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Taking care of yourself vs. enabling yourself

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#1 Lis

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Posted 21 November 2003 - 10:41 AM

Hey everyone,

Right now I'm trying to figure out where the line is between taking care of myself (i.e. giving myself enough slack so I don't feel guilty or ashamed of a problem, and making sure I'm not slipping into self-hate, feelings of worthlessness and depression) and enabling myself (making excuses, avoiding the problem, or being "too" kind to myself, to the point that I'm not actually doing anything about the problem).

It seems to be a fine line. When catch myself enabling, I start trying to work on the problem, but then when I don't fix it ASAP, I start feeling like a failure, guilty, ashamed, depressed, etc. Then, when I realize that I'm doing that, I try to stop beating on myself, and then slip into excuse mode, where I don't do anything because I don't want to feel bad again.

It's SO frustrating.

Has anyone been able to find a balance?

#2 sister

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Posted 21 November 2003 - 11:12 AM


Good question...I read your post and (thanks for the distinction), realized that my method of 'taking care of myself' has been 'enabling' - if I give up and let myself make excuses, I'm being kind to myself.  It's like in order to be kinder to me, I give myself permission to avoid...It's stuck in black and white - either get so frustrated with myself and stop completely, or throw myself into it 200% and have it still not be enough.  What's interesting is, I'm just starting to realize that 'enabling' is the only way I know how to take care of myself.  I push and push until I just can't anymore and then stop.  (I do it perfect or not at all).  

I wish I had some thoughts on how to get balance - a good start will be to start recognizing when I'm 'enabling' and maybe journalling, or reflecting on what I'm needing (am I needing to take a break? and if so, what can I do in terms of self care to give myself that comfort).  Maybe when working on the problem, and not being able to fix it ASAP, would also be a good place to stop and reflect - when those feelings of "I'm not doing it fast/good enough" creep in, to stop and challenge whether that is realistic.  Sometimes it will not be realistic, but other times it may be - once that's figured out, go to the "what do I need now" or "what would be more helpful" line of self-reflection.  

Thanks for this thread, you've gotten me thinking.  Hope you could connect with something I've written too.  (((Lis)))

#3 Laney

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Posted 21 November 2003 - 12:00 PM


This is an interesting question!  It is most definately a fine line to walk, and I think I trip over it alot.  :)

I hate the idea of enabling myself, and usually take pretty crappy care of myself rather than go too far and neglect my other responsibilities in life.

Right now, for me, the balance is making sure that I'm fulfilling all the other roles I have in my life, as wife/mother/sister etc, and still finding 'me' space to work on my healing issues.  I try to be matter-of-fact about my other responsibilities.  I *have* to take care of my son b/c he can't do it himself, etc.  

I figure so long as my life is together (albeit held together by scotch tape and paperclips) and I'm moving forward with healing, I'm doing a pretty good job.

Thanks for the food for thought :)


#4 Cira

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Posted 21 November 2003 - 12:30 PM

Great thread, Lis.  I'll be curious to see what others have to say, since this is definitely an issue for me.  To quote Laney (who's just so quotable sometimes), It is most definately a fine line to walk, and I think I trip over it alot.

I wish I had some thoughts, but I really don't.  I swear to myself that I'm not going to be my own enabler, but then I end up putting tremendous pressure on myself to get everything done NOW so that I don't feel as if I'm hiding from life.  It really is SO annoying.  

I've had a few thoughts as to what to do with myself.  The first one (and thanks to the other thread, I know you'll relate) is to talk to my mom, who's unknowingly enabling me.  I know she doesn't know she's doing it - if she realized I was making excuses, she'd tell me to deal w/ my own crap.  I keep thinking I should broach the subject with her (how, I have NO bloody idea, though) and let her know that she needs to say no to me.  Like I think I said in the other thread, I'm all about forcing myself into doing things...otherwise, I never do them.

The other thought I had (and here I said I didn't have thoughts! lol) was much like what Sister said about journaling.  I think it's important for me to identify why I avoid things the way I do and to challenge whatever fears are keeping me from dealing w/ life.  (And as Sister said -- challenge those old "I'm not doing it fast enough" feelings.)

