Sunday, January 20, 2008

manic depression...
enabling...boundaries...

this has been a very difficult week for me...i am a creature of habit...change can be disruptive...the majority of us do not change until we are very uncomfortable or in much pain...in Twelve Step programs they call it the bottom...and reaching the bottom is the start of change....

Logo of The Bipolar-Manic Depression WebRing

someone very close to me had to be hospitalized for what we now know is manic depression...we reached a collective bottom this week...he to the crazies and me to the end of my rope... it came as desperation with much pain and discomfort for us both...i am not an expert on this disease, but i can relay from my experience the chaos and heartbreak that an undiagnosed and untreated soul brings with them...

nothing is peaceful in a life with them...it is either fast and furious or the end of the world...there is no middle ground and no calm relaxing time...to love them is to be swept up in the chaos that is their life...and, eventually if you do not get help, you are so focused on them that you can lose yourself...

the normal that becomes your life together is not normal to anyone watching...a friend related a recent incident at a restaurant where he was singing puff the magic dragon one minute and ten minutes later cursing the entire state because he could not find a job...she was convinced that he was on drugs...and that i as in denial...

Photo from ecademy.com

for me, i tried to create a normal life for us...make a home and a safe haven...but days, months and years of this roller coaster existence eventually became my normal also...you begin to think that singing one minute and cursing the next and laying in bed for months is normal...so it took his doctor to tell me that i was enabling him...to shake me out of my stupor...

enabling...it became crystal clear to me at that moment...almost...

but how do i un-enable...when providing and care taking and loving until it is better is such a part of who i am...i am a fixer by nature...a real idea person...let's try this or this...i come from a place where this negative behaviour would never have been tolerated, even a little...my mother was a "pick yourself up and dust yourself off" and a "dry your eyes and put on some lipstick" fake it till you make it kind of person...you could not wallow in the depths for too long...self-pity was unheard of in my mother's world...which was such a pain for my drama queen self...

consummate researcher that i am, i took to google to find out what enabling is exactly...defined as giving someone the means, resources or authority to make something possible....well, this sounds positive to me...except when applied to a manic depressive because it means giving them the resources or authority to stay sick...it also is doing for someone what they can and should be doing for themselves....this gets trickier in a relationship because things like buying food and paying the bills keeps me well fed and comfortably sheltered, but it also keeps him from getting the help he needs...i thought i was helping...

so what is the difference between helping and enabling?

-enabling is providing an atmosphere within which another person does not have to take personal responsibility...it is parenting someone who is old enough to parent themselves and who is not a child of yours anyway...it is an over-stepping of what would be considered healthy boundaries...instead it is a lack of boundaries...thus, enabling is doing anything for someone else that they 'should' be able to do (and need to do) for themselves....

-helping someone consists of giving assistance or lending an ear, after having been asked...and doing so without giving direction or advice...and without having any stakes in the outcome of the choices a person makes....thus, helping someone is rendering assistance after having been asked...

the difference is what the outcome is for the person receiving the help...is it a one time help or is it something that teaches them to rely on me....enabling prevents them from hitting the bottom or getting the help they need...

my copy of van gogh self-portrait...article on van gogh md is here...

These may be the most productive questions i ever asked myself:
  1. Can my loved one do this for himself?
  2. Are my actions effectively shielding him from the (full) consequences of his behaviors
If the answer is “yes,” you are enabling...and i am enabling!!!

here is the tricky part...i found this very interesting article that slammed my face right into the mirror of looking at myself..."The core root of the problem of enabling rests with one's own inability and or refusal to help him/herself....what many are seeking to do in the 'helping' of someone else is to avoid their own problems, issues and or avoid meeting their own needs." the article continues, "So firstly, it is important to make sure that you are meeting your own needs and taking personal responsibility for yourself. In order to meet your own needs and to be responsible for yourself you will need to develop boundaries. As one begins to develop boundaries and a healthy sense of the difference between self and others then and only then can one begin to truly learn the difference between helping and enabling".

photo from here...

that boundary thing again...it has come up in my life before...i have never been good at making them or maintaining them...when we enable, we put other people's needs before our own....this was a very meaningful statement for me...checking in with my myself and my motives is helping me discover why i am enabling...is it my need to feel in control and is there some part of me that likes the chaos...i am still working on this one...

enabling gives us a false sense of control...we do what society tells us a 'good' father, mother, husband, wife, son, daughter or friend should do...but when we are not getting the results we desire...we feel frustrated and resentful...when the persons' behavior does not change, we think we have failed...our actions, done with the best of intentions, have created or contributed to exactly what we don't want...

