I’ve been reading a lot about codependence lately. I’m fairly sure it’s a term that describes me, but it’s also something that’s often mostly misunderstood. People tend to think that in order to have a codependent personality, you need to have another person upon/with whom to be codependent. What it really means is that a codependent person will struggle with all relationships in their lives, because they have a tendency not only to become dependent, but to need for the other person to be dependent on them. There’s also a massive issue with self esteem and self worth.
For me, my self esteem has always come from someone or somewhere else. Usually a boyfriend; I felt good about myself because I felt good about who my boyfriend was. Or I felt like I was ok because I had lots of piercings and cool, fake hair. Or more recently, I’m ok as a person because I’m a good parent.
Someone who has grown up with a sense of self worth will find this as alien a concept as I find the idea of not needing someone else to tell me I’m a good person just as I am. Of course, logically, I can look at the cold, hard facts of my life (I’ve never murdered anyone; I give money to charity; I usually smile at strangers in the street) and say that I’m worthy of love… but I don’t actually feel it.
Codependent people struggle with self care because they don’t think they’re worth taking care of.
And so, we come to talk about pyjamas.
I realised the other day that after about the age of 11, I never really had any proper pyjamas. I think at some point, someone bought me a pair of traditional pyjamas which I wore – but that was only one pair, throughout my entire teenage years and beyond.
I don’t even remember what I wore to bed for most of my teenage years, except for one long-sleeved orange top which had been given to us in a bag of hand me downs from my aunt’s neighbour I wore it for so long the cuffs frayed and the neck unravelled; it was stained and had holes in it. I think there were a series of grubby old Metallica t shirts which had been given to us by someone else’s son too.
When I lived with S’s father, I wasn’t allowed to wear anything to bed – and if I got up to go to the toilet I wore one of his t shirts.
When S was a baby I wore an old vest or t shirt to bed; whatever was laying about. At one point I realised I was still wearing a ripped, holey pair of tracksuit bottoms to bed which I had stretched well out of shape with my pregnancy bump – and S was four!
Over the years I’ve bought random tops or bottoms to wear to bed – usually from the sale rack in Primark, and rarely a proper pair.
I feel like when I was a teenager and it was someone else’s job to make sure I was cared for, nobody thought I warranted a nice cosy pair of pyjamas – it wasn’t important. I wasn’t important. Because of this (and many, many other things obviously) I never really learned that I was worth taking care of. And because of this I never ended up with anyone who wanted to take care of me either. So nobody bought me pyjamas. I’m reminded of a post I wrote a few years ago about my choice of underwear, and about not caring for myself enough to spend money on decent underwear.
Last year, I went shopping in the M&S sale and bought myself 3 pairs of pyjamas. I felt terribly decadent but justified it to myself that despite the fact I’d bought 3 bottoms and 3 tops, only one set was an actual pair. I still couldn’t figure out how to care for myself enough to buy a proper pair of pyjamas.
Before my recent operation, I went into M&S and bought myself a new pair of proper pyjamas. I had a voucher so I didn’t pay my own money for them, but it was still a big deal for me to walk into a shop and buy a full price pair of pyjamas for myself. I wore them when I came out of hospital, for about two days. I’ve not been able to wear them since because they make me feel so… decadent. Or guilty. Or both.
Of course, we’re not only talking about pyjamas here. The pyjamas are sort of a metaphor for my life. I seem to have a lack of basic ability to take care of myself – because I lack the self esteem required to make me feel like I’m worth taking care of. This is also probably how I ended up in an abusive relationship; I thought that was all I was worth.
I’m not saying that if someone had bought me nice pyjamas when I was 13 I wouldn’t have self esteem issues now. But perhaps if someone had taught me that I was worth a nice pair of pyjamas from time to time, I would feel a little better about buying myself pyjamas now!
There’s a point in there somewhere, I promise.