Enabling Someone With Mental Illness | It's Me Laura Lee

August 8, 2019

Enabling Someone With Mental Illness


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Laura Lee, 53, with invisible wounds and scars. I've learned to embrace PTSD and depression because if I don't own them, they'll own me.  I don't want to simply survive, but to thrive.  I hope you'll join me on my journey.  It's sure to be a bumpy road.


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He opened the door to the office and in his hand was a plate of food.  My food.  I thanked him and put it down beside me – right of my laptop.  It looked so good and smelled even better.  I kept typing away, answering emails, rat-a-tat-tat on the keyboard and without missing a beat I typed with only my left hand and grabbed a fork full of tilapia with my right.  My gaze never leaving the computer screen.

I continued this way for about 30 minutes while Scott sat in the living room, eating his supper alone – staring at the TV screen.  Each of us, eating by ourselves, staring at different screens.  He, unwinding after working a 12 hour day and coming home to cook supper….me, working a 12 hour day with no end in sight…still emails to write, collaborations that needed collaborating, blog posts that needed writing, pins that needed pinning, photos that needed posting.

My thought process started with, “I have so much to do and not enough time.”  It continued with, “I need someone to help me.”  Then, “I don’t even have time to eat at the table.” And, finally, “Wow!  Scott is so sweet – supporting me and bringing my supper to me.”

Working in my home office




And then, as though I got slapped across the face, I realized I wasn’t taking time for selfcare – I wasn’t even creating the time to eat a proper meal with my husband.  BUT WAIT…there’s more!  As much as I know he had good intentions and even noble intentions, he wasn’t actually helping me.  He was enabling me.

I realized that this pattern was oh-so-familiar.

When I’m in a depressive episode – not just a few days of the blues, but a true major depressive episode, I’m in bed not only for several waking hours a day, but for days, and even weeks…yes WEEKS on end.  I wake up, take my meds, watch TV, and sleep.  I don’t eat breakfast and I don’t eat lunch.  I just don’t eat.  Scott comes home from work in the afternoon and makes supper.  He usually comes back to the bedroom to ask me if I’m eating because, well…he knows I need to, but he also knows that I often don’t.  Some days though, I say, “Yes.”  On those days, he carries a plate to the bedroom and grabs my water bottle.  He leaves, fills it up…and returns with it.

I have butter on the things I like buttered.  I have salt and pepper on the things I like salted and peppered.  And, my water bottle is full of fresh, cold water.  He knows me well.

I stay in bed for more hours.  I stay in bed for more days.  I stay in bed for more weeks.

I neglect the activities of daily life (ADLs).

I start to stink.

So, is he my knight in shining armor or is he helping to perpetuate my behavior?




He does what he does because we’ve been in this place so many times before.  He’s taking care of me the best way he knows how, but he could do better.  I need to explain this to him though when I’m not in a season of depression.   Or in this season.  This season that isn’t depression.   This season that looks a little different than most of my seasons.  I need to explain to him that the best thing he can do for me is to let me know that supper is ready and, “Come and get it!”  Regardless of the season – unless my leg is broken or I’m recovering from surgery.

But that’s not what happens.

Scott is my enabler.

Scott is codependent.

And, with the rat-a-tat-tat of the computer keys, I realize he’s enabling me again.  He’s keeping me from the selfcare that I know how to do and need to do, but too often neglect to see that I require  –I don’t practice what I preach.

Until moments like these.

This is when I realize it – when we’re smack dab in the middle of whatever the current storm looks like and, in this case, that storm isn’t depression.  It isn’t PTSD.  If I take the time to meditate, breathe, and sit with it.  Like, really sit in the muck of it…I may realize that this storm is anxiety.  A season of high anxiety.  I’m anxious that I won’t meet deadlines.  I won’t meet goals.  I won’t meet expectations.

These are all self-imposed.

Yet, the anxiety is real.


The anxiety is overwhelming



And, just like the seasons of depression, I’m neglecting self care and my husband is enabling me – allowing me to continue the behavior.  He makes it easy for me to stay in these seasons, to continue my self-destructive behavior, even though he doesn’t know it and even though he has the noblest of intentions.