herein lies the circle of enmeshment...if you are in this situation with someone else..and you do not have healthy boundaries...nor does the other person...it is a recipe for a lot of pain...as two people try to live through each other instead of living their own lives....wow!

there is a saying that we change not when we see the light, but when we feel the heat...having to face the consequences of our behaviors is 'the heat', the motivator to make a change...so when i enable, i effectively turn down the heat and deny him and myself the learning associated with the consequences... hummmmmmmmmmm...

tomorrow i begin the process of learning to distinguish between helping someone and enabling them with the help of a therapist...realizing and admitting that i have a problem is not easy for me, but it is a step toward my own healing...and i am willing to step out on the path to where i will no longer feel the need to enable or to be enabled....

when taking responsibility for our own behavior...each one of us must find our own path...so my path may not be your path...experience teaches us that it is useless to lay out a path for someone else to follow...and i am not doing that...i am just trying to help enable share my journey with you....

Don't forget to visit my other blog,The Artist as a Spiritual Explorer here...

my research led me here...
www.jewishaddictionservices.org
http://www.co-anon.org/enable.html
http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/borderline_personality/57270
http://scienceblogs.com/neurophilosophy/2007/11/van_gogh_manic_depression.php
http://t.webring.com/hub?ring=bipolarmanicdep1

http://www.ecademy.com/node.php?id=78656

36 comments:

Wyanne said...

Wow..you've had a lot going on. So sorry. I hope you are okay. You'll have to catch me up on everything soon. Much love, Wyanne

judie said...

Rebecca, you have a hard row to hoe. You are a good woman, and I send you blessings. I hope posting about it will help you. I'm not sure I could be brave enough to do it. xoxoxo

KaiBlueCreations said...

this makes so much sense Rebecca, and thank you for posting the references..
PEace, Kai xx

Journey Through Life said...

I understand exactly what you are going through having lived with a bi-polar man myself. I wish you all the best.
Annie
xxx

Angela said...

I totally understand and can relate. I would go on to tell you more but it is hard to explain online. I am sooo sorry...I know things can get very hard and you don't deserve them to be. Let me know if there is any way that I can help.
*HUGS*

Anonymous said...

Bipolar is such a difficult illness. You are not alone in your experiences. I have been benefited from membership in the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI http://nami.org). I would urge you to get in touch with your local affiliate. They are a wealth of information and support.

She Who Flies said...

Sending you both love and prayers and holding the space for you as you both face this challenge. You can do this Rebecca. Hugs,

Karen Cole said...

Your blog post is an inspiration to everyone. It should be part of any site even remotely related to this disease.

Your words and images are amazing, Rebecca.

theinspiredroom said...

Revealing the pain is a hard thing to do. You've taken a step of courage. I am sure it will be an inspiration to many who struggle with issues like this, and it is certainly a blessing to all of us who care because we can pray for you and the one you love. Nothing is too big or complicated for God.
xo
Melissa

tinker said...

You've shown so much courage in taking these first steps - I pray that the path will grow easier as you continue on this healing journey...
Sending light, love, prayers and many, many virtual ((hugs)) your way, Rebecca~xOx

Abby Creek Art said...

You're very brave for facing all of this, Rebecca. Thank you for sharing what has been such a painful experience for you.

With knowledge...everything is possible. You are strengthened in that now.

ParisBreakfasts said...

Beautifully and clearly expressed.
This is the first step to getting yourself back.
I love the blue Van Gogh too!

http://afancifultwist.typepad.com said...

Sweet Rebecca. I have no words. But, boy do I understand. My dear friend Dino, dragged me through this, while I enabled him. And, the only thing that fixed it, was in an unexplained rant, he moved. But, how to deal. I am sure through your sharing you will help many of us. Huge hugs. You are loved. xoxo

Pam Aries said...

Dear Rebecca...what a very powerful post. That is a lot to deal with!

rochambeau said...

Dear Rebecca,
Sorry for what you are dealing with.
You are doing a good job of taking action in all the ways you can. I don't know anyone personally that doesn't have a family member or friend who dosn't suffer from this or a related disease. The more all of us talk about it, the more we can acknowledge what a serious yet common problem mental illness is. Thankfully there is a lot more help today, then ever before in the past.
This is a great post.
xox
Sending hugs and good thoughts your way!
Constance

giggles said...

