I grew up in the middle of a tragedy.

Read this entire post and more. Buy My Abusive Marriage . . . and what i’m doing in it by Kellie Jo Holly (or preview the book now).

Caleb Woods