Totally Overwhelmed with Little Control
(Chicago, IL, USA)
I'm a 39 year old woman who has put my life on hold for my parents who live in Florida (I live in Chicago). I have one brother three years older than me living in NY with his family.
My mom was recently diagnosed with small cell carcinoma (limited stage) and para-neoplastic syndrome and my dad has chronic health problems including emphysema, cardiovascular disease, atherosclerosis, congestive heart failure and the list goes on -- but all in 25 surgeries over the last decade.
My mom has been my dad's primary caregiver over this time and between smoking and the stress of his health, the toll has manifested itself with cancer and a syndrome that is attacking her central nervous system. I arrived to Florida where they live about eight weeks ago and Mom was just medicating herself to relieve the pain, didn't have a diagnosis and local doctors were not looking at her holistically so she was just covering up a disease that hadn't been discovered.
After a series of appointments and tests upon my arrival, she received her diagnosis through a long and complex visit to Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville. As the dust has settled, I'm left with two parents who are in denial and drift in and out of anger. I feel as though I'm the voice of reality and being treated as though it's my fault because I'm willing to speak the truth about the situation. My brother wears rose colored glasses and likes to also spend quite a bit of time in denial. He isn't available to help much - offers a few phone calls here and there.
I have taken a leave of absence from my work and life in Chicago (not married and I do not have children). My dad and brother act as though it was my choice but in reality, my dad was unable to care for my mom and unwilling to admit or acknowledge they needed outside help -- so here I am. My brother pretends his weekly phone calls to check in and offer advice is helpful when in reality all it ever does is cause more stress for me. My parents act like he hangs the moon and it's common for me to be making a suggestion for something to them for days which they reject, but if my brother
does the same they embrace as if it's the best idea in the world. I feel so frustrated and resentful by it.
I have a great career and do well financially but have temporarily placed that on hold. This leave from my job will definitely impact my growth with my company and my long-term financial stability. No one in my family acknowledges what I've given up, rather because my brother's career is ten-fold more successful than my own and he has a family. My parents remain focused on making sure my brother's life is not disrupted.
I feel very taken for granted and confused by it. I'm angry and I don't like the side of me that this is bringing out. I want to disappear but I'm obligated to stay and help in order to be sure my mom is properly cared for. Is this normal? Is this whole experience unique? Should I bottle up my feelings and not express them to my family? I find that my dad and I are having explosive fights because he is acting like a child and unwilling to acknowledge what is happening. He has chosen to sacrifice my long-term well being by acting this way, as has my mom and my brother.
I feel like everyone's sacrificial lamb, though it's totally unlike me to be this way. I'm a strong, independent woman, yet within my immediate family, I am treated like I have no life and somehow I accept that. I already know how this will play out -- it's clear to me yet I have no power to change it. My dad has fought me for two months and as time has passed, the things I say are coming that we should prepare for arrive and we are unprepared because my dad has insisted nothing has changed. It's done irreparable damage to our relationship.
I'll leave to go home in the coming month while he's pretending he is well and can be Mom's caregiver, but an emergency will take place and the person that is most impacted will be me as I'll be asked to drop everything to come back and make decisions again. I feel like it's borderline cruel what my family is doing to me but I can't figure out how to manage it better? I would be grateful for sound advice.