I’ve said I once, and I’ll say it again and again: sometimes caregivers pass before the people they are taking care of. Seems counter productive but, when a caregiver has a co-dependent relationship with their loved one, they can become so consumed by taking care of their loved one, that they neglect their own self care. Caregivers can become overwhelmed and when they become co-dependent, and they can lack insight into their own mental health. They can focus so much on their loved one in a co-dependent way, that they can take on the stress of their loved one almost to a fault. They can become depressed cause with co-dependent behavior, they tend to take on too much while forgetting to practice self care. Co-dependency is a tricky thing. A simple definition is:
excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, typically one who requires support on account of an illness or addiction.
I’ve spoken with parents of mentally ill loved ones, and usually right away I ask what they are doing for themselves to practice self care. The response is often times a long pause. It’s as if the question never entered their mind before, and so I have to reiterate the importance of self care. Are you eating right? “Have you gained or lost weight? “Are you moody?” Do you feel overwhelmed?” “Are you getting sleep?” Are you taking time to do something just for you like taking a yoga class, or joining a book club? “Are you abusing drugs or alcohol?”
Often times a co-dependent caregiver gets so enmeshed with the person they are taking care of that they slowly begin to decompensate to the point where they are useless as a caregiver. They take on too much, and because all their attention is on their loved one, little by little they can become sick.
Co-dependency can be complicated, especially when you meet a co-dependent person that is responsible for a sick loved one. When you obsess over the health of a sick loved one it can be mentally toxic, and physically damaging. Co-dependent caregivers face a challenge cause they are prone to taking care of others but there must be boundaries or else you become useless.
If you are a co-dependent caregiver and find yourself in a downward spiral, here are some suggestions before it’s too late:
- Be realistic with your goals – You are a human being too so, taking on too much will inevitably backfire on you.
- Join a support group – It’s important to get connected to others going through the same challenges that you may face being a co-dependent caregiver cause you are not alone, and caregiving can be isolating.
- Separate time for yourself – It is easy to lose yourself when you are a co-dependent caregiver cause it can become all about them so, make a conscious effort to find time just for yourself.
- Implement boundaries – You can’t do it all, all of the time, so, it’s important to know what you can and can not provide for your loved one.
- Relieve yourself from guilt – Co-dependent caregivers can suffer from guilt, “Am I doing enough? Am I doing what’s right?” If you allow guilt to seep into your conscious, it will only damage your psyche, and impede your ability to have a sound mind enough to make the right decisions for your loved one.
Bottom line: You can’t help and care for others, if you don’t care for yourself. And, being a co-dependent caregiver only makes it more challenging, so, practice self care and be knowledgeable on co-dependency cause the combination of being co-dependent caregiver can end up killing you.