I need to talk to him about it.  Help him understand.  However, first I need to take an inventory of everything that I’m thinking.  Everything that I’m feeling.  Everything that I’m doing.  I can’t help him understand if I don’t understand myself.  I have taken the first step though, and that’s noticing what’s happening.  Often the person who is dependent – that’s me, doesn’t recognize or doesn’t ‘want to’ recognize that her behavior is destructive.  In my case it’s destructive not only to my own well-being, but to my relationship.  After All, how long will he continue to serve me, to rescue me, before he starts to feel resentful?

Scott is trying to ‘fix’ me.  He’s trying to ‘rescue’ me.  This is what he knew from the moment our relationship started.  It doesn’t surprise me.  It’s how we met.

I’m not going to lie.  I like the idea that I have a husband who is willing to stand between danger and me.  A husband who is going to help me up when I fall down.

But this.  This is different.

We both need to be willing to deal with the “short-term pain or be willing to endure the long-term misery.”



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comments   | 

  1. Jane says:

    I’ve been to that state Laura so I empathize . How I survive? My husband was there to support me and find ways to combat that disease. It’s a long & constant battle. Sometimes we don’t realize that the people who cares for us is also our enabler.

  2. Darlene says:

    Great post! How wise of you to recognize what was happening!

  3. Katie says:

    I love how honest and reflective you are in your posts. It is not easy to do. I share some of the same anxieties about living up to expectations. I hope you are able to have the conversation with your husband when you are ready.

  4. This is very interesting, I think I will pass this on to my brother-in-law

  5. Cynthia says:

    I appreciate your honesty in your posts. I know this will be helpful to people. Thank you for sharing.

  6. Ramae Hamrin says:

    My ex was my enabler too. We ended up divorced. I think he wanted to be my rescuer, but I wanted to heal. It’s been a long road. Appreciate your transparency and vulnerability about a difficult subject.

  7. Lisa Manderino says:

    Sounds like you have a very sweet husband, but totally agree sometimes we have to get up and do something to help ourselves!

  8. What a sweet husband! You are right you need to deal with the issues together. With your strong bond and communication, you can do it!

  9. Brandi says:

    Thank you for sharing such a raw moment. I’m glad that you recognize what is happening. My pastor just started a message series over anxiety…perhaps it will speak to you.


  10. I appreciate the transparency of your posts. I know that for so many your sharing is of great help.

  11. Suzan says:

    Such a considerate husband who sounds like he will work with you no matter what. Out of the “muck” produces the gorgeous lily 🙂

  12. Siamn says:

    Thank you for your honesty. Talking about these topics is really important xx

  13. Lisa says:

    Great post! Glad you were able to recognize what was going on

  14. Thanks for your insight. My husband helps me a lot; he steps in when needed. I started thinking about if he is enabling me or helping. Thanks for helping me to reflect.

  15. Christa says:

    What a personal and self-reflective post. I really love the short-term pain versus long-term misery language. That’s very powerful.

  16. Jen at My Average Life says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience with depression. There is so much about it that most people can’t understand.

  17. I am so honored that you share your journey. It is so helpful to the world!!!!

  18. Cindy says:

    I believe you will work through this phase together, because you’ve learned to do so. What a gift that is in your relationship.

  19. T.M. Brown says:

    Thanks for your honesty and transparency. It’s not always easy to discuss topics like this.

  20. Maria says:

    Thanks for sharing, you seem to be on the right track to finding your balance.

  21. It is not an easy thing to be so transparent. Your openness may very well help someone else dind the courage to recognize and stand up to their own struggles.

  22. Stacy says:

    This is so powerful. I’ve been in your husband’s shoes – probably not to the same extent. But I’ve been the enabler. And in the thick of it, it’s so hard to see the big picture. To do the hard part and take the steps to go towards healing instead of the “easy fix” which just continues to enable. I wish you the best. Thank you for sharing your story.

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Laura Lee, 52, with invisible wounds and scars.  I've learned to embrace PTSD and depression because if I don't own them, they'll own me.  I don't want to simply survive, but to thrive.  I hope you'll join me on my journey.  It's sure to be a bumpy road.



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