When I was living in Humboldt working at a hospital, a nurse/office mate/friend told me, “Many people working in the health care industry have co-dependency issues.” Years later I still remember that statement and think about it often. There are people who need to be needed. I am not one of those people, but I used to be.
I still take care of people. I can’t help it – I was the eldest child, the protector, the leader, the person in the family always steering us to a safer place. I married young and that role continued; for 9 years I was the primary provider, the family accountant, and the housekeeper. All of this meant that I was a mother long before Jack was born. I was a mother long before I was ready to be one. Until Jack came along and showed me what being a mother was really about, I did not know how to break out of the caretaker role.
I’m a new soul
I came to this strange world
hoping I could learn a bit about how to give and take
But since I came here, felt the joy and the fear
finding myself making every possible mistake
– Yael Naim, “New Soul“
The end of my marriage commenced my new beginning. I had a child to take care of but not full time, and when Jack was with his dad I focused on taking care of myself for the first time in my life. One of the best decisions I ever made was to go to therapy. Not the kind of therapy where you gripe about your week…this therapy cracked me open like an egg and made me examine the vulnerable parts inside. It taught me how to look at the connections in my brain and constantly question how they came to exist. I learned how to find the parts of me that are truly me and weed out the parts others had left behind. I’ve made a lot of progress but I doubt I will ever be done.
I met David several months after I began therapy. I was clear with him from the beginning about what kind of state I was in and how much I could (and could not) offer. I was amazed when he didn’t miss a beat, didn’t cringe or back away from anything I laid out in front of him. He wanted to connect with me and support my journey however he could. I knew he was someone I didn’t want to let get away, and I recognize on a daily basis how very lucky I am to have him.
It’s not so easy, though, to go from being a caretaker to a place of balanced give and take. It’s getting easier – I’m slowly getting used to asking for help with things like getting Jack dressed in the morning while I take a shower. I realize I don’t do it enough. As funny as it sounds, I need help asking for help.
I’m sure everyone has a caretaker in their life, and many who have the same trouble I do. Have you asked them how they are feeling lately? Or simply whether there is a way to make their day a little easier? They may not need your help or want it, but we can all use some assistance every now and then. Even if the help is not needed, it never hurts to ask.