How I Broke Free From Controlling Parents & Codependency

Photo by Dasha Nekip

It has been over three years since my father hasn’t spoken to me—except for that one Friday night in November last year when he sent me a message on WhatsApp.

Hi. Call me if you still want to talk with the old man.”

I read his text and froze, knowing that my anxiety would come. But I didn’t feel anything. For the first time in my life, my body didn’t react. The mixture of stress, guilt, shame, and anxiety never arrived.

I felt nothing—nothing but a sense of calm. This feeling of calmness wasn’t familiar to me. It was strange to feel this way because the past me was used to experiencing overwhelming sensations in my body whenever I had to deal with my father’s melodrama. My nervous system always reacted with a rise of anxiety whenever I got a message from him. It has done that ever since I remember. But not this time. I didn’t fall for his trickery this time, and consciously refused to get involved in his game.

I’ve tried to make peace with my father before. Ever since I moved out, we’ve been at war numerous times. But this time around was the most prolonged period he hadn’t spoken to me.

Why was it the longest? I finally decided that the way he treats me is unacceptable, and I will no longer tolerate him crossing or not respecting my boundaries.

I have allowed him to undermine and disregard me for far too long, and now I feel it is time for me to step on a path to liberation and freedom.

It’s funny when I think about this now. Somehow, during the 19 years I lived with my parents, I didn’t think there was anything “wrong” with how I was raised. Neither my father nor my mother has ever physically abused me. From the survival and material perspective, I was supported and provided for.

However, I didn’t realize that my mental and emotional well-being was never in the best shape. I didn’t know anything about the human psyche. All I was reading at the time were fiction books (mainly fantasy, thriller, and detective stories) and lifestyle magazines for teenage girls.

Later, when coming out of my adolescence, I switched to women’s magazines that rarely mentioned mental health and instead talked about celebrities and fashion trends.

But don’t get me wrong. I knew something wasn’t right, and I felt it. My father’s behavior wasn’t normal.

When I was at my friends’, I could see how their parents communicated with them, and it wasn’t anything like my father’s way of being. I could never quite put my finger on my family’s behavior. All I knew was that I feared my father and his impulsive reactions and was afraid that he might punish me for not obeying his rules. I feared losing whatever freedom I had.

The power of his authority forced me to conform to always be a good and perfect girl. Daddy’s girl. The girl that always did as she was told. Whose opinions and views weren’t listened to nor validated because she was “too young” to think for herself or say anything about life. Who was loved conditionally for how she behaved, how well she performed at school, and how obediently she followed the rules.

This girl eventually stopped expressing herself fully and authentically because she learned she was either not enough or too much.

Who closed her heart and became insecure and unsafe in her body and soul. Someone who learned that she couldn’t have any boundaries. So she suppressed her needs, wants, and emotions. She knew that to be accepted, she had to prioritize the needs of others. That she had to please and fulfill their expectations while neglecting herself entirely.

This girl began to think that her worth was tied to her exemplary and pleasing demeanor and other external factors like appearance, material possessions, status, money, and productivity.

She wasn’t sure what her true values and dreams were anymore, and she was confused about what was important to her. Eventually, she stopped trusting and believing in herself. And she remained like this most of her early adulthood.

This girl within me lost herself. Or at least that’s what I thought…

It took me nearly 10 years to realize that my family was toxic. Things began to make sense when I finally realized what had happened to me. I understood why I’ve been and always acted so submissive. Whenever I couldn’t stand being used and disrespected anymore, I would react with a burst of anger and resentment. But shortly after, the feelings of guilt and shame cropped back, pushing me to apologize for my emotions and come back to being a people-pleaser again. I wish I knew at the time that those were my trauma responses demanding to be addressed.

Only in the past couple of years did I realize I was neglected emotionally and mentally by my parents. Recognizing and accepting this wasn’t an easy pill to swallow. I’ve lived in denial for many years, always finding excuses for their behavior, saying to myself that I could have had it worse…

But this way of thinking only aggravated my situation. And didn’t give me the freedom to look at things from a different perspective. Even though I knew it wasn’t okay to be excessively controlled, my parents ensured that I became dependent on them, which took my power away. I just needed to do as I was told for everything to be okay.

I felt powerless to the point that I never allowed myself to think about what I really wanted in life.

When I discovered coaching in 2020 and dove deeper into human psychology, I understood that my father is a narcissist. Ever since I remember, he has emotionally abused and gaslighted me, controlling my actions and decisions.

Now I know he’s been doing it unconsciously (and continues doing it to other people, including my mother). However, it still doesn’t take away the pain and suffering I endured throughout the nineteen years I lived with him. Along with my codependent mother, all under the same roof.

Even after I left Poland, my home country, and arrived in the UK in 2009, he still managed to control me for quite some time. He demanded constant attention and obedience, making me feel guilty for not meeting his expectations. My mother, on the other hand, always played the victim and cried whenever I didn’t listen to her.

A few years ago, the past experiences that I suppressed began to resurface. I found myself reliving my past.

The Higher Power/God/Universe wanted me to heal from the pain and suffering I endured. When my mind became quieter, it forced me to look at my past, so I could finally let it go.

Healing can only happen by allowing all suppressed feelings and emotions to come up so they can eventually be forgiven, released, and let go.

