22 year old caregiver for the past 2 years.

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Hi, I happen to have ran across this site and thought I would ask for advice.

First off, I'm a 22 year old male majoring in electrical engineering (currently a junior) as well work as an undergraduate researcher. I've been taking care of my 47 year old mother (such as paying all of the bills, cooking food, helping her left/move anything she needs, and shopping) for the past 2 years. Although I feel extremely lucky to be able to go to college and have kept my GPA up, I feel I'm pushing my limits (physically, mentally, and emotionally).

It's probably best I explain when this started and why I am now the one helping her. Although I started helping her when I started college, my mother occasionally needed help ever since I was 12 years old and she and my father divorced. She worked primarily in aircraft (though looked for anything in the end) and was subject to layoffs more times than I can count. My sister, mother, and I never lived in a house after I was 12 and was continuesly evicted from hotels and apartments. At that time my grandfather was who helped all of us, which is something I will never forget. But even though he did his very best, there was a time that we had to live in our car and various parks. (Because I have posted this online about myself means I will probably delete my account to this site in probably a week.) Although there's much more that could be said about my family's life before I started college, I'm afraid I can't write anymore about it. By the time I applied to colleges, my mother no longer worked, her unemployment ran out, and her health (both physical and mental) diminished. When I applied to colleges, none of them was in state. At the time, I believed that this would have motivated her to change the path her life was taking. But it unfortunately didn't. I was accepted to the colleges I applied to, one of which offered nearly a free ride. But my grandfather was getting old and needed to retire, so I had a very tough decision. As this post shows, I stayed to help my mother so my grandfather no longer had to. And this is how my days of helping my mother began.

I feel I'm increasingly being pulled between different worlds. My academics in engineering are becoming increasingly demanding as I start my junior year and my work is becoming more intense. All of this is occurring while I continue to feel as if I'm keeping two lives financially together. I also plan to earn my masters and know that it will be out of state. And honestly, it does hurt knowing that I am left to be the only person to help her. She's not married, my sister lives in a different state, and my other relatives do not help. I know it's not any of my relatives problem, but I also know that I can't do this forever either. In addition, I believe my relatives refuse to help due to resentment towards her and how she has handled life.

I try to keep a partially social life. I have several friends and have been on several dates. I volunteer with a homeless and poverty group at my university (though I will never tell anyone about my life before college). I eat healthy and love to run. But when it comes to being emotionally healthy, I think I'm getting worse. I continuously distance myself from friends whenever my friendships become more personal. Although I've been on a number of dates (one of which was becoming quite serious), none of them lasted. And again, I believe this is because I am distancing myself whenever a relationship gets too personal. I believe this distancing originated from helping my mother for so long and ignoring my own emotional needs.

Well, hopefully this post was clear enough about my current position. I'm just looking for any advice from anyone who has went through similar moments in their lives. Thanks in advance for the help.

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Hugs to you, timadam. You have remarkable strength and intelligence. You will make it through this very challenging situation!

What are you most afraid of in opening up about your past? Think of your two best buddies. If they knew you lived in a car and had an extremely chaotic upbringing, what do you think would change in your relationship? Do you think they would drop you as a friend? Pity you? Treat you differently? What is the worst that could happen? How likely is that to happen? What if you found out something similar about one of them? How would it change your behavior toward him?

I don't think every casual friend you ever have has to know your whole life history. You have a right to privacy. But it is hard to have very close friends with a big barrier about yourself in the way. I don't see how you can move forward in dating and keep completely closed about your past.

College is a wonderful place to explore yourself, who you are, what you want to become, and what your beliefs are. And it is easy to get some professional help with this exploration. Colleges have counselors, and that is an opportunity you really should take advantage of, in my opinion.

I sincerely hope you can work toward removing the barriers in your social and emotional life. Even if you leave the state to go to graduate school, your past will go with you. Sooner rather than later you need to integrate your past into a healthy present.

Keep in touch!
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Thanks for your complete report.

I understand feeling uncomfortable about spilling your guts about this stuff. Thanks for giving us the honor of hearing and responding to your story. Opening up about it is part of the process of dealing with it.

I can understand you desire to be protective of your man and that is quite a huge change to take place in someone as you describe about your mom. Do you have any idea where that change came from? Did she have some kind of mental breakdown?

The young lady that I referred to earlier was hesitant to call adult services for the same as you state. However, her mom and your mom are in positions of needing some help that is more than you can do and more forward with your own life. It's not like you are telling on her or going behind her back. You're trying to get her help.

