The title of this post is pretty telling of what my focus is today – overfunctioning vs. healthy balance. Maybe you’re a parent, a spouse, a son or daughter, or just a really good friend, that wonders if you’re doing too much. Or maybe you feel you’re not enough, maybe you’re desperate to find that perfect harmony of balance? What is more, maybe you know someone who could benefit from hearing from someone living it. I’m coming to you today as a mother of six children (some are high-functioning autistic kiddos) as well as a wife to an unknown high-functioning autistic man for 24 years (together for 28 years). While I’m not a therapist or doctor of any kind, I am here to share what experiences I am having and have had to help those that may be looking for answers.
Truth be told, I can honestly say that I feel like I’m being born again. Not so much as a Christian, but rather understanding ME. While I accepted Christ at 18 years of age, I can see how all of the “junk” I’m going through is because God is saving me on this earth. What I want to do first, is define a few of the terms I’ve mentioned.
- What is overfunctioning? It’s basically when we do too many things that aren’t essential all the time (even if we see them as necessary). Overfunctioners take on the responsibilities, emotions, wellbeing, and needs of those around us whether others want us to or not. It’s often as a way of managing our own anxiety or insecurities. ¹
- What is codependency? It’s a dysfunctional relationship dynamic where one person assumes the role of “the giver,” sacrificing their own needs and well-being for the sake of the other, “the taker.” The bond in question doesn’t have to be romantic; it can occur just as easily between parent and child, friends, and family members. ²
- What is high-functioning autism? (formerly referred to as Aspergers) High-functioning autism is sometimes used colloquially to describe autistic people who do not need much support to function in their daily lives. It often means that a person can speak, write, read, manage daily tasks, and live independently. It means that their traits and behaviors do not create too many disruptions in their relationships, occupation, or education. ³
First, to understand where I’m coming from, you may want to take a minute to read my 3-part posts of my realization of being in a neurodiverse marriage for 24 years. You can read/view the video introduction HERE. While I’ve been working understanding my present self, family (including my family of origin – FOO), and how I got to this point. Some have told me I don’t need to focus on the past and how I got here. Instead, I should focus on the future. I respectfully disagree. How am I to learn if I don’t look back to glean?
If we don’t learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it ~ George Santayana
Next, while I will share in written form, below I’m also sharing in video form different aspects that you can get a different vibe when spoken, rather than read. Getting answers has been HUGE for me. Yes, it’s painful, but also healing. Understanding what I was “battling” for so many years explains much for myself as well as my six children.
It began with the realization that I married an autistic person which meant we’re like oil and water when it comes to emotional intelligence. I’m not saying one is better than the other, but combining the two is not possible. However, with this awareness of autism, many couples are finding ways to make their relationship work. While I’m not going to rehash what I already mentioned in my 3-part marriage series, I am using it to explain why I became overfunctioning.
I’ve always been a believer that instead of giving someone the end result, teach them how to do it. Enabling hurts more than just the enabler; I’m all about self-awareness. That being said, when my kids were little, I gave them chores or assignments and they did them well. For some, however, when they got older and had more workload with school, things began to wane. At this same time, I’m also being misled by the evangelical church to lead a complementarian lifestyle as a Christian wife. That is an entirely different post happening soon.
Over time, what I thought to be normal teenage laziness was actually some of my teens going into defense mode. Had I known at the time, I would have helped them manage. What I was doing, was giving them an assignment with consequence. For instance, if they asked to go to the tennis courts, they knew they had to have their school done and room tidy. Oftentimes, they would ask me to go, and I would ask if they cleaned up their room, they would say yes. Then, after they’re gone, I find a huge mess and my frustration would ensue. Little did I know that sometimes folks on the spectrum have a mess because they can’t handle the stresses or have hoarding issues.
NOT HIS DESIRE
Living years this way ended up with me, overfunctioning by micro-managing the entire household. I am NOT a person who wants to micro-manage. Yet, there I am stuck again and again. Likewise, I’m made fun of by certain family members as if I’m a control freak. No, I really didn’t want the burden of keeping track of EVERYTHING. I feel that if I don’t handle it all it won’t get done. I was right, but I didn’t know the why behind it all.