And I did just that. I didn’t know that “framework” at the time, Instead, I went with the flow and followed the guidance offered to me in the moment. I knew I needed to follow my intuition. This is when I first experienced my spiritual awakening.

I meditated, purged, and cried. I was angry and sad and felt guilt and shame, and I allowed myself to feel what I needed to feel so I could heal.

Eventually, I forgave everything that happened to me and what others did to me. I found myself in the bliss stage of spiritual awakening for several weeks.

No one teaches us this, but forgiveness is a superpower.

When you forgive, you accept those parts of yourself you hid and neglected. As a result, you become much more peaceful, leading you to recognize your true, authentic self. Clarity comes in, and suddenly you realize that you are enough and worthy, and you don’t need to pretend anymore. You learn to forgive yourself and forgive others who hurt you, even when they did it intentionally and consciously.

For almost my entire life, I thought—or rather, was raised to think and believe—that I had some hidden obligations I needed to fulfill. Duty towards my father, my mother, and the family, and this obligation felt like a burden.

This feeling of obligation that my parents planted in me became a list of expectations that began to rule and dictate how I lived, behaved, talked, dressed, and carried myself.

Many of us are raised in a way that implicitly implies obligation and constant selfless acts towards others. This isn’t to say we shouldn’t be selfless at all. But the key to keeping the balance is not neglecting ourselves in the process. Unfortunately, no one really teaches us how to care for our well-being and fill our cups regularly instead of burning out.

The unspoken rules are imposed not only by our families but also by society, our culture, and the government. They kept me and my life in control for way too long. These rules caused me stress, anger, disappointment, sadness, and a deep sense of unfulfillment. And because we’ve normalized this way of living and being, I suppressed all my emotions and continued to conform. Pleasing everyone around me, including my partner, employers, work colleagues, or even strangers I met on the street.

Unfortunately, suppressed emotions will always dictate your life until you address them.

My co-dependency issues and negative emotions that arose as a result caused so much pain and suffering in my life that I became tired of it. For the longest time, I didn’t feel good enough, worthy, and deserving of good things in life. I was scared to rebel against the rules I was forced to obey. Many of us fear what would happen if we simply refused them.

Only a few months after I turned 19—when I was about to leave home to study at university and was met with resentment from my father—I finally found the courage to stand up for myself.

I understood he was never going to let me leave and became terrified that I would continue being under his control. I knew that if I didn’t do anything, I would never have a shot at experiencing the freedom I longed for.

In my mind, I created a vision of how I wanted to live as a student. I imagined how liberated and empowered I would feel. If only I knew how powerful these intentions were…

What is thrilling is that we, ourselves, are capable of rewriting the play or changing our roles by applying intention, grasping the opportunities that arise from coincidence, and being true to the calling of our souls.”

—Deepak Chopra, Synchrodestiny.

I only recently became familiar with this quote. My friend Emily shared it with me. It inspired me to write this personal essay and share my experience. I was blown away because I realized that when I desperately wanted to get away from my parents in 2009, I had used the power of intention to change the course of my life.

How?

My intention was the permission I gave myself to be who I wanted.

Shortly after, I had the opportunity to move to an entirely different country. So I did, I moved away.

Although I used intention subconsciously, it still helped me to materialize and manifest the life I was meant to live. The life that, little by little, became aligned with me and my purpose. The one that I am living now. My intention and desire to live on my terms have helped me rewrite my life’s script.

I was finally free to explore myself, my wants, dreams, and desires.

I met the love of my life—my soulmate. Liberated myself from any obligations and eventually learned to set boundaries. I stopped people-pleasing and finally began to use my voice and courageously speak my truth. More recently, I left my job in fashion and changed my career entirely. I became a Writer, Coach, and Spiritual Mentor.

This isn’t to say that my life is perfect, and I don’t think that’s even possible.

We all are divine beings who have a temporary human experience with obstacles and sacrifices, which are a normal part of our lives here on Earth.

Like every person, I went through ups and downs. And indeed, I will continue to experience the duality of life. But what’s important is that I will experience them all on my terms.

It was a long ride, but I finally regained my space and power. It wasn’t easy, but my experiences have shaped the woman I am today, and this was my path to liberation, freedom, and sovereignty.

I’m curious, what’s yours?

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  1. says: Cosmos

    I live in a very nasty narcissist environment with a maternal old figure that has abused of my kindness and time and powers and has drained me from my sponraneous feminine energies where i am expected to just do what these old geysers expect me to do with insults and avusive language and behaviour. I have had to lift myself up alone with little support with these old nasty narcissist geysers. The only conversation in this house is about money and basicaly everyone getting sick and dying because food is evil. this is not a joke. the result is that i am fighting alone againt this evil anti freedom anti youth anti woman surrounding. I used to write prose and poetry but now i am with not any inspiration anymore because of everything i just wrote. sheroserevolution is great. Keep on because it helps a ton. This is loads better than watching a movie. Love you all.

    1. says: Shani Jay

      Thanks so much for reading and sharing your story 💕 I hope you find the strength to leave behind any toxic people in your life (even if they’re “family”) and know that you deserve to be surrounded by love, abundance, and hope ✨

      Shani x