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Mariah's avatar

Are my mother and I codependent? What should I do?

Asked by Mariah (25301points) July 9th, 2011

I just had a very eye-opening talk with my older sister who no longer lives at home. She thinks my relationship with my mom might be harming us both.

My mom is pretty much my best friend, as lame as that sounds. I’ve never been that teenager who hates being at home; in fact I often prefer a quiet night in to going out. When I left for college, I didn’t miss my friends much, but I really missed my parents. I don’t know why I’m that way, but I always have been. I think being really ill through most of high school might have something to do with it.

I’m in the middle of what has turned out to be a eight-month-long-and-counting surgical process. I’m spending more time home now than ever. I’m getting pretty sick of it and am looking forward to going back to college. But, I appreciate all the support I’ve gotten from my mother. She is here with me through every step of the process, hears me out on every worry, and has been spending a lot of time with me while I heal up.

It’s come to my attention that my health has become her and my entire world. Our days revolve around caring for my wounds, getting me fed, going to my appointments, et cetera et cetera. When I take a step forward, we both rejoice. A step back and she feels the pain as much as I do. It took my sister as an outsider on the situation talking to me to cause me to realize this might be a problem. My mom and I spend most of the day home alone together and I wonder if the two of us are just marinating in our shared concern for my health so much that we’re making ourselves crazy.

I don’t feel a real desire to change the way I’ve been living lately. Spending this time with my mom never seemed like a problem, but now I’m worried that we may be mutually reinforcing hypochondria and mental illness related to the stress of going through this surgical process. To make matters more confusing, we had a bit of a fight yesterday because she rescheduled my final surgery for a month later, when I didn’t want to wait. Do I need to have a talk with my mom? What on earth do I say? I am so confused about my life and feelings right now…

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16 Answers

CWOTUS's avatar

Unless you think (and I know that you don’t think this) that your mother is somehow impeding your recovery from the physical aspects of your surgery and illness, then what is happening to your psyche is secondary, I think. Yeah, you may be driving each other a little nutty with the “two steps forward and one step back” aspect of the recovery, but I think that’s pretty normal. My father experienced a lot of the same feelings, I think, during his recovery from a triple bypass operation. (He didn’t verbalize it in quite the way that you did.)

If you’re starting to feel better generally, then it might be time to start positively recovering. By that I mean actually getting out more, walking, exercising, rehabbing muscles and your brain with new activities. Stretching your legs, in other words. And unless you actually require your mother’s assistance, don’t tell her about every little ache and pain so that she feels she has to “over-mother” you.

bkcunningham's avatar

I think she is doing what a mother is suppose to do. My mother would have done the exact same thing for me and actually did mother and doctor me many, many times when I was a grown woman; emotionally and physically. I don’t know your circumstances exactly, but sometimes when we’ve been ill a long time; we have too much time to dwell on things like what you sister said. I’d just talk to my mom about it in an honest, open way with my sister present.

john65pennington's avatar

I know of this girl that is a friend of mine. Her mother is a sickly person and she eats and sleeps taking care of her mother. I sometimes wonder the same about her, as you feel about your mother.

I say this in all honesty, you have a medical problem and no one on earth is going to give you better care, than your mom. All of this will be over soon for you. Once you are in a better medical state of mind, you will make the right decisions for your future. Right now, just go with the flow and take care of your body and thank you mom for being there for you. jp

athenasgriffin's avatar

I don’t think you have a codependent relationship with your mother at all. The whole point of family is that they stand by each other during trials. Medical emergencies are a perfect example. Having someone help you when you need help is not codependent, it is the basis of all good relationships.

Have you ever thought that perhaps your sister is a little bit jealous of your relationship with your mother? Not to imply that your sister is anything less than a kind person, but I would wonder if I was in your shoes.

chyna's avatar

Your sister may be a bit jealous over your relationship with your mom. If you are happy with your relationship, I wouldn’t worry about it. The fact that she wanted to extend your time to your next operation was most likely caused by the fact you haven’t gotten to the point healthwise that she expected you to be at before the latest operation (per one of your posts). She seems to want only the best for you and to be there for you.
edit: @athenasgriffen I didn’t read your answer before I wrote mine, so I now see we had the same thought. Sorry to repeat it.

JLeslie's avatar

You have a special curcumstance. Once you are through the healing from this surgery you will be back at college. If you had no plans for the future, and just liked the idea of living at home with your mom forever then I would worry. You have spoken on fluther of your dream of working at NASA, you continue with your classes even with these physical ailments, you do not seem codependent to me. Plus, I am assuming you are young, it is not odd to still be attached to your parents and miss them.

And, codependent is a term I always feel is a little overused. I don’t know about now, but when I took psychology class, I do not remember codependent being in the DSM?

I do think your job is to eventually become an independent person who does not rely on your parents financially, and not need their approval for every little thing in your life. I don’t get the impression either is going to be a problem for you. Also, I am not sure if you have ever had a steady SO. Once you get involved with someone seriously most likely this will all change. When my husband and I got engaged, that very day his car was stolen. He called his sister first (she lived a few doors down at the time). If that happened today he would call me first. Relationships change over time, you might be just a little behind some of the other because of the health problems you have had, which is completely understandable.

