Motherhood, Mental Illness and Codependency

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My teenage daughter is on medication and is in counseling for depression and anxiety.  She has been through a lot in the past year.  I’ve written about some of it here, here, and here.

Because of her mental illness and her overall highly sensitive and strong-willed nature, we (my husband and I) tend to have a hard time saying no to her.  We, of course, do not have a problem disciplining her when necessary, but she is a bit spoiled when it comes to materialistic things, and she is rarely kept from doing activities she wants to do even when it involves us driving her all over the place.  We will say no if it is excessive or too far or too late, however.

I have noticed that we do have an easier time saying no to her younger sibling with these things.  I don’t know if it is because we think she is less fragile or not as apt to become as agitated when refused.  I would give it about a twenty-five to seventy-five percent split between the two, respectively.

Overall, saying no to my daughter with the mental illnesses hasn’t been a problem for me until this past week.  I am starting to slide down into a bit of a depression.  As a result, I am having a hard time keeping up with her and her sister’s requests – things like going to the store for a school supply, Halloween costume shopping, stopping for lunch, attending sporting events, and the latest one, which really irritated me because she hounded me about it for two days, uploading some pictures for her from my camera to her email.

I just didn’t feel up to doing it because I like to edit them first and that takes time.  She said I didn’t have to edit them, but the perfectionist in me couldn’t bring myself to send them without editing them because I knew she’d be posting them on the internet.  Wow!  I really have some work to do on letting things go, my ego, and not worrying about what other people think, don’t I?

On the upside, I am learning to edit pretty well at top speed, which will help me if I ever become a professional photographer, which is my fantasy goal.  I think my migraines and mental illness will keep me from that goal for a long time.  Maybe someday it will happen long after the kids are out of the house.

But I digress…

Codependency has been described as “a pattern of behavior in which you find yourself dependent on approval from someone else for your self-worth and identity.”  I am afraid I do this with my role as a mom.  Since not being able to work outside the home anymore because of my mental illnesses, I have convinced myself that my purpose or “job” is to be mom, but in all reality if I was still working outside the home, I would still have to be mom too.

I know I definitely don’t feel like just Jessica.  I feel like “mom” or “wife” but not “me.”  The me I was before I go married was not one I liked.  I was very self-destructive and immoral.  The me I was before that me was the childhood me.  The me in recovery, the healthiest me, the me now, didn’t begin until I was well into motherhood.

How do I find out who the me is underneath the weight of this motherhood identity?  I need the answer to this question.  I think it may hold the key to much joy.

We Always Have a Choice

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I wear clothes that are at least five years old.  I use my make-up down to the last swipe of lipstick and dust particle of eye shadow.  My hair is full of dead ends before I’ll get it cut.  I borrow books, paint my own nails, have my husband give me massages, and wax my own eyebrows.  In other words, I never spend money on myself.  I figure with kids and bills and a house, there is always somewhere else the money could be used.

So, the other day when I was taking photos of my daughter and I mentioned that it would be nice to have a reflector to get the shadows off of her face and my husband said he’d go get me one, my first reaction was, ‘Oh no.  I don’t need that.’  He said, ‘But you want it and you deserve to spend money every once in a while on things you enjoy.’  After he said that, I honestly agreed with him, but it took him saying it for me to admit that, ‘yes I do deserve to give to myself every once in a while.’

I think as moms, women, wives, etc. we are so used to giving and sacrificing for others that sometimes we lose sight of providing for our own wants.  Many lose sight of providing for their own needs as well.  I don’t believe that I do the latter.  Although, how would I know?  How can I tell if I am ignoring my own needs?  What is a need in this case versus a want?  I don’t have the answer to that.  Maybe I should research it.

I know I need a lot of rest, and I do take the time for that even if the kids are home.  I used to feel guilty for laying down during the day when they were here, but I don’t anymore because I need that time to myself.  It was great progress for me to let go of that guilt.

I also need to be at home a lot.  Spending too much time out in the community wears me down to the point of becoming over-stimulated, over stressed, and in physical pain.  So, I say no to taking them everywhere they want to go.

Sometimes I over do it, however, when I force myself to go to too many outings that I don’t want to miss, such as birthday parties, school events, games, and recitals.  Nothing is perfect, but I always have a choice.  I do see that I always have a choice, which is good, because the worst feeling in the world is feeling like a victim to my circumstances.  I used to feel that way before I figured out what my limitations are.  But, now that I know what my mind and body can and cannot tolerate, I can for the most part choose whether or not to push it beyond that threshold.

What keeps me from thinking that I have a choice is the negative self judgements I inflict upon myself.  When I am negatively judging myself, I will push myself too far.  I am finding out that as I work on getting rid of the negative self judgements, my sense of choice is returning and becoming clearer and clearer each day.