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Diary of a Hyper-Independent

via Pexels by Christian Duong

Hi, lovely readers.

It's introspection time. 

I find that I often treat this blog as an outlet for processing my mental health, and I'm sure you all are tired of my constant whinging. But if we're being completely honest here... who reads this anyway? I'm pretty sure that even my Mom has forgotten it exists. As I've said in the past, though, this blog is not really for other people. It's for me to write out my feelings and put them out into the world. If other people read these words and are helped or feel less alone, then that's super cool. But that's not my ultimate goal here.

Something I've been wrapping my head around for the last year or so is hyper-independence as a trauma response. Previously, I hadn't really considered myself to be hyper-independent until the phrase was introduced to me via Twitter by Kate Kelly (the tweet in question is below including a direct link), and my immediate thought was, "Hyper-independence? Either your independent or codependent... right?" Turns out I was dead wrong.


Hyper-independent people are those who navigate their lives keeping everyone at arm's length, either refusing or finding themselves incapable of deep, human connection. Now, this isn't a set rule, of course, but this sort of behavior can often be attributed to past trauma in that person's life. This trauma can range from abusive relationships, neglect, repeated bullying, etc., and it manifests itself in different ways. In response to this trauma, some people may become rebellious and exhibit a lack of respect for authority or rules, resulting in a predilection for criminal activity. Others might mistrust everyone until they prove otherwise, forcing themselves to live solitary lives that oftentimes lack substance or direction. And others become high-functioning overachievers who lack attachment to people, places, and things. Guess which one I am.

For context, let's talk about my childhood. I love my parents, and they're wonderful, caring people, but there isn't a single parent alive who hasn't done something to screw up their kids. My Mom was a stay-at-home until I went to school, at which point she went back to nursing. My Dad was also a surgeon and was the breadwinner of the family. He had his own private practice and also served for some time as the Chief of Surgery at a nearby hospital. Dude was busy. And after my Mom got her Master's in Nursing and became a Nurse Practitioner at the local Veterans' Administration, she was busy too.

Very early on, my sister and I were instructed to entertain ourselves partly because we were alone a lot but also because, when my parents were home, they were extremely tired. Boredom simply wasn't an option, and to this day I don't know what it's like to be bored. No matter where I am or what's going on around me, I can always retreat into my mind and work out plot holes in my work in progress, daydream about new stories, or even let my anxiety take over and craft full, potential conversations from start to finish so that I'm prepared in the unlikely event that they actually do happen. It's both a blessing and a curse. 

Both of my parents were busy people, and they both worked incredibly long hours, so my sister and I were alone frequently in our adolescence. I even got a hardship license when I was 15 so that I could drive myself to and from school and rehearsals as my parents were not available before or after school. I will admit, it was pretty cool to have a license at 15 since most of my friends had less freedom than me as a teenager, but this was only the beginning. 

In college, as I was working toward my Bachelor's Degree I worked 3 jobs while I attended classes full-time, and most people would have cracked under the isolation. I was either at work, in lectures, or studying, and I had absolutely no time to socialize or enjoy the college experience (whatever that means). It was also during this time (in my Junior year) that I began a relationship with a man who would emotionally abuse me for 5 years, and in spite of the difficulties I was experiencing, I prided my ability to overwork and not fall apart. In fact, I used busyness as a means of distracting myself from facing the fact that I was deeply depressed, in an abusive relationship, and lacking any sort of direction for my life post-college. 

I prided myself on my resilience and perseverance, except... I was flailing. In my Junior year (2010-2011), I fell into the deepest depression of my life, and this is actually when I was officially diagnosed as a "chronic depressive" (now termed persistent depressive). I continued with my studies but quit 2 of the 3 jobs I was working, and I also pulled out of one of the shows I had agreed to do to fulfill the requirements of my degree. You can see me sitting backstage during a rehearsal for that show in the picture to the left (I'm on the right). How happy I looked... I ended up completing that requirement the following year, and I still stand by my decision to pull out from this show to this day.

So we've got a double-whammy of persistent depressive disorder paired with absentee (albeit wonderful and supportive) parents. Add in the abusive relationship, and I am a powder keg of relationship avoidance and "man actually is an island" thinking. And this past year? Well... we all know how great the past year has been for building and maintaining personal relationships. BIG oof.

I haven't gone to therapy since college, and I'm thinking it's time I get back into that. I've got lots of stuff to wade through, and I obviously can't do it alone. But hey, at least I'm aware, right?

Just need to remind myself that man is NOT an island, with people is much better than alone, and it's okay to ask for help when you need it.



Anonymous said…
Great sharing, you are really brave to speak up about this topic! <3
Anonymous said…
I feel the same way about myself, everytime I’d ask for help even the smallest of task from anyone from my family, I’d always get comments like “oh you’re too selfish, you only care about yourself so how about you do all your tasks by yourself and that same pattern repeating over the years kinda put me into a hyper independent mode and now I feel embarassed and ashamed to ask help from anyone.
I’d rather break my back and work on a task for 12 hours straight by myself than ask for help and finish it up within 2 hours with a bunch of friends.
Your immediate environment growing up is a major influence of how you turn out to be as an adult and everytime you get a negative response for asking help it almost certainly becomes an invalid option in your subconscious mind.
Thank you so much for sharing your story. ❤️
Anonymous said…
I am going through hyper independence as well and stumbled across your post while researching. my parents do love me but they promised a future if i sacrificed myself and it did not happen. they were also very controlling and i am their only retirement plan. i moved 2000 miles away from them and now i rent my own apartment, pay my own car, and maintain myself at the age of 23. So far things have been going well and i am really good at being self sufficient but i do not trust people and i do not seek people. i have social anxiety and i am also an introvert so the need to go out and socialize is nonexistent, even if i do want to make friendships .. I am glad i am becoming more away on hyper independence but i am not ready to let go of the pain my parents caused me.

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