I've also recently been playing with allowing myself to "avoid" for a certain amount of time, before forcing myself to get up and do what I need to do.  For instance, my habit is to convince myself that I *need* to post about a particular issue...which I probably do.  But then, I post about my issue, get to reading other posts, eventually start chatting with 39547548574 different people...and pretty soon, I'm avoiding.  I'm trying to get to a point where in the above situation for example, I allow myself to make that post that I feel is crucial, but keep my away messages up so that no one IM's me and get off the computer as soon as I'm done with that one post.  The other day, I actually set the timer before I came and got on the computer.  Did it work?  Yes and no.  While I was away from the computer anyway, I convinced myself to do things I'd been avoiding.  But I also managed to continue to avoid the things I'd been dreading most.

Thanks for the great post, Lis.  I'll be interested in reading everyone's replies!



#5 Guest_golden lady_*

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Posted 21 November 2003 - 12:46 PM

I'm finding i don't really know where that line is, and like Laney, I tend to err on the side of ignoring my needs.

Right now, for me, the balance is making sure that I'm fulfilling all the other roles I have in my life, as wife/mother/sister etc, and still finding 'me' space to work on my healing issues.

Yeah, that's a good view. I feel that means making priorities of Need To Do, Really Should Do, Can Do, and Can Do Without. I need to pay the bills and feed my family. I should keep up with my practicing, since I now have a regular organist job again. I can take the time to volunteer at my daughter's school. I can do without getting involved in a hundred and one Martha Stewart projects.

I guess the healing parts can be prioritized as well. I need to go to T and take my medication. I really should make time for just me. I can do things that help, like spend time here. I can do without... ooops, that's where the hard part comes in.

Just some thoughts on the matter.


#6 Lis

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Posted 23 November 2003 - 08:26 AM

I'm finding i don't really know where that line is, and like Laney, I tend to err on the side of ignoring my needs.

I ignore some needs (eating, for example - where I need to take better care of myself), but totally enable myself to over-emphasize others (I've had a really rough week, so... better not get out of bed all weekend!) - I really need to figure out how to take care of myself without slipping into the "doing nothing about this is good" phase.

#7 Monika

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Posted 24 November 2003 - 09:10 PM

This is a really great thread, Lis!

And damnit, that line is really freakin' hard to find sometimes! One way I try to filter things is by asking myself "ultimately does this choice help or hurt me?" If the choice hurts me in any way then I screen it out as more enabling. For example, because of my history not eating cannot be an option. I may be upset and nauseous as a result, but my body needs nutrition and I have to make sure it gets what it needs. I've learned a rule of thumb around that :give yourself first what you need, second what you want. If I'm too tired to work b/c I've had a rough few days I have to weigh out the costs and benefits of staying home. If it's beneficial, I'll take the me time (it's so damn complicated to take a day off that that alone is motivation to always meet that obligation). While I try to fulfill my roles, sometimes it's okay to ask for help (as in honey, can you do the dishes tonight or honey, can you cook dinner tonight... or fuck it let's go OUT to dinner tonight!) Asking the question "does this hurt or help?" everyday helps circumvent the choice to not move for a week or so at a time  :;):  It can be difficult, though, because depending on what's going on I don't always have endless energy and I definitely find myself needing to prioritize~~I'm getting better at that... like now for example instead of doing paperwork, I'm posting  :P  :laugh:  okay, right, back to work!

Take gentle care,

#8 kiwi

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Posted 17 December 2003 - 05:19 PM

If find it hard to balance healing/dealing/thinking about certain issues that i need to deal with or that come up by themselves (and feeling all the relevant feelings whilst doing that) and giving my family a break, from my withdrawn and often grumpy self whilst doing those things.

A few weeks back i 'put on my mask good and fast' just to give my family a break..i managed to smile almost all day, and i laughed, and i did things that i really didn't have the energy for. However that caused me to crumple inside.

I am lucky that im dealing with some of this stuff at a time in my life where really my only responsibilities are to myself, my job, being livable with to my family (and of course kitten) and dealing with my own day to day stuff. I do feel responisble for mum sometimes, because of how our relastionship has been, but if nec (yea right...like id really be able to do this) i could drop my worries and anxieties about her.

But its a thing we all struggle with, some more than others.......
I believe its just part of living some kind of life, as well as trying to heal ourselves.

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