Wounded Bird Syndrome

I once knew a woman who refused to learn to drive. And this was not a town where public transportation was abundant. Uber didn’t exist yet, and taxis were few and far between. But even if they had been available, she wouldn’t have taken advantage of that service. No. She wanted her adult children to chauffeur her everywhere she went. And they did.

It would be one thing if she were physically or mentally incapable of driving. But she was fine. Just fine. She had what I began to call Wounded Bird Syndrome. See? I have a broken wing. You must do all the flying for me.

Her passive aggressive manipulations were honed to a sharp point. Her kids were at her beck and call. They never said, “Mom, we’ll take you to the grocery store once a week, at this time.” No. If she had a hankering for cupcakes, she’d expect them to drop everything.

She reminded me of a client that I had when I did Food Stamp eligibility in Florida. She was diabetic. But she couldn’t stand to give herself insulin shots. So her husband couldn’t hold down a job, because he had to stay by her side to give her the shots.

I mean, come on, now. I’m sure that being a diabetic is a misery, but woman up and learn how to give yourself insulin so your loved ones can function.

Yes, in both these scenarios the people in question were enabled to a shocking degree. But charity begins at home. Solve your own problems.

Yes, it often sucks, being a grown up. But you have to learn how to do your own heavy lifting. It’s okay to ask for help sometimes. It’s definitely okay to ask for help when you are genuinely physically or mentally in need of it. But when your dependence is self-imposed, and it encroaches on the lives of others to the point of being debilitating, what you are doing is cruel.

I admire people who value their own agency. I appreciate those who are capable and independent, and those who do the best they can with the cards they are dealt. False weakness is deplorable.

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4 thoughts on “Wounded Bird Syndrome

  1. lyn

    Self-imposed dependents depend on others to enable them. When I stopped enabling my wounded bird, to care for my own real needs and health, I became a black sheep. I now find it difficult to ask for help when I legitimately need it. I had surgery and didn’t tell anyone till after it was done. I took a cab home rather than bother anyone. I’m probably too independent in my efforts to never impose. I’m thinking I should pre-dig my grave but I’ll still have to bother someone to throw me in it and finish the job. 🙂

  2. lyn

    I understand that first hand. I’ve enjoyed volunteering since a young teen. I’ve probably worked as much for free as paid for employment but what I gained volunteering was more valuable than any money earned. (Such a contrast to the soul crushing experience of being manipulated by a narcissist for constant attention.) Wish I knew more who feel as we do. It’d make it easier to get help when I’ve exhausted my independence.

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