The saying that "you are only as happy as your unhappiest child" never felt truer for me than during the past several years of crisis management of my son’s mental health.
In his search to find happiness and his path in the adult world, he went on a self-destructive, rollercoaster journey that, unintentionally, I lived through vicariously.
As an empath (and his mother), there were many times I struggled to regulate the amount of his pain I absorbed as I watched him flounder. And, understandably, my over-involvement placed an inordinate amount of stress on my own health and the wellbeing of the rest of our family.
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"Parenting is being forever cast into a relationship with a stranger. Does anyone know how to be in a permanent relationship with a stranger whom they’re supposed to love and nourish?" asks clinical psychologist, Dr Becky, in an article in The New York Times Magazine.
The fact that those shows on TV that reunite estranged family members are so popular is proof that there are a lot of parents out there with dysfunctional relationships with their adult children, from those who desperately want to be part of their children’s lives and are refused access, to those who must step away from their adult children for the sake of their own health.
There were times when my anxiety around my son’s safety consumed me to such a point, I was stressed when he called and stressed when he didn’t.
Finally, for my own mental health – even though it broke my heart to even think about putting any distance between us – I forced myself to draw a line under my emotional investment in the hope of rescuing what was becoming an unhealthy relationship.
Imposing boundaries is never easy – and frankly, I would compare my grief to being slowly disembowelled – but my decision came from a place of love and a clearer understanding of the dangers of "enabling", which was starting to affect my health and potentially thwart my son’s ability to reach his potential.