Not only did I want this crazy train to stop, but I could tell my health is negatively affected. I was having “strokes” and bilateral vertigo that end up being a result of my neurodiverse marriage. Not being heard, not being validated in any form…feeling like I’m going insane. Those two combinations (autism paired with complementarianism) means that I carried a heavier load than needed. Unfortunately, often women in my situation end up with an autoimmune disorder such as cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, etc.
Also, what is sad, is that in today’s society, we’re told as mothers we need to be all for everyone all the time. Our modern “conveniences” offer us the ability to juggle non-stop all.day.long. This is causing so much harm and pain within families. God doesn’t want His children to become burnt out. There is a healthy way to find peace when related to overfunctioning vs. healthy balance. With that, I want to share with you how I’m making new paths for myself.
First, I put me first. Not in front of God, but in care. If I feel overwhelmed, I take a step back and either say “no” or not at this time. Boundaries with consequences is a wonderful thing. However, some allude that boundaries are to keep people out. No, what it is, however, is knowing your limits, understanding when you need to stop. The consequences that follow are also a way to help yourself be true to you. I mention more of this in my video below.
Maybe you’ve read or follow Lysa TerKeurst. Her new book is “Good Boundaries and Goodbyes: Loving Others Without Losing the Best of You“. Look it up at your local library and also find many of her podcasts on site related to the same topic.
Also, a favorite resource of mine is Leslie Vernick. Talk about powerful! She has endless resources for women needing to hear truth without sugar-coating it. Again, she has endless articles, podcasts, and interviews for you. At the same time, Sheila Wray-Gregoire at Bare Marriage is another must-see. She offers advice on marriage with oodles of educated interviews. One more…Natalie Hoffman of Flying Free for dealing with marriage and abusive relationships. In addition, in my 3-part marriage series, I have countless resources for you there as well.
YOU HAVE AN OUT
My goal today is to share my story so that others can find peace. I already have a handful of local friends that are seeing the change in me and are finding their own feet. While I wish I didn’t have this to share or to see those same friends suffer, I am thankful that I have an “out”. God says in His word, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
DEALING WITH STRESS
Now, let’s say you are figuring out your boundaries (write them down, even). You will still find yourself dealing with stress. Oftentimes, overfuntioners do what they do to relieve anxiety. Instead of overfunctioning, hone in on the things that just YOU like to do. For example, here are some things I do just for me.
- I have 45-minute weightlifting sessions several times a week. This helps me release, be healthy, cry a little, and build muscle as well as bone density.
- I walk, run, or bike 2+ miles a day. This gets me outside, manage my cortisol, and be free of “things”.
- When I can, I take 20 minutes to lay in the sun. For me, it’s a release as well as getting the much-needed vitamin D for this Ohioan
- I sing and dance. Y’all I have been a singer and dancer all my life and it gives me such joy.
- I garden. That alone is a great way of letting things go.
- I cook. Healthy food makes you feel good.
- I create – my blog…it is just for ME.
While I could go on, I think you get the idea. I’ve tried to maintain these things for many years, but now they have more purpose, and I don’t feel guilty doing them anymore. Does that make sense?
Finally, your emotional health, spiritual health, physical health is of utmost importance. You do matter. You are important enough to make time to take care of your needs. That way, you can be the best for others in all the facets of being a daughter, sister, mother, wife, and friend. I want to hear your story. Have you ever dealt with overfunctioning? After leaving some comment love below, do pin and share my overfunctioning vs. healthy balance story to inspire others. Let’s build each other up!
Endnotes to overfunctioning vs. healthy balance:
- What is Overfunctioning? | MyWellbeing
- Codependency | Psychology Today
- ‘High-Functioning Autism’: What to Know (verywellmind.com)
Before you go, make sure to get these DIY tips & tricks in your inbox. Sign up for my FREE newsletter. Until next time!