Hello everybody, welcome to episode 75 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino. Today we have one of the questions that I think has moved me the most of the 75 we’ve done. Can you believe 75 already? Where has the time gone? I’m just so grateful we got this question on finding happiness today and that we can all be in this girl’s corner in what seems to be a very tough time. Let’s all listen to what she has to say and give her some support…
QUESTION: “Hi Greg, I am 25. I thought I could escape my lack of friends, lack of connection with my family, depression, codependency, anxiety, and eating disorders by fleeing my small town. 4 years ago I moved to FL to finish my last few years of undergrad and then I got into a mental health counseling masters program – things seemingly looked good. I was getting my masters, I got myself into really good shape, and I met my boyfriend. However, these past 3 years have been marked by incredible bouts of depression, self-doubt, binge eating, and stress. I switched my masters track from mental health to school and I don’t want to work in a school. I am in a toxic relationship with an addict who I love but I know is truly not for me because the drug is his first love, but I can’t leave because I am codependent and fear I will get fat and be alone forever. My entire family is in Connecticut. I think about going home, but I left there because I was depressed and had no friends there. But I am depressed and have no friends here in Florida. Where do I go? What do I do?”
Lessons through Tough Times
All right. Needless to say, this is a very multi-faceted question and I see why you’re feeling uncertain of what to do next. I can’t thank you enough for sending this again. I’ve said it before; it brings me great honor to feel trusted by you guys with your toughest problems and I’m glad that people like yourself, asker of this question, know that we here at the show ARE your allies and do believe in you and do care about you.
So let’s see how we can help you out. I have three quick precursors I want to touch upon before I get into the meat of the answer today, so bear with me.
1. You’ve listed a lot of stuff here, but it is not insurmountable by any means. Acknowledging these hardships for what they are and believing enough in the fact that you can find your way out of this that you’ve taken the first step by reaching out to us means you’re already starting to organize this.
2. Your homework is to listen to episode 25 of the show, on getting motivated when things aren't going swell. That episode answered a question that had a lot of similarities in terms of not knowing where to begin amidst a wide array of troubles and the answer I provided her would also be an answer I’d provide you with. I talked a lot that day about extracting the lessons you’re learning right now in these tough times and how you can use those lessons to fulfill a vision you create for yourself in terms of how you want your life to look. Definitely listen to that and supplement it with what I talk about today.
3. It would be highly beneficial for you to see a therapist about this. Whenever I tell anyone on the show that a therapist is necessary, it’s because they reference long-term struggles that I can barely scratch the surface of in a single back-and-forth like this show is. Things like eating disorders and depression and family struggles aren’t things anyone can help anyone with if more details and more conversation isn’t there……all that being said, there’s still a lot that we CAN talk about and we’ll do that now.
I’m so glad you mentioned that first year in Florida when things were looking so good for you. Based on your question, to me, that seems like the guiding light here.
What I want you to really spend time doing is dissecting what about that time was so good, precisely when it started to change, and if you can, WHY it started to change. Points that I can see being very inspirational for you go as follows, so listen and consider if any of these feel right.
You were starting fresh on a blank slate, free of those you felt at odds with. You were in a Masters program for Mental Health Counseling in which you were focusing on bettering mental health – mostly for others, but in turn, for yourself. You had a future goal you believed in and were working towards. You took action to change a situation that was not working by moving out of a place you felt was holding you back. You didn’t mention it, but I would bet that during that first year you were having an easier time making friends as well.
So take those ideas and consider them. Maybe you feel they all contributed to your happiness, maybe only some of them, maybe none, and maybe there are others you can think of that I didn’t. I’d be surprised if at least some of them didn’t hold true, though, and I’m going to go with that gut instinct as I give you the rest of my answer.
What Contributed to Your Happiness?
For the ones that did feel right and did contribute to your happiness at the time, ask how they can be brought back to life in new forms. Did it feel good to have a blank slate?
