Codependency & Over-Functioning

What does it mean to function optimally in life? It means showing up in every area of your life without overpromising or doing more than your share. You get things done, you follow through, you keep your word, and you are clear about what is and is not your responsibility. You have enough time to take care of yourself and you know your limits. You know when to ask for help or support and feel comfortable doing so. You are not regularly doing more than what is required to accomplish your goals.

High-functioning codependency is behaviour that includes disordered boundaries, where you are overly invested in the feeling states, the decisions, the outcomes, and the circumstances of the people in your life to the detriment of your internal peace and wellbeing. 

A high-functioning codependent is often smart, successful, reliable, and accomplished. They can do it all. But what is the cost? Over-functioning leaves a person burnt out and exhausted from trying to maintain an impossible workload and keep all of the balls in the air.

If you identify as an over-functioner, it is important to get really clear about what is your responsibility, and what is not. When you take responsibility for things that are not your own, you are overstepping a boundary. At its core, codependent behaviour is a bid for control. Even if your heart is well intentioned, if your actions are driven by fear, you are not giving from a place of love and fulfillment.

Making Choices

With aging parents, the responsibility for care often falls upon one child; and it is usually the one who lives close by. In the case of my family, it is me. My siblings live away in other cities, some far and some near; I am the only one who lives in our home town. As the situation amplifies on the ground, I have been struggling with feelings of disappointment and frustration when help does not show up in a way that I hoped or expected.

It is interesting how the brain desperately wants to categorize things into right and wrong, black and white. In reality, there is often no clear right or wrong. There is just the choice that you make with its reverberations; and the choice that the other person makes, with its own separate impacts.

In a chaotic and stressful situation, it is easy to fall into the trap of trying to control the uncontrollable. To date, I have been trying to micro-manage the choices of my siblings, by asking for specific assistance. When it did not show up in that form, I have struggled. It recently dawned upon me that I need to get out of their lane and back into my own. My focus needs to be on tending to my own relationship with my parents and leaving my sisters them to do the same. How do I want to show up for this situation? What can I willingly contribute? What can I give from my heart? The rest is none of my business.

As a recovering over-functioner, I have slowly come to the realization that there will be gaps: things will fall through the cracks, or drop, from time to time. It is not on me to hold together all of the pieces. It is for me to hold onto my own pieces and leave the others to tend to their own. This does not mean that I will not continue to be there for my family members. It is just an acknowledgement that I am only responsible for delivering my own part. I cannot do it all and, in reality, no one is asking me to.