Totally Overwhelmed with Little Control

by Lorie
(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.

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I am Sick of This
by: Anonymous

I cannot add much to what all of you are saying. One sister is the princess, the other sister is the mule. Problem is, with multiple health problems, you have to keep a clear head. I am beyond knowing what is right for my elderly dad.

He does not see the need for regular bathing, though he is more than capable. He is bitter and seems to pout a lot. Multiple health problems some of which he does not want to address. I need help and advice.

Helpful advice, not criticism when I am doing my best to keep him from drowning in filth. I have run back and forth to doctor appointments, done errands, cleaned, cleaned and cleaned some more.

At this point, it is not about my sister. It is about his well-being. He is so stubborn and unappreciative and self-absorbed that I am starting to fear for my mental health. I have been in this situation before to a certain extent with my beloved, now deceased father in law. No closeness or appreciation from his family. Only resentment.

If that is to be my fate again after all I have done, I don't believe I can take it.

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Lives on Pause....
by: Anonymous

A common complaint is that our lives are put on pause. This can stretch anywhere from one to fifteen years depending on the life span of the parent.

I have just started this journey and the time stretches ahead of me into the vast unknown. I'm 56 years old. We all know what it means to say "I'm not getting any younger." That means these are our last years to advance in careers, to have meaningful relationships, to travel, to be healthy, to secure our homes, our futures, to settle down, to be young, to have fun!

I have an older brother who is looking to retire soon. I don't even own my own home. I'm in the trenches day in and day out. I go through every little nuance with my mother. Twenty. Four. Seven. Everyday there is some little thing she has to do that becomes her world for days ahead of time.

She is so controlling that if I suggest an easier way, she won't even listen, she just plows ahead and we spend convoluted hours trying to get this thing accomplished. When I tell my brother the days events, I sound so petty and silly, but what he doesn't understand is that I'm so on edge all the time about watching my life slip away day by day that it's the least little thing that sends me over that edge.

My time is tied up with my job and with all her appointments. There is always a doctors appointment, one after another. It's hard to get a block of time in order to get away for a couple days. I feel so locked in here. My life completely revolves around hers. They say the most stressful situations are those in which you have the most responsibility and the least control.

When my mom passes over, I'm going to be left standing in her home, wondering what do I do now. How old will I be? Where will I go? Who will still be out there for me? I'm not building a life anywhere. I'm not building a relationship.

I will be leaving here and starting over from scratch. I almost feel sometimes like my life is over now. That now I'm old. That all those opportunities and dreams are already gone. That this is the ending period of my life too. When I'm done here...??? it's getting harder and harder to visualize.

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Totally Relate to You
by: Anonymous

I totally relate to your situation except that I am much older than you (55 rather than 39). I, too, am single and have a married sister whose life my mother does not want to see disrupted.

I had to take unpaid family leave for about a month last year after my mother fell and broke her arm. I have not had a real vacation in 7 years. Most of my friendships have drifted away because I do not have the time to commit to social activities except for a quick dinner after work once in a while.

I work a demanding full time job and commute. My schedule is brutal: up at 4 AM, squeeze in 25 minutes of exercise, out the door to work, put in a 9-10 hour workday, commute to my mother's and spend an hour there, then drag myself home to a microwaved dinner and more chores. I moved from a fairly low maintenance condo to a house near my mother's in the hopes that she would move in with me but she doesn't want to and the house is a money pit plus a lot for a single woman to take care of. The lawn and the weeds and everything else is just too much.

I have no time to date, to take courses, or to advance my career or personal interests. I've put most of my hobbies on hold (hiking and writing) and have had to tell my job that I cannot travel, which has closed the door on a couple of interesting positions (I could have gone to Europe for a temporary assignment).

I hate the East Coast and have wanted to move out West for almost 20 years now but cannot do so while my mother is still alive. My mother is often critical, un-supportive, controlling, and difficult. The hardest part is that my married sister lives 2 hours away and has 2 small children so she is "off the hook". She and her husband live an upper middle class lifestyle and go off on get away weekends and vacations while I am stuck taking care Mom to doctor appointments, grocery shopping, and church.

My sister has no guilt whatsoever about this. She recently went to the Caribbean and asked me if I wanted to see her pictures. Say what? See your pictures? How about giving me a break so I can go to the Caribbean too? I am constantly angry and resentful. My mother treats my sister like a princess because she is married and has kids. I am the slave labor, the servant, the mule, the washed up old maid, the freak who doesn't have any friends and hasn't had a date in 6+ years.

It is a very difficult situation and sometimes i hate my life. My mother is totally in her right mind and refuses all outside help. She refuses to go stay at my sister's so I can take a trip and there are no other options for me. I cannot travel because her health is too tenuous.

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Hang in There
by: Nadia

Hi Lori, I cannot even imagine what you are going through but I can relate to your feeling of being used and left with the mess.

I myself 4 years ago had to let my career go to look after my Mom that fell and was not able to look after herself anymore. So I think I know how that feels and no it is not abnormal to have the feelings you have, I have them as well and yes it also damaged my relationship with my Mom.

All I can say is that you need to go through these feelings to get to the other side, anger, resentment, feeling used, feeling everything is unfair, all of these feelings I felt and sometimes still feel. They are normal.

The stress levels you are going through are not healthy so please look after your health. My advice is to try and live in the moment do not think too far in the future just handle what you can, crying when you want to it is an excellent relief, and find something creative to do to get your mind off things
I am praying for you and know that you are not alone in this

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