There were a lot of comments yesterday about my post Wanting Wellness, and I appreciate everyone's participation. Toward the end of the day, Marja left a comment, which I would like to address today, and I'm hoping you will weigh in with your opinions as well.
She wrote: "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 don't believe that any of us can "save" other people. I do believe we can reach out to help them. I think it's great to volunteer to take someone to a psychiatrist's visit or to see a counselor. I think it's helpful to let them know we care about them and are available to talk. I think it's important to recommend books, blogs, mental health associations (in this case) or other resources that might be helpful. And I think it's wonderful if we can offer to take a walk with someone, pray with her, listen to her, or offer her succor and solace during difficult periods.
But, I don't believe we can make someone want to live. I don't believe we can or should shoulder the lion's share of responsibility that should be hers. I don't know anything about co-dependency, and maybe some of my readers do. But I believe people truly have to participate in their own healing, and want wellness for themselves.
In my own experience there are givers and takers. And I've known takers that continue taking until I have nothing left to offer, and am so exhausted that I feel ill. In the past, I was willing to help them when I was hypomanic, but had to drop them when I was depressed. I no longer have people like that in my life (unless they're related to me). But even then, I set limits.
So, I guess my answer is that I believe the woman you're talking about needs to find professional help. And she needs to "step up to the plate" so to speak. If you continue to allow her to "take" from you, you'll have nothing left. And if she decides that life isn't living, ultimately that's her decision.