"How do I support someone I love without being burdened by their depression myself?" Is a question I have been asked more times than I can count.
The crazy thing is, I of all people to ask, struggled for so long myself to support nearly anyone without carrying their burdens.
It's natural to feel good about helping others. However I am to the extent to which I am considered codependent. Codependency is characterized by someone who forms dysfunctional helping relationships, in which they either enable or support someone struggling with a drug addiction, alcoholism, poor mental health, immaturity, irresponsibility, under-achievement, etc.
My codependency was greatly reflected through my behavior and devotion of my time. I spent time peer-to-peer mediating, tutoring, listening and talking to whoever needed someone, befriending/dating people who needed help or had blatant issues.
Until I realized this flaw of mine, that I was codependent, I was so heavily burdened with the motive to help anyone and everyone. Now I have the knowledge and self-awareness to help others without taking the weight of their burdens for my own. I am honest with myself when too much is too much.
1. Put yourself first.
There is nothing selfish about putting yourself first. If we don't put ourselves first when we need to, we will grow so weary that we won't be able to help any more people.
2. Turn your phone ringer off at night.
If you insist that you will answer the phone at any odd hour of the day or night, people will take advantage of that. Get your sleep. They should be sleeping too. Rarely ever is someone thinking rationally when they are exhausted, what's best is to turn off the phone and lights, and get some rest.
3. Schedule YOU time.
Don't over-commit yourself. You need time to relax and unwind. Simply "let go".
4. Befriend positive, stable people.
There's nothing wrong with your friends, we all have struggles. However, it's important to surround yourself with happiness, laughter, and healthy habits.
5. Allocate resources beyond yourself.
Discuss with them who they trust and could go to when in need of a listening ear. Teachers, coaches, other friends, family members, and pastors are just some of the many examples of ideal resources. You cannot be their only resource, you will become drained.
6. Suggest books, music, or movies that may be helpful.
There are many books that walk through the daily lives of individuals who struggle with mental illness or specific hardships, that they may be able to connect with. There is such power in music, sharing the universal message that we are alive in this moment, and to make the very most of every moment. There are various movies that after watching, a great sensation of determination and hope are instilled within the watcher. Whatever it takes to prove to your loved one that there IS hope.
7. Share your concerns with an adult.
Free yourself of the burden of being the only one who knows of your loved one's struggles. Let someone know what is going on in your loved one's life, or that you are simply concerned about them. This may be the first step to getting them help.
8. Offer to attend a therapy session with them or talk with their parents with them.
Sometimes all it takes is the presence of someone who will ground them to reality, allowing them to set aside extra anxieties, to open up about what's going on.
9. FOLLOW YOUR OWN ADVICE.
You are taking someone's hand and trying to help guide them to a healthier state of being. You must follow your own advice, so it seems more doable for others, not to mention that you'll grow even happier with your life too.
10. Set boundaries.
You are not going to attend to all of their needs. They need to want to get better themselves. You cannot be the one to remind them to eat or shower. Encourage healthy habits by reflecting your own, not by coaching them as they should themselves or by professionals. If there are topics that are too heavy for you to talk about, tell them and expect them to respect that.
11. Don't think for a second you aren't doing enough or that you are selfish.
This is on them. No one is meant to go through anything alone, but to an extent each incidence is our own to endure. With the support of others, we get by. You are doing more than most people would ever even consider. You mustn't mistake their illness for you not doing enough.
Take care of yourself, love.