You don't live your life because someone needs you. You have a life. You're worth something even though someone needs you. Your identity is made up of so many things: your job, your values, your position in your family and community, all the wonderful things that others say that you are, and much more.
You are much more than a care-taker.
And yet, sometimes it feels like taking care of one particular dependent is what life is all about.
Fine, if the dependent's a one-year old.
The big problem with care-taking capable but seemingly ef-ed - up individuals who (a) drink because they grew up in abusive homes, (b) are depressed for whatever reason, (c) have minor injuries or simple viruses that should require only a day or two off of the job at most, (d) seem to always get bad breaks at work, (e) just don't have good social skills, or (e) a million other irrational excuses, is this:
Because of your personality and because you CAN, you do a lot to pick up the slack. Mark my words, dear. You will tire out. You will, within five years, be so tired you'll be going to therapy (even though you've been TOTALLY FUNCTIONAL YOUR WHOLE LIFE!!!)and saying that you're depressed and exhausted and can't cope, and that you've been working since you were seven and all you want to do is sleep.
And I'll fill out those family leave papers in a heartbeat.
And you'll hate that, because you don't like being sick. So why is it that your partner does?
In this case we're saying the dependent person is a partner or spouse, but it could just as easily be a child, parent, or friend that you are CO-DEPENDENT upon.
You're real capable and work a LOT, probably at a 9-5 job then the second shift, laundry, cooking, cleaning. If your spouse has a physical disability, say a bad back, and is on some serious drugs, things can get even more fuzzy (note the double entendre).
The degree to which disability is truly physical versus a manifestation of sheer laziness and dependency is hard to determine. And if your partner is addicted to alcohol or drugs, even prescription drugs, then it's a certainty that you'll be the one doing JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING for the family.
Once I had a patient who was hit by an automobile and lost his legs and suffered multiple injuries. He was a wonderful, hard-working man who came to see me because he was severely depressed.
Why was he depressed? He had disability insurance. His bills were being paid. AND he was expecting a very large settlement from an insurance company.
He was depressed because he COULDN'T hang in there. He HATED taking medicines that helped his pain but made him fuzzy, tired, and less functional for his family. He HATED his kids to see him not jumping off to work in the morning. He HATED that his wife had to pull more weight than usual.
This kind of person, even when he's dependent can't be dependent.
To me, he's the role-model for adulthood. Mature adults don't like being dependent. They don't want to be a burden. And for some crazy reason, mature individuals, even when they've been hit by a car, they will still try to kick in and do the lawn and everything in their power to go to work as soon as they possibly can.
(The details of this story are fictional, of course.
So why are you taking care of an immature adult who should suck it up and do whatever is necessary to function as highly as possible in the family?
An educated guess is that it beats being lonely, is better than rejection, and makes you feel like a good person (Christian), builds our self-esteem. You can get dependent upon a person's dependency, hence the co-dependent thing. It gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling to help.
Or you feel you deserve this kind of life, that you are committed to this person for better or for worse, that you don't kick a guy (say it's a guy, just for the sake of convenience, okay?) when he's down.
News flash. Just so you should know, if you're cleaning up his vomit because he's an alcoholic and he's "sick," instead of leaving his sad blank and terminating his incompetent and disgusting parental example to your children, you're not doing him any favors.
Which is where we come to the concept of GIVING in co-dependent relationships and what that's all about, really.
But that's for another time. There's just so much to say.
Copyright 2006, TherapyDoc