How I’m Overcoming Codependency and the Need to Prove My Worth

Everywhere you go, there you are.” ~Unknown

I have heard this quote many times throughout life, but that was it. I heard it, thought hmm, and moved on. Well, here I am at the age of thirty-nine, and I am really starting to see and understand it.

I first started noticing this idea showing up over and over again recently, at a time of a change in my career. I went from an ER nurse to an RN in the transfer center. So bedside nursing to office work.

I noticed one day, as I was sitting in my new, quiet office area looking at the board of the ER in epic (which shows how many patients are currently in the emergency room), there were about ninety-eight patients in a forty-four-bed unit. I felt as if I was actually in the ER. I felt horrible on the inside, and felt sorry for the patients, nurses, doctors, etc.

Then I thought, What the hell am I doing? I am in an office; I am not down in the ER. If I am going to experience the same feelings in this office as I would have in the ER, then why did I change jobs?

It was at that moment that I was like Katie, you got to heal this wound. Whatever it is, you got to heal it.

I took a deep breath and consciously chose not to feel that way. I decided to acknowledge that there were long wait times, that workers were overwhelmed, and that patients may not get the care they needed due to the hospital being saturated.

In that moment I chose to be thankful that I was not one of them. I chose to feel better. I chose to celebrate that I had stepped out of an environment that was unhealthy for me.

Another time it happened was when we were working on a stroke transfer. Everyone was rush, rush, rush.

I felt my face get flushed; my chest tightened. The fear and worry were taking over. I thought to myself, What the hell, Katie. You are doing it again. You are feeling as if you are in an emergency room at the bedside. Calm down. Remember, if you are going to feel the feelings you felt in the ER, you should have just stayed in the ER.

Once again, I took a deep breath. I reminded myself that I am only one person. I was doing all that I could do, as fast as I could, and that was enough. I reminded myself that I don’t have a magic wand and can’t teleport anyone in an instant. I felt better but was really starting to have an awareness of “Everywhere you go, there you are.”

This happened again on a day of consistent work in the transfer center. I did try to be creative, do some swapping of patients, but, ultimately, all my work led nowhere.

As I was sending out my email that shows transfers that were complete, it read “zero.” I had thoughts like Omg, they are going to think I did not do anything today. I did not help the ER at all. They have thirty-three admits, and I got no one moved from the hospital.

The truth is I did my best. There were things out of my control that inhibited the movement.

At that moment of frustration, I heard in my head, once again, “Everywhere you go, there you are.”

I started talking about how I was feeling with one of my friends and coworkers. He asked me if I was familiar with codependency, I’m guessing because he could see the signs in me.

It made me laugh because codependency is definitely something I am working on overcoming. Everywhere I go, there you are, codependency. It does not just show up in relationships; it shows up in all areas of my life.

In my work, it showed in how I looked to validate my importance by the number of transfers out of the hospital I made, even though there are so many factors involved in transfers, most of them out of my control.

In my personal relationships, it showed in how I aimed to please everyone but myself, ultimately to feel worthy based on their approval.

According to Psychology Today, codependency is “a dysfunctional relationship dynamic where one person assumes the role of the giver, sacrificing their own needs for the sake of others.”

This, in my opinion, is what’s happening in healthcare. So many healthcare providers give, give, give but only receive a paycheck. That is not sustainable, not satisfying to the individual or their spirit.

Do you find that you often feel responsible and overly invested in the lives of others, abandoning your feelings, thoughts, and identity; feel guilty for asking for a break or just sitting for a minute; have poor boundaries or no boundaries with your friends, family, coworkers, and clients? It might be a good idea to take the time to reflect and see if you are codependent.

Self-awareness and understanding what role you play in feeling burned out or dissatisfied can lead to a much more fulfilling life and career.

Pay attention to your thoughts, emotions, and feelings. They are powerful messengers. Take the time to be curious about your reactions and your triggers. When you replace judgment with curiosity, you create space in your brain to learn.

As I reflect on my nursing career, I have a feeling that many people, especially in healthcare, struggle with codependency. I think perhaps we create most of our problems from unhealthy patterns developed in childhood.  For example, I learned young to neglect my needs, please other people instead of speaking up for myself, and suppress and deny how I felt.

So, what was I really feeling in that moment—the moment when I felt guilty that there were no transfers? I was feeling like a letdown. I was feeling like I wasn’t good enough, and why? Old habits are hard to break, but I am thankful now because I have awareness. With awareness I can do better, create new habits, and break old patterns. I can pay attention to what follows me everywhere I go.

Tomorrow is my last day as an RN. I am stepping out on faith and wanting to create a new life and career for myself.

I am not expecting all rainbows and sunshine. I am aware now that as I embark on this journey there are going to be thoughts, feelings, and emotions that are going to follow me everywhere I go.

I am going to have to remind myself not to make choices based on the need for validation. I might get insecure when I get just one like on something I posted on social media, or I might worry that my son won’t like me if I don’t buy him everything he wants.

But I have to remind myself not to allow views and likes to determine my worth, and I also have to remember it’s more important to set a good example for my kid than to win his approval.

It all starts with questioning my thoughts and trying to get to the root of my behavior.

With awareness I can grow, heal, and become the person I am destined to be. Perfectly imperfect.

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