As my blog title states….I am a recovering codependent. I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that this is not something that is cured or just “goes away”. It’s what really becomes engrained in us in our early years.
I struggle DAILY to keep my codependent nature in check. My personality traits can be viewed as attractive to most people. Along with being kind-hearted, generous, helpful, and loyal comes along with it my automatic drive to be a fixer and people pleaser. That’s all well and good until it turns into obsessive and controlling.
For most of my life, I’ve been a caretaker.
I can remember being a very small child….maybe 5 years old….and my mother was raising me single-handedly and struggled most days with alcohol. I learned at a young age how to get dressed on my own and find something in the kitchen to have for breakfast and sometimes dinner.
Other days, I took care of my mother…still at a young age. Making sure she had water beside her bed when she had a hangover, bringing her a basket to keep by the bed for the times when the hangovers got so bad that she was sick and in bed all day long and going to the 7Eleven when we ran out of milk for my cereal.
This was normalcy for me. From the time I could remember until….well, until today really.
My mother has been experiencing tremendous tooth pain for several weeks now. My father and I talked her into going to the dentist even though she is petrified (which is why the pain became escalated). She had a dentist appointment early this morning.
I woke up later than I usually do because this past week has been grueling and I honestly needed the rest. I called at 11:30 knowing my mother and father would be at the dentist but wanted to leave a message to call me when they got back to update me. Then I headed out to cut my grass….it took about an hour.
Came in, checked my phone…nothing. Found it slightly strange but realized if a root canal had to be done it may take a little while.
At about 1pm I decided to call their house again. Voicemail. I left another message. Slightly concerned but not panicked. Not yet.
3:15pm. I called again and left another message. Now I’m worried and my red cape with the letter “C” for codependent had now been put on and I was ready for some sort of rescue but I wasn’t sure what just yet.
4pm and still nothing. Now I’m going to drive to their house like a stalking ex-girlfriend. Why? I didn’t know why I just had to do it. They weren’t there. Then I drove to the dentist office to see if they are there. No cars in the parking lot because they closed at noon.
Some of you may be wondering why I didn’t just call their cell. My Mom is 73 and my Dad is 66. Neither one are interested in being attached to an electronic leash so they don’t own one. Sure would have helped my anxiety at this point.
Now I’m really a nervous wreck and my mind is in all sorts of places. I try to breathe and go back home. I wasn’t in control of this and I had no way to get answers. I don’t like how that feels one bit let me just tell you! I tried to tell myself….well, my Mom isn’t alone. My Dad is with her.
No sooner did I get home and sit down on the couch did I decide to call the nearest hospital. I got the operator on the phone and asked her if she could check the database for my mother. SHE WAS THERE! IN THE EMERGENCY ROOM!
OH MY GOD! Anxiety is in high gear. I couldn’t get out of the driveway fast enough. Once there, no parking space was close enough. My mind was going to the worst places. How do you go from the dentist to the ER…what could have happened?!? My brisk walk turned to a jog as the automatic doors opened to the ER.
The lady behind the desk confirmed what room she was in and I raced back there. I appeared in the doorway to my dad standing with two nurses and my mother in a wheelchair getting ready to be discharged.
The dentist sent her to the hospital for an antibiotic IV. Her abscess was that bad. She was on pain meds too. She was pretty much out of it.
Let me stop here and just say that whenever my mother is on pain meds it throws me back to when I was 5 years old. It emulates the same behaviors as being intoxicated. Slurred speech, stumbling, and argumentative. At 40 years old I have to take a mental note of how I’m reacting to it all.
My father gives me the duty of taking her home while he goes to fill her prescription. She’s wheeled out to my car and I help her in the passenger seat. She’s falling asleep in the car on the way home and I remember looking over at her when I stopped at a red light. Her face was so swollen and she was in pain. Tears filled my eyes momentarily and again, compassion stirred in my heart.
We pulled up in front of her house and I helped her out. She had to take more antibiotics when we got home and hadn’t really eaten anything. My Dad fixed her a sandwich and I helped her upstairs to bed. She gave me one of the biggest hugs that I can remember. I told her I loved her and hoped she got some sleep.
I left the house and drove home thinking about how I let myself get derailed today with the whole worry and anxiety bit but obviously it was warranted. I just know this is part of who I am and it can flip on like a switch. At the end of the day, however, I know I played a healthy role in “helping” not enabling. There wasn’t anything to enable this time.
Today I was a caregiver to my mother….not a caretaker. What is the difference, you ask?
Caretaking feels stressful, exhausting and frustrating. Caregiving feels right and feels like love.
Caretaking takes from the recipient or gives with strings attached; caregiving gives freely.
Caretaking creates anxiety and/or depression in the caretaker. Caregiving decreases anxiety and/or depression in the caregiver.
Caretakers tend to be judgmental; caregivers don’t see the logic in judging others and practice a “live and let live attitude.”
Caretakers start fixing when a problem arises for someone else; caregivers empathize fully, letting the other person know they are not alone and lovingly asks, “What are you going to do about that.”
Caretakers tend to be dramatic in their caretaking and focus on the problem; caregivers can create dramatic results by focusing on the solutions.
Caretakers us the word “You” a lot and Caregivers say “I” more.
Since that whole episode, I’ve snuggled in for the night and not called the house. I’ve enjoyed a couple movies on TV and had dinner. I have not allowed myself to worry or be anxious about how my mother is doing. I trust my father will call if something is needed. That’s a huge step for me and I recognize that.
I’m going to have my moments. But for now, the red cape that brands the “C” is put away for the time being.