Dearest Rebecca
I just want to wrap you in my arms and say I understand. I lived this for 23 years. It's way bigger than enabling the mentally ill. Please don't put this whole burden on your shoulders. Enabling or not, I guarantee nothing will change until they choose to get help. There is not much written about how this disease affects loved ones. The ramifications of it are very disturbing. I find people who've not been through it can't begin to understand how bad it gets! If you ever need an ear or comfort from someone who knows, just email me!
So sorry you have to go through this, I wish you well. My heart actually feels your pain!

Love and Hugs Sherrie

Vallen said...

Taking the step to heal, heck, just realizing the problem, is so far along to resolving it. You have explained some things today that were vague to me beofre. You really understand it, that's clear. With that knowledge you will find power.

see you there! said...

I just want to add my voice in support of what you are going through and how you are dealing with it. Knowledge is power, thanks for the good links.

Darla

The Artful Eye said...

Rebecca, you are a brave and courageous woman. These are indeed difficult discoveries but as you already know, ones that will help you to grow. Hopefully you can wrap yourself in the warmth of knowing you have many wonderful friends who surround you and care for you. Be kind to yourself.- Andrea

Sherry said...

Rebecca, my heart goes out to you as you are continuing to journey through this part of your life. Manic depression and bi-polar -- a very hard place to be, whether you are the one suffering with this personally or the one suffering with this along with someone else. My sister was bi-polar and I completely understand and appreciate the "enabler" vs. "helper" definition.

I'm sending you hugs and much love as you differentiate and grow as a helper and leave the enabler behind.

Britt-Arnhild said...

Dear Cre8tive.< What a difficult topic, and what a hard time for you. I am in lack of words, but I am with you - across the ocean.

Mary Timme said...

Yikes, this is a hard one. I think my mother was an undiagnosised and very minor in comparison to some I've known Bi-polar. I think my daughter may be a borderline one or schizophrenic. I don't know enough about all of this to differentiate, but I do know when it is a loved one it is doubly difficult to cope and deal with it. Enabling is never healthy and it takes a long time for me to figure out if I done something enabling or not. Once I figure it out, I don't repeat it, but boy do I suffer for not knowing sooner and worse, so did my mother and daughter.

Carmen said...

I am thinking of you...
please know that I am holding your hand as well
xx

Gillian @ Indigo Blue said...

Mental illness of any diagnosis is a disease. We need to remember that.
You will get to the point in your life where you take action, you'll be ready. Until then, just be yourself.
xo
Gillian

qualcosa di bello said...

rebecca...you have a burden, but please consider it lightened by your sharing here...you are in my prayers with this. & what a treasure of a friend you are, to care so much as to learn more & change in love for another. that is such a gift to both of you. your words & images here are so graceful...

somepinkflowers said...

just checking on you.

here are *somepinkflowers*
as
i do not know
what else to say
or add...

hope you are off
making healing art.

NeereAnDear said...

KUDOS to you Rebecca... it takes a very strong person to even admit that there is a problem such as this in your life... and even stronger to be willing to share it with the world.... I truly wish I had that in me ... I am dealing with a similar situation but not exact however it has the same type of circumstances... I admire you for the steps you are taking to fix the situation

Good luck on this journey as you learn about yourself and your partner

HUGS TO YOU

JO

paris parfait said...

Oh darling, you are indeed going through tough times. I have two bi-polar friends and I know it can be very challenging for all concerned. It is draining and exhausting. You must look out for yourself. Stay strong; hoping you find some inner peace and serenity to deal with it all. Sending much love and many hugs your way! xoxox

corina said...

I wish I can help you, but I am sure our good thoughts can also help!

flyinamber said...

I have you in my mind,Rebecca and hope that everything will be good..I know this is very difficult situation but you are one very strong person..come back soon!

Naturegirl said...

Rebecca so much here to deal with..I know from watching and listening to my neighbor who had to move back home with her parents..she has the same illness..not an easy road for
all concerned.Holding you and your friend in my prayers. Sending you an angel of courage.hugs NG

tlc illustration said...

Best wishes in your journey here Rebecca. It does take re-training yourself (I known this well from personal experience) and hopefully some good outside objective observers to keep you balanced. And supported.

Hugs.

Lisa S. Oceandreamer said...

You are on my mind daily, I have so much I want to say but the words fall short for a comment. Just know we are all here to walk with you in this journey and will hold your hand any time you need it. This is a new road but I have every confidence you will navigate it successfully and full of grace!
XOXOXO
Love and hugs,
Lisa

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