Maybe it’s time to try a new place. Did it feel good to focus on mental health? Maybe time to re-enroll and finish your Masters, start therapy, or join any type of community where you know your mental health will be in good hands. Did it feel good to have a goal in mind and work towards it? Maybe it’s time to get serious about drawing up a 1 or 5 year plan for yourself and starting to chip away. Again, more on that in episode 25.
Why and How did Happiness Fade?
Now also consider when and why these good feelings started to fade away as you started your second year in Florida. Again you can do this better than I can. Consider what went wrong, the ways in which these things are still going wrong, and how to eradicate them. Basically the opposite process of the one I mentioned about the things going right.
Now, a few things you mentioned were meeting your boyfriend at the time and getting into really good shape which were accompanied later by depression, self-doubt, binge eating and stress. This is worth paying attention to because you yourself were self-aware enough in your question to align your boyfriend with your codependency. You’ve also mentioned up and down eating habits, which would undoubtedly align with you getting yourself into really good shape and the fear you mentioned about getting fat.
So dating this guy would flare up your codependency, as it still is, and getting into really good shape would demand you put stricter eating habits on yourself, which I can only assume is still the case if getting fat is one of your biggest fears. Let’s work with this.
I’m not sure this is the best space to discuss your eating disorders, because I’d be doing you a disservice by speculating too much without knowing more about the history behind them and I’m not a specialist in eating disorders, but finding a way to moderate your eating habits is clearly vital right now. A lot of the time people have eating disorders it’s to keep their weight at a certain place and try to look beautiful for others. One could argue this is tied to the codependency and depression you face, and if so, I’d encourage you to question not only what real human value you mistakenly think comes with staying at a quote unquote desirable weight, but how it’s affecting your ability to fully love yourself and thus how fully others can love you.
Starting Fresh on a Healthy Path
Which brings us to the question of your boyfriend. He’s important right now because to me, he shares similarities with a lot of the other struggles you’ve mentioned. Let me ask you this: how are things going to be worse if you leave your boyfriend? If you think things are at rock bottom now, and you recognize how unhealthy it is to be with him, how does it get worse if you aren’t there? Aren’t you only fueling your codependence and further validating it as part of your identity by outwardly acknowledging that it is the very thing that keeps you from leaving him?
Things weren’t working in Connecticut and you didn’t feel loved there, like things aren’t working with him and you don’t feel loved with him. You took action and cut those ties in Connecticut, started fresh, and did something that was geared towards your personal growth. And guess what? It worked, until you fell into the similar situation in a new place.
Why not cut this tie right now, start fresh on a path that is healthy for you and means something to you, and use your newly acquired knowledge from this experience to not fall into a similar rabbit hole should one present itself down the road? You’ve learned from this. You’re going to learn more as you continue to work on yourself, ask questions like you’ve asked me, and hopefully get into a better environment for your mental health. These things are going to prevent you from making the same mistakes again; don’t convince yourself that you simply can’t win and your doomed to keep ending up in unhealthy situations.
I don’t know what went down with your family and where your troubles started, but I do see how your actions are further contributing to them now, making your troubles self-fulfilling prophecies. You already know what doesn’t work, so why not try something else?
Take action to change the things you know aren’t going to make you any healthier, and work with someone to understand and break down the fears you have that prevent you from taking even bigger actions. The wheels are turning for you already, otherwise you wouldn’t have reached out to me and I wouldn’t be talking to you like this right now. Keep making those moves in the right direction.
Again, I can’t express my gratitude enough to you for allowing myself, the team, and the listeners to show you that there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
Feel free to send in more questions if you’d like with more detail about the things I couldn’t get into so much today – I’ll be happy to keep looking at this from different angles. That goes for everybody, whether you have or haven’t sent a question in, keep them coming. Phrase them in whatever way you feel is necessary for us to help you out.
You can email them to us at advice AT oldpodcast DOT com
We’ve been here a while today so I’ll wrap up here, but thank you for joining everyone. Today’s episode really resonated with me and this show sure is a fantastic thing to be a part of. Take care of yourselves and I’ll talk to you again soon.