Spring has finally sprung up here in the northeast USA. It has been a long, cold winter as it is every year. As much as I dislike the cold and grey days, it truly allows me to appreciate when winter breaks and spring arrives. There is a buzz that I feel, like I can actually sense the earth waking up and along with it a feeling of renewed hope, trust and excitement for life.
This restored spirit helps me to get back on track with my writing and my involvement within the mental health community. For those who have contacted me because my twitter account has been so quiet, thank you. I needed to take some time to handle some personal challenges, slow down and listen to what my next steps should be, especially around the direction of my blog. I am not sure that I have had any major epiphanies but I do feel that the time away allowed me to reenergize and realize that there is so much that I still have to share and much that I still need to heal.
Lately my thoughts have centered on my son’s journey; more specifically, around how I separate myself from his journey. One of the most challenging aspects of parenting, for me, is the realization that things don’t necessarily turn out the way they’re planned or envisioned. And when they don’t, it’s quite easy to blame ourselves even though it’s rarely due to some catastrophic failure as parents; most times it’s simply just the path our children choose to take.
What I have recently discovered is how often I find myself accepting responsibility for other people’s decisions and actions, especially my children. This is quite a revelation for me. Makes me wonder where along the line I learned that it was my “job” to own every choice everyone else makes. Now that I’ve recognized it, I seem to see it often and frequently I’ve been able to stop myself before I go too far down the road. This understanding has been key to helping me learn to how to separate my journey from that of my son and I believe it will allow me to provide support from a much healthier place.
As caregivers, it is critical that we find ways to create this separation. In cases, such as my son’s, where there is compromised mental health, there is often enough self blame to go around. Without a certain amount of separation, we may find ourselves owning up to the blame game and taking responsibility where we shouldn’t. Blaming ourselves doesn’t help anything. In fact, it will most often make things worse. It may even create scenarios where we as caregivers act in ways to “make up for our perceived faults” and in doing so, we can create situations where the accountability for working with treatments, programs and tools can be displaced. In other words, we can make it more difficult for our children or loved ones to see that they need to be accountable for their actions and their healing.
As difficult as it may be, by not accepting the blame and not taking responsibility for actions that belong to others, we can set the stage for the real work that needs to be done. There is great healing and great learning that comes from letting go.
Since it can be difficult, especially in the middle of a crisis, to recognize where we are intertwined in another’s journey, here are a few questions to consider that may help to better identify where we’re accepting responsibility that is not ours.
1. When an unhealthy decision is made or action is taken by another, do you immediately try to figure out what you did to cause it?
2. When you see a potential for negative consequences based on actions or attitudes of another, do you engage in debate or dispute of the decision or direction because you feel it’s your “job” to stop it before it occurs?
3. Do the actions of other people make you feel embarrassed because you believe it’s a negative reflection on you as a parent or caregiver and that it’s somehow your fault?
From my experience, if you are answering “yes” to any of the questions above, you may in fact be having difficulty separating your journey from theirs.
Of course, there are situations where safety is a concern and where we as caregivers do need to step in and take control. Outside of those situations, the more separation we can achieve from the journey, choices and actions of others the better we can position ourselves to support in a way that is healthier for all involved. And bonus, when we stop taking responsibility for those things that are not ours, we can more easily find ourselves on the path to forgiveness and healing.
Thank you all for your support, your stories and your feedback!
Please feel free to email me your thoughts and recommendations to firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can always send me an email with any questions regarding this information or any other mental health system question/inquiry.
I’m also on Twitter @farfrmparadise