I do have a warning, if your mom pulls on you to be with her all the time, and you feel like you are the main source of her happiness, do your best to not give into that, do not let her manipulate you in that way. Pursue your life.

blueiiznh's avatar

From the sounds of it your Mother is not only acting as what a parent with a child in medical need should be doing, but she is the main caregiver for all this.
Based on what you stated, I see nothing wrong. Whas there a specific reason that the surgery was moved or that you were not included in that decision?
Being a caregiver to someone who is sick is an incredibly challenging role and it certainly is not an easy task. It is emotionaly draining and even hampers the caregivers health.
You certainly have a right to ask about the change in date and even feel like your relationship is a bit different because it does reveolve around your health.
I hope your well healing and procedure allows you to live a full and happy life. This means being able to do and go as you wish and need. There should be no guilt in being tied to a parent when you pursue your lifes dreams and future.
Prayers with you.

athenasgriffin's avatar

@chyna I didn’t think you had. You were typing at the same time I was. Great minds think alike, after all. :)

JLeslie's avatar

One more warning, sometimes parents worry we have less stregnth than we do. She may encourage you to stay home because she worries you can’t handle being away. I say always try if you think you can do it. When I came home from colege I was an emotional mess from a break up. I had thought I would move to FL. My dad told me not to go. That he thought I could not handle it in the state I was in. My mom said go, you can always come back, and a friend also encouraged me to go. Thank goodness I did not listen to my dad. By the time I was in Georgia all my upset was gone, I felt happy, like a weight was lifted, a new chapter starting in my life. I know the story is not exactly your situation, but if your sister my have a bit of truth in her observation, I hope you don’t allow your mom to keep you under her wing once you are stronger.

Also, your sister might be projecting and jealous as other people mentioned. Projecting in that she might tend to be codependent, and she is putting that on you out of jealousy.

augustlan's avatar

I wouldn’t say co-dependent. Naturally, it isn’t the most normal of circumstances, either, but it is kind of a necessary thing at this time. Try to get away from each other a little here and there, if you can… just to give each other some space and normality. Other than that, don’t worry too much about it. It’s a temporary blip in the long life ahead of you.

linguaphile's avatar

Wiki-wisdom says: codependency “is a tendency to behave in overly passive or excessively caretaking ways that negatively impact one’s relationships and quality of life.”
Melody Beattie, who wrote Codependent No More focused on codependency being a control issue where one person uses dependency to control the other. From what you’ve said, it doesn’t sound like you or your mother are doing these things.

It sounds to me like you have a beautiful support system :)

On a different note, if your mom is not taking care of her own needs, eating habits, appearance, down time, etc. encourage her to take some self-care time. Caretakers sometimes run the risk of depleting their own energy.

janbb's avatar

No – you are not. It is very natural that she would be focusing on you throughout this and you are both very lucky that you get along so well and are so close. Don’t look for problems where there are none. If she is unable to let you go when you are back at college or you are unable to emotionally move on, then deal with it then. Many women have told me that their mothers are their best friends. If that doesn’t harm your other relationships in the long run, it is fine. Be grateful that you have such a good, working relationship.

Mariah's avatar

Everybody, thanks. It brings me a lot of relief to get such a solid opinion from the outside that this relationship is fine. I honestly felt in my heart that it was, but I was worried yesterday that I was blinded from being on the inside. My sister would have had me believed that my mom was the mom from Carrie or something. I don’t think she meant any malice in what she said, but she and I are very different people and have related to my mom in very different ways over the years. She has not been around much since she moved out and I don’t think she has enough information to judge our relationship the way she was. Again, thanks.

SpatzieLover's avatar

It’s come to my attention that my health has become her and my entire world. Our days revolve around caring for my wounds, getting me fed, going to my appointments, et cetera et cetera. When I take a step forward, we both rejoice. A step back and she feels the pain as much as I do.

@Mariah, The armchair PsyD in me says: You and your mom are in “Survival Mode” together. It’s difficult to be someone’s caretaker and not care too much. As a parent, knowing your adult child has medical needs that need to be met and dealt with head on means putting your personal stuff aside and seeing your daughter’s needs are met.

Personally, when I saw your surgery was re-scheduled (on the Jellatinous thread) I thought your mom was correct in calling your surgeon. Your mom sees you daily. If she thinks you’re not healthy enough yet, I say you should trust her motherly instinct.

Simcha1053's avatar

I was so happy to see this question and the answers you were given. I have a daughter with 4 diseases including M.S. We have always been best friends but because she has 4 children and 2 of her diseases produce Chronic Fatigue Syndrome I help her as much as I can. She and her family recently moved back to IN. from PA so I wouldn’t have to drive 5½ hours every month to help her out for a few days. Now she lives just 3 miles away and I can help her regularly keep up with laundry, kids and dishes. My oldest daughter keeps telling us we are “co-dependent” on each other and that I am “obsessed” with my younger daughter that has the problems. I find her use of the term “co-dependent” very disturbing. She is a recovering alcoholic so I know that term is very big in her program. I tried explaining that co-opting or being in denial about a child with a drug or alcohol problem is no comparison to helping a child that has physical disabilities. She is also a psychology major so I would think she would know better. As I explained, its what mothers do and I was always there for her when she was ill and throughout her recovery process. I took care of her children when she was out using. So thanks for asking the question!! And thanks for the answers – it was the best way to address it with her since she is not listening to me.

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