Tuesday, March 12, 2013

When helping others becomes an addiction

Do you ever feel like you're so worried about making others happy that you fail to take care of yourself?

For me, this describes my life. I'm not saying that helping others is a bad thing. I think it's something the world could use more of. But for some of us (like me), we try so hard to make everyone else happy that we, in turn, lose a part of ourselves. That's because it's impossible to make everybody happy, and trying to make everybody happy is a never-ending and exhausting cycle.

Sometimes, what we think is "helping" is actually "harmful." For me, "No" is a very difficult word to say. Many times I do things I don't want to do because I don't want to hurt someone's feelings. The more I think about it, the more I can see that, instead, I pretend to be someone different than who I really am in order to not offend anyone. And, the more I think about it, the more I realize that this is not a good thing.

Most of the time, it's other people's problems that fill my head and not my own. And then, all of the sudden, I have a breakdown because all of my own problems come crashing down on me all at once because I never took the time to deal with them. How could I deal with it when I was so busy trying to help someone else feel better instead?

I have found that helping can be an addiction. And although I'm not a doctor, after reading the symptoms, I am convinced that I could diagnose myself with this disorder. And a "helping addiction" (or codependency) can be serious. It's the compulsive need to be needed. I have interviewed several parents who have lost their children to suicide and there is one common thread for many of them -- the children helped everyone else…and forgot to help themselves.

Some of the signs you have a "helping addiction":
1. You feel that you need to repeatedly pick up the pieces for someone who calls you when they are in an emergency.
2. The people you are attempting to help become increasingly demanding of your help.
3. You feel guilty when you're not the person who helps someone.

It is good to be there for other people, but the best thing you can do for someone is helping them be able to help themselves. And, if the people in your life really do care about you, they will give you the space to be able to help yourself. (And, yes, I know, I have to take my own advice)

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