Want to talk about how to stave off codependency? Want to talk about giving great love without murking yourself out in the process? Want to talk about interconnected human need and generosity and having a beautifully disciplined heart?
Us at Rookie, too, all of the time. So we had a roundtable discussion about caring for others: How to be there for a friend who is going through a variety of issues/illnesses. How being there for someone dealing with something outside of their control (like, say, grief) is different from other circumstances. How to know when you need to take care of yourself first, when you’ve become too responsible for them or have become their therapist, and when something is outside of your realm of experience and you need to redirect them to someone more capable of giving them what they need. Lean on us, right this way!
AMY ROSE: When have you allowed people to rely on you in healthy ways, and vice versa? When have you done so to your own detriment? What was the difference between those situations?
CHANEL: In my teens, I definitely thought that helping out a friend was a life-or-death situation. That might sound bonkers, but it’s true. I felt like if I didn’t listen to them or check up on them, that they would abandon me. I was basically the smothering mother/helicopter parent/overeager therapist of my friend groups because I felt the need to remedy their situations. Looking back, I think I did that to really make sure that my friends were all right with me being their friend, because VALIDATION.
JAMIA: I am always genuine when I say I am here for friends and family. I have a natural capacity to be open to giving love and listening deeply. This is also my Achilles heel, because sometimes I try to fix things that aren’t mine to solve. I have tried to focus more on listening, asking open ended questions, and affirming those I love without jumping the gun and trying to fix everything.
AMY ROSE: I have let friends use me as “the only one that understands,” in all manners of what it is I was meant to be understanding: When people tell you that “no one else gets it,” “they have no one else,” they are, consciously or not, making you beholden to (a) a fucked sense of your-own-self as savior and benevolent caregiver, which is reductive and can hurt you in ways you might not realize until after and (b) their well-being: If you go away, they are stranded/alone/endangered. In the past, this has made me feel intense guilt and worry about living my own life and meeting my needs before attending to other people. I think expressing admiration for a close and beautiful bond between two people is great; I think attaching that to a system of need and expectation is abusive.
MEREDITH: I have dealt with debilitating anxiety since childhood, and it’s gotten much worse over the last two years of my life. Much of the time, I want to hide that fact from everyone—my family, partners, bandmates, friends—but occasionally it will become overwhelming, and I will turn to whomever I think I can trust. If I don’t, I feel like I’m going to explode, or have a heart attack and die, or something. But my friends are not trained professionals; they are not responsible for my feelings. Why would anyone want to spend their valuable time hearing me spiral through another round of paranoid nonsense? A lot of my friends have their own shit going on, and because I’m so sick, I don’t think they find me very reliable when they need someone. When I “come to” and start to feel better, I always feel embarrassed and ashamed to the point where it makes me sick. People usually end up abandoning me after my second or third episode. It’s hard for me to make friends, and even harder to keep them. Either I have to hide this part of myself completely, or face up to the fact that honesty often results in me being abandoned once people are tired of dealing with the 2 AM 10-in-a-row panicked texts. I know I am exhausting, and my behavior causes problems. It’s shameful and I wish with everything in my power that I could fix it, but I’ve tried countless treatments and so far, nothing has worked. Right now, I’m actively seeking treatment and trying to get better.
Not that I’m DFW, but that point about the things that make you smarter being the ones that can make you die: I overthought and exceptionalized my experience (“I’m too smart to use a therapy word!”) with codependency or abusive dynamics, which prevented me from seeking help. I didn’t start healing until I realized that I was not above the cheesiest self-help books, not above Googling “signs of codependency,” or “attachment disorders,” and hitting up from the first result down. Off the top of my head: I have read Getting the Love You Want by Harville Hendrix like 10 times, Non-Violent Communication by Marshall “This Book Has a Sunflower on the Cover” Rosenberg like five times, and Breaking Free of the Codependency Trap by Janae Weinhold once, but a ridiculously helpful once. And here is a checklist.