No, seriously. I’m asking. What do I do when someone doesn’t want my help?
I tweeted about Anxiety Erica’s post on codependency last week, not only because I think it’s a great post but also because I think it talks about codependency in an unexpected way. It was a post that I could really relate to and one that has really stuck with me. Here’s the point in her post where I had my ‘Aha!’ moment:
Most people have this notion that codependency means you’re "addicted" to each other in a relationship, but it can mean that you’re addicted to helping. Always the cheerleader, encourager, or even mother in any relationship, you are the healer. They come to you for solace, comfort, and contentment.
I do that. I’ve always done that. My siblings (and parents) have bugged me for ‘mothering’ them for as long as I can remember, and so have friends. Every time I see that someone’s struggling, especially with mental health, I get so overcome with the need to reach out and help. Most of the time, they’re near strangers or old friends and family that I’ve lost contact with. I want to let them know that they’re loved and that there is someone there for them and that there is a light at the end of the (impossibly long) tunnel.
There are two main problems with this urge. (1) I’m sick. And a little broken. I’m not in a position to be a pillar of support for someone who’s really struggling. I’m struggling too much already. (2) Not everyone wants or needs my help. My ego might not want to believe it, but history shows it’s true.
When I Reach Out
In the last couple months alone, I’ve reached out to a few people I knew a while ago or met in passing because I heard that they were struggling. I obsessed over finding the right things to say and what message to send, I compulsively checked the message to see if they’d read or responded to it, and I held out hope when I didn’t hear back.
So, now that I am so ready and willing to help whoever has crossed my path, what do I do when they say "No, thank you?" It shatters my heart every time to hear the words or the complete silence that means they don’t want my help. But why? Why am I so invested in the lives of people who aren’t invested in me?
It took some thinking and processing with my therapist, but I think I’ve got a pretty good idea: I want a purpose. I want a reason. Why me? Why now? What did I do to deserve this? Now, this is a bad train of thought to begin with, and is often offered up by my depression and not my rational mind. All the same, those thoughts stick with me…
I won’t talk about my faith often, but I think here it’s important in order to understand why this affected me so much. I believe that everything happens for a reason and I believe in karma; these beliefs will not change, they have been challenged by myself and others and still stand strong. Following this belief, though, I either have done something horrible to deserve this or this struggle is meant to send me on a specific Path. Even when my depression tells me that it’s because I’ve done something wrong, I choose (and fight) to believe that I need this experience for some greater purpose. I think that this has manifested itself in my need to help others.
I’ve said (and thought) a lot that there has to be a reason why. I choose not to believe that this happened to me by chance because that would be just too unfair.
When I’m Codependent
Here’s where codependency comes in. Psych Central describes codependency as below:
Codependency is characterized by a person belonging to a dysfunctional, one-sided relationship where one person relies on the other for meeting nearly all of their emotional and self-esteem needs.
And it’s true. When I’ve reached out to help and been rejected, I’ve put all of my energy into helping this person and planning how to help them, but they don’t have any part in this made-up relationship. I amp up the ‘relationship’ in my head until I am so invested and committed that I crash when they decline my offer.
Here’s the kicker: it’s so reasonable for them to refuse my help; I probably would have refused it too! I’m a near stranger reaching out to these people when they’re really struggling, it would be unusual for them to be comfortable relying on or opening up to me right away. Their actions are rational; my reactions are wholly emotional and have nothing to do with them.
I’m working on not being so invested when I reach out, but my problem is that I still want to help. The real me, underneath the illness, wants to help. My illness wants me to help everyone, ever and gets me so invested in helping them that I lose who I am and what I am working on. I want to try and focus on my blog and messages of support and kindness, maybe that way I’ll get less invested and offer up less of myself in aid. I’m still so unsure how to improve on this, though. I’ve only just acknowledged that it’s happening, and I’m still not entirely convinced that it is a bad thing.
So, what do I do when someone doesn’t want my help? Have you dealt with similar problems? How did you cope?