Yesterday's post about people who don't do anything for themselves generated a lot of comments. But perhaps Marja's questions are the ones we must address to put all this in perspective.
Marja writes: "I believe wholeheartedly in what you said here Susan. They are things I try to help others see as well. But how do you tell someone who you're supporting that she needs to work harder at improving her life? How do you tell her that without coming across as judgmental? And how do you know whether she's simply not able to work harder at it than she is? How do you keep encouraging a person to do better? How much should I stand by her and how much should I back off?
I'm not one to turn my back on a person who is suffering and needs support. I've spent hours with this person in the ER. And I feel one day we're going to lose her altogether."
Marja, I'll tell you what I believe and perhaps others will share their opinions as well. I don't believe you can help another person decide to live if she doesn't want to. I don't believe you should allow someone to depend upon you so much that you become responsible for her because she won't be responsible for herself.
The most we can do for the people we care about is to help them find help. We can offer to drive them to visit their psychiatrist or counselor. We can recommend support groups. We can recommend books for them to read or sites they can find information on. We can let them know that we care for them.
But...we can't nor should we want to "save them." We can't find purpose in their lives; they must find it with a therapist or counselor. We can't prevent them from harming themselves. We can't let them become so dependent upon us that they drain us of all our energy and cause us to become depressed.
Co-dependency isn't a topic I know very much about, but perhaps some of my readers do. If you allow this woman to continue to depend upon you rather than forcing her to seek help elsewhere, I believe you're contributing to the problem. I realize that you're doing it for the best of all reasons--because you're kind, caring, and genuinely want to help.
But, in my experience, there are takers and givers. And it sounds to me that this woman is a taker--and if you continue to be the giver--she'll keep taking until you have nothing left to give.