I felt a strong pull on my heart strings about moving back to Manitoba and re-establishing myself with my family in the late 1990’s, after my divorce. I discussed it with my therapist at the time. She was concerned that the progress I had made in moving away from codependent patterns might be hampered or even reversed if I were to re-situate myself in the midst of the dysfunction so soon into my therapy. It certainly was a valid concern for me, too. But, to hear her verbalize what I had already been thinking was enough to reconsider my course of action. Especially, I took to heart what she said about codependence and my over-functioning mother who was going overboard helping Timothy by doing everything for him. It was so much easier to simply “let” her do everything to care for him, rather than letting him learn to take care of himself. He would just sit back and “let” her. That wasn’t good for his doctor’s program to help him gain his independence. Also, it wasn’t healthy for Mom, who was getting older before her time.
Loss of Mom
Two years later my mom died unexpectedly. What a shock for me, to lose her so quickly and without any warning. I felt horribly guilty for not being there for her on the one hand, but on the other hand I was really glad I didn’t move back — because my mother was gone. It wouldn’t have been the same living there without her. My aging mother was the only reason I even considered going back.
My dear devoted mother spent herself and her health looking after her “poor boy” with schizophrenia. The codependent pattern was still very much alive in our family. Her need to do everything for Timothy 1) wore her out; 2) inadvertently undermined the doctors’ efforts for his psychiatric care; and, 3) tied the hands of the government’s social program to assist him in successfully mastering independent living.
Helping Timothy is “Obligation”?
After Mom’s death in 2000, I — the lone daughter — was expected to take over Timothy’s care, as far as Mom and Timothy were concerned. While I loved my brother, I had to ask myself a hard question: “Am I strong enough to maintain the boundaries — stay centered in my own self-direction — and not be drawn back into the codependent patterns of my family?”
Nevertheless, I phoned Timothy. He was thrilled to hear from me and cautiously inquired if I might be moving back “to be with the family”.
“I think of you and the family often, Timothy,” I found myself answering. “I love you very much. I know you are well established there. You have an excellent program of support to enable you to live and function independently. I know you have the ability to do it or the program wouldn’t have considered you an excellent candidate, provided you with a home, and offered you to take responsibility for self-care. I firmly believe you are fully capable to look after yourself. Also, you have other family members and friends around if at any time you choose to socialize or reach out.”
He seemed to understand, likely because it may have sounded kind of familiar. After all, the social workers and the doctors encouraged his independence. But, when Mom was around, she fussed over him and attended to his every need. Unfortunately but understandably, considering our dysfunctional familial patterns, Timothy let her. Helping Timothy was kind of an obsession to her.
Help by Staying Put
I continued, “I have my work here. I am established here in Saskatoon. I don’t want to uproot myself again. My friends are here and I have made a good life for myself here.”
By now I had fully convinced myself that I could never go back to a previous family situation which resulted in so much unhappiness for me.
As we wrapped up our phone call, I concluded by gently saying, “I love you, Timothy. Take care of yourself.”
He chuckled coyly, then reiterated what I said, “Yeah, ‘take care of myself.'” Then he took on a more serious tone and continued, “I know that is what I must do — and it’s okay.”
Helping Timothy via Non-Interference
So, while Timothy knew he had to walk through his fears of becoming independent of his family, he also realized that what he desired more than ever was to stand on his own two feet and become a self-directed person with schizophrenia.
That was back in 2001. Despite a few setbacks, during that time he acquired a job, maintained a home, paid his bills, shopped for his own groceries, cared for his health and well-being in accordance with his doctors’ and social workers’ directives.
On December 8, 2013, Timothy left the planet. I know he’s in a happy place now. Against all odds he accomplished in this lifetime what he set out to do, namely, break free of the codependent patterns of our family. I was happy to have done my part by not interfering with his treatment by being a “rescuer”. More on that subject in another post coming soon.
“Timothy, you have got to know how really proud of you I am. You truly accomplished your goal of becoming self-reliant! You are awesome! Bravo! Well done!”
Visit "Phoenix of Faith" to learn more about the author's memoir. Follow on Twitter: @_phoenixoffaith Copyright © 2013.