Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Carer or Enabler (Part 1)?

Dirty Butter wrote this in the last paragraph of her comment on my last post -

"I wonder, is there ever a time when you feel like you are an enabler (to Marie), rather than a helpmate?"

How many times have I felt like an enabler? Often. But if I really am an enabler, it's not deliberate. And there's more - by accommodating Marie's agoraphobia, am I hindering her recovery? Am I making her life as good as possible...or removing the incentive to fight her agoraphobia? Worse than that - perhaps I am creating an environment which allows her agoraphobia to get worse?

My ex-family doctor (retired) told me that if I really wanted to help Marie, I should leave her. (See the whole story here.) Marie didn't agree - but was he right?

Fact - Marie is not showing much enthusiasm for getting better.
Fact - Marie's agoraphobia is worse now than it was when she met me, 8 years ago.
Fact - Marie is pretty content with her life.

When Marie got assessed by a psychiatrist in 2005, the short version of the report was "....doesn't want to get better". (See the whole story here.) Perhaps the psychiatrist is correct? If so - am I partly to blame? If I am, what should I be doing differently?

So - am I a helpmate or an enabler? I wish I knew.


HSP Woman said...

Hi Robert,

Just some thoughts:

Marie's enthusiasm, like mine, will wax and wane. Sometimes I am just dead tired of fighting this. I give up, but I always get inspired again. It's been this way for 18.5 years since my first panic attack.

I'd bet her enthusiasm is just on hold at the moment. Weather, health issues, sleep, daylight hours, holidays -- everything has the potential to kill enthusiasm.

I'd bet my life, if Marie could magically change one thing, it'd be to feel well again -- to be free of her agoraphobia. That's really a lot of enthusiasm if you think about it.

Also, maybe her avoidances have metamorphosed over the last 8 years since you met, but isn't it strange how degree of avoidance and enthusiasm are linked? At least in my case. I can be great one month and totally more limited the next. I amaze myself sometimes. "How did I do that?!" I say as I remember myself pretty easily going into the grocery store. These days, I just cannot.

So, "enthusiasm" and severity of avoidance are anything but linear, in my opinion.

I do not think of you as an enabler. No way. I'll bet, once again, that your greatest wish would be to see Marie living her life in alignment with her essential values, her passions, living her dreams together.

An enabler would collapse if his or her "dependent" became independent.

What you are is a blessing to Marie. You remind me so much of my dear husband who also has changed some of his dreams because he knows I can't be a part of it.

My husband, like yourself, has had to make adjustments (like Marie and I) as a result of the agoraphobia. But, we are together, and we are happy.

For me, nothing compares to having a life partner who understands why I act the way I do, and who knows when to and when NOT to challenge me to push myself beyond my comfortable limits.

The only thing I can add here is that I usually feel so much better when I do challenge myself. I hate it and I can't do it often, but sometimes pushing myself to drive a little, to go to the dentist or whatever ultimately instills some greater sense of self-confidence. When I am confident, the enthusiasm returns and the limits expand a little.

You are a good, good man, Robert. I feel for you and Marie both.

Thanks for the thought-provoking post.

Anonymous said...

I am agoraphobic-PD for 17 yrs, off and on sporadic agoraphobia, ie limited my boundaries, quit driving, etc. But the thing is-when the attacks started,the physician will often try to treat the anxiety, but will not address signs of oncoming agoraphobia-until its too late, for which they don't have a "magic pill" to cure.

I only wished that when little things started with avoidance, such as when driving, if I had an attack, I would start taking different routes,to having my husband follow me for a few miles, to him driving me,-never did anyone state from the onset-whoa, we need to address this switching routes now, as years down the road this is what can become of you.
Five years into my disorder, and at least 4 different psychiatrists (believe me, they all have a different approach, and some have no idea what to do with that degree on the wall), I went into a remission, I drove again, life was good, I enjoyed shopping, being able to leave, have frequent visits with friends, it was the best feeling in the world. Guess what? My husband all of a sudden didn't like me having independence again. He was so used to me being dependent upon him, its like a control over this dependent person, and they don't have it anymore. He was frightened I would leave him. So when, they started again, and the avoidances, he very much became an enabler, I didn't get the *sighs*, or if I couldn't make a holiday to my parents, he couldn't care less.
No agoraphobic is content, or complacent with their life. It's a lonely life, and no matter how much you can state, but you have me and the kids, it doesn't make up for us feeling worthy to the world, that we contribute in other ways, and having escapes with friends again.
She needs validation of what things she can do is meaningful, but not in the aspect of saying, like you would to a child,I'm so proud that you made it one mile today. It should be worded, our drive today was so relaxing, I thank you for coming along and keeping me company. -It makes her feel validated to help someone-the shoe starts going on the other foot .It helps if the routine- whatever task she can do, to stay in the habit-daily if possible, if she can only walk so far, or drive she needs to do it daily, with a safe person. It gives hope, and will stop restricting boundaries, little by little. I have had the periods of not being able to not be alone, going to stay with others, but came out of it. It was a tough road, usually it began with life changes, example when my oldest was 16 and started going out while my husband was working 3rd shift. I wasn't afraid of being alone, or being robbed (as my husband initally thought), but of having a panic attack alone.(Who is going to talk me through it, what if I can't make it to the phone to call for an ambulance? I would have welcomed a burglar to come in, tell them, take what ever, just stay with me till the panic subsided. All of it is the fear of having the panic alone, especially with out your safe person, because it's too hard trusting another, that doesn't understand the attacks, or however well intentioned, is humilating to say the least.

MrsC♥ said...

Hi Robert,

You've had two really good replies here. Let me just share with your my experience.

When i was with my ex is when my agoraphobia started. As i got worse, like you, he would make me feel as comfortable as possible, doing whatever he could, so much so he NEVER went out (apart from work) and *put up* with my problem. He was completely different to my now husband. Really understanding and thoughful. However, when we split up i had not been alone for a single night since Stinky was born and i couldn't be left alone in the day. After he went i started slowly getting better, whether it was to do with my new relationship or was it because he DID make things too easy for me?? He thought he was just being caring and considerate, which he was, but i didn't have to do anything.

Suddenly i was alone i HAD to do these things like going shopping with mum, i had to take Stinky to school, i had NO choice.

...but now, i am where i am today. Is it because i don't have the support this time? Is it because i am with someone who doesn't care enough? I am left alone right now to deal with everything and i am getting worse.

Doesn't make sense does it?

Goodness, i am rambling aren't i!

I am sure sometimes you may feel that you are doing too much, but thats because you love your wife and you don't want to see her in any kind of distress, why would you? I don't know what to suggest. What does Marie think?

Have a good day :)


Coffeecup said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Robert said...

Thank you ladies for your extremely worthwhile comments! My next post is my reply to you.

Thanks again!