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How can codependency turn into Sacrificial Helping at work?
What happens to a codependent who puts the needs of others at work above her own?
Why did I help and sacrifice so much for others while neglecting my own needs?
Listen to hear me talk and reflect on our recent episode, Codependency & Sacrificial Helping Syndrome, by sharing honestly and openly about what a codependummy I’ve been at work. I describe ways I sacrificed my time, body, and relationships in order to fulfill my role as “helper” at work. What happens when I put the needs of my clients, coworkers, and position before my own? Like Katie Vernoy discussed in Codependency & Sacrificial Helping Syndrome, my body screamed at me, my relationships suffered, and my time became solely focused on work. Why? I f*cking loved being busy, needed, and stressed…I just did not realize that truth at the time. Stay tuned for Part III next week!
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In this week’s episode:
I start off with sharing my working definition of codependency: a way of being where one prioritizes fulfilling the needs of others in an unconscious attempt to fulfill their own needs. Like I’ve shared before, “I will be uncomfortable so you will be comfortable…” with the added “…and hopefully, if you’re comfortable, then I will be eventually too.” It’s not conscious but likely due to our childhood, past trauma, culture, and experiences, we come to this way of being where, in an attempt to get our needs met, we conclude we can only doing that by meeting the needs of others. Let me know if that makes sense.
I then share definitions of compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma, burnout, moral injury, and gas-lighting as referenced by Katie in her episode to help ya’ll out.
Next, I review what codependency and Sacrificial Helping Syndrome means as described in the first episode and apply it to a position I held from 2016-2019. I definitely fell into the role as “helper,” and sacrificed in three main ways: I sacrificed my body, my time, and my personal relationships all for others at work.
My body: I gained weight within the first few weeks thanks to the demands of the job. This was due to my stress eating that came from working 70+ hours per week. I felt guilty and ashamed of my behavior but did not realize or address the source: too much work. I gained a little weight and lost a little self-confidence. This then led to me not wanting to have sex which negatively impacted my relationship. I recall how my partner actually asked me if I was still interested in having sex with him after I kept turning him down. “No! I’m just stressed with work,” was my honest response. I was so busy putting the needs of my job before my own that it led to my poor man thinking it was about him.
I also open up about my lower back pain that developed thanks to driving all over Los Angeles and surrounding counties. I dealt with the symptom of lower back pain but not the problem: a toxic work environment with demands that were too much. I also share about how my doctor thought I had hyperthyroid thanks to symptoms I had…but it was just anxiety. This is what Sacrificial Helping/Codependency at works looks like.
My time: Like Katie shared in the episode, “You wake up feeling like you are behind.” As a codependent at work, I felt behind all the time trying to please my bosses, meet with my clients, and finish my never-ending to-do list. I share about a time when I sat between the grandparents of one of my clients’ to help them resolve a conflict that happened to be the same evening of my then-fiance’s birthday. He and I had plans for dinner and I ended up arriving an hour late because I could. not. leave. I also worked throughout my honeymoon and describe how, as a codependent, I worked up until the last minute and ran back to work off the plane once I got back since I was the “helper” and could not leave my work or my clients for too long.
My relationships: I was not present. Like Katie said, I was part of a system that “asked me to be different than I was and do more than I could in order to be acceptable.” I missed family gatherings, quality time with my friends, and opportunities to connect with my loved ones’ in order to help my clients connect with theirs. No bueno! I also share and admit how, despite all the work I was doing, I ended up not only missing out on my relationships but I also stopped being present at work with my clients. The bitterness and depression ensued until I quit and found another job.
Next week, I’ll share about why I continued to work there. I answer the question about why I let myself stay in such a toxic environment–like Katie said, it was a badge of honor. I got a lot out of putting myself through so much.