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Looking after ourselves

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Senior Contributor

Codependency

I'm sure this is a topic that must have come up before, but just thought I'd post about it as it has been of great help to me in my role as carer. Basically I realised a couple of months ago that I was quite codependent in relation to my husbands mental health issues. Codependency as I understand it is a situation where a partner or carer becomes overly involved and invested in the other persons issues, to the detriment of their own self care and happiness. It involves scenarios such as trying to control the other person to prevent having to experience the effects of their issues (for example, with an alcoholic, forbidding them to drink at home so you don't have to see them drunk).
I read a book called "codependent no more" which was very helpful in showing me how to take a step back from the exhausting process of trying to manage another persons illness. I also read part of a book about boundaries in marriage which was useful too.
Anyway I thought of this forum as I was reading the books as I'm sure these issues often crop up when you are caring for someone with a chronic issue such as depression. It has made a big difference to how I cope and I feel a lot better for it. And I think it has been good for my husband, it is a healthier way of relating when I take the step back and let him manage his own issues - with my support, but not over-involvement. And I feel more comfortable standing up for my own needs.
Hopefully this might help someone struggling with relationship issues. I'm happy to chat about it more.
16 REPLIES 16

Re: Codependency

i so agree with every thing your saying, my health was going down the gurgler and had to stop myself being the fixer and learn to say no,,hardest thing ever . i think i was so use to fixing all the little hurts as she grew up when the big hurts come i just went on auto pilot and tried to fix everything.. im in the background a lot more now which is healthier for us both 

Re: Codependency

You are very correct! I think we all fall into that trap once because we want to do everything we can to get them well. I fell in and then woke up to my own struggles and then had to work on putting it right.

Re: Codependency

Thank you so much for your post @Tatsinda 

My relationship with my sibling has been absolutely codependent.  Being the older sibling I have always felt responsible and when my sibling was diagnosed with BPD and other things I thought I could jump in and fix everything.  How incredibly wrong I was.

I'm pretty sure it also enabled my sibling to keep displaying the bad behaviour that goes hand in hand with the MI.

Thank you for mentioning the name of that book.  I'm going to get myself a copy asap.  I don't want to keep carrying the weight of both of our lives on my shoulders.

Re: Codependency

@Tatsinda I read your post with interest.  The book "Codependent No More" is one I read from cover to cover many years ago.  It's also a book I probably should read again.  However, I am very interested in the title of the book you spoke about regarding setting boundaries in marriage.

Although I now receive counselling that helps me cope with my husband's MI issues, setting boundaries is a concept I struggle with.

Re: Codependency

Hi Cazzie, sorry for not replying earlier. It's called 'Boundaries In Marriage' and is written by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. It is written from a Christian perspective but I think the advice and approach they recommend is very good sense even if you are not religious. I found it helpful in terms of seeing what healthy boundaries look like and how to go about putting them in place.

Re: Codependency

Thanks @Tatsinda for suggesting Boundaries.  I bought the original Boundaries many years ago but it's on vhs.  Unfortunately I don't have a player anymore so can't watch it.  You have reminded me of this fantastic series. I'll have to get hold of it again on dvd.

Really well worth watching and makes so much sense.

They also have a great book called "What to do when you don't know what to do" - Discouragement and Depression".

 

Re: Codependency

Hi @Tatsinda,

 

I have in the past considered myself to definitely be codependent. For me it was a matter of wanting my family members to feel some happiness, enjoy a sunset maybe, the same as I could. I know that if I am starting to feel miserable I can make some changes in my life which will make me feel better. It is very discouraging having to live with the idea that you cannot do anything to help someone to feel better.

Since I have been trying to change and focus more on my own feelings I have been concerned at times that I might in fact let go too much. I think that there are times when someone is mentally ill that a "codependent" caretaker may be what is needed. It is just a matter of knowing when the time has come when your help is no longer required.

Also I do not think that mental illness is the same as addiction although the one can at times lead to the other. So not sure that ideas of codependency apply the same. Although I have read many books including from the authors mentioned here and would not discourage anyone else from doing the same. 

Thanks.

Re: Codependency

thanks for the info regarding the books,, i have had a quick check on ebay and they are there :Smiley Happy yeah i feel at the moment i do need to start focusing on setting some boundaries...just last night my husband who has had insomnia for the past few nights was asking me to help him pull out the fridge to clean around it at 11pm?>?!! um...i dont think so....my first thoughts was "yeah i have to take the kids to school tomorow and you dont...and of course your wide awake you dont sleep till 4 am~". But i surprised myself...i confidently and politely said "no i cant help you do that right now, I am going to sleep". he seemed ok with it, and i think he sensed my confidence he wasnt going to try to persuade me bec the argument just wasnt fair.....

Re: Codependency

I'm not entirely happy with the simple codependent description. As was mentioned, it may be necessary at some time. If the person was hospitalised with a physical illness, being there for them and taking up all the extra work would be lauded. Perhaps with mental illness you just have to be aware that you are dedicating yourself to someone's care and not lose sight of reality. Are parents of disabled kids codependent because they care for them all day every day?

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