It is very sad to have to have to hide one's feelings. I did that and felt like I had to do that at a much earlier age than you are. When you do that for long enough, it does become a challenge to break out of it.

It sounds like your mom does want to help herself. Maybe she has found it is easier to live with you than to move forward with your life. Please don't let her become a noose around your neck. It's not like she's your child or someone you have made a lifelong promise to in a deeper level of relationship. She's an adult who needs to take responsibility for her own life at some point. Actually, and this may be hard to see, but what you are doing that looks helpful may be enabling the very behavior that she needs to stop.

I know she's your mom, but at the wild adolescence that you had. That was not even close to stable parenting with going from apartments to hotel rooms that ya'll were evicted from to sleeping in parks and in the car. I gather that was from age 12-18. 6 years of chaos. I don't feel like you owe her much beyond being humane by getting her some help which you can't force her to take, but you don't need to enable and cripple your own life.

In some ways, it sounds like your life has involved running form one crisis to another and now the source of that continued crisis is living with you. This might not make complete sense, but it's time to stop running and the things related to it.

I'm glad your fiances are doing so well. You must have done very well in high school academically! That is also amazing in light of how unstable where you were living was. Did you ever have to change school systems as well.?

Take care and keep in touch as possible.
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cmagnum, yes we are definitely off the radar now. But I don't feel I'm personally looking for child services either, I'm simply looking to move on. As for being skeptical, what I mean is it's hard to talk about such personal aspects of my life (of which I rarely confide to anyone). I guess "skeptical" was a poor choice of words in that regard. I'm simply uncomfortable talking about it. And yes I too feel contacting adult protective services is most likely my only option. I've debated doing this since I first started college. But several things have held me back, namely the idea of calling protective services without her consent (I've brought up contacting similar services such as disability, but she won't accept it) and the idea that they may not treat her as well as I have. And that last statement unfortunately does again show that I'm probably being over protective about her. Yes, there's a program similar to Medicaid in my state. However, and I think this has to do with the deeply republican oriented policies in my state, you must have disability to qualify. This is another reason I have brought up disability to her, but again she doesn't want to hear it. She did once apply for it and was scheduled an interview, but she never went. Yes, I do believe I will need to find some way of getting past this emotionally. Either through counseling or becoming more involved with my friends and mentors. Unfortunately your right about my struggles emotionally. Although I do relatively well at hiding my feelings and haven't lost any of my friends, a few of which have helped me, it doesn't mean that the problem isn't there and that it will only get worse. Yes, it makes it exceptionally hard when dating. I have had several dates, but only one ever began to turn into something. And I know it's do to the emotional turbulence of trying to take on too much. What does my mother do when I'm gone? I don't really know. My mother will sometimes go to food banks to help off set the costs, but other than that I don't really know. Yes, I'm certainly realizing that I have to set boundaries. And I suppose I sort of have. I do make it firm that it is my money and that it will only be spent on what I say it will (namely only bills and very sparse amount of food). However, it's how I care that she doesn't go on the street that is truly my weakness. At this current state, I don't believe she will ever be the independent mother I remember her as long ago. Before she changed she had a decent paying job, was a fully independent mother, was selfless, and in essence held the family together both emotionally and financially (as my father wasn't very interested in much beyond his own desires). As for police, when we lived in parks we developed a general rule. Never stay longer than a week and stay out of sight. It's definitely hard to say it, but it's the unfortunate truth. The only time I was questioned was when I was 17 for about an hour. My sister ran away (which was the last time we lived under the same roof) and later contacted police in hopes that my mother would be turned in. I denied all the things my sister described and I guess I was convincing. It caused my sister to avoid talking to me for quite awhile. I know this is probably sounds quite crazy and it's extremely uncomfortable for me to talk about. Yes, I have a part time research job as well as very generous scholarships and grants that have made paying so many bills possible while surprisingly not going in very much loan debt. Thanks for all the advice, I will think about all of what you've said.
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timadam,

Thanks for answering my questions so late at night.

You and your sister are way off the radar screen of where child protective services would even see you as a faint blip due to your ages. I'm not sure that I follow you about being skeptical about talking about your past here when we don't even know who you are? It's not like child protective services is going to come and get you. You are too old for them. Your profile tells us absolutely nothing about yourself which is fine. That gives you complete privacy. We don't even know nor do we need to know what state and city you are in.

Now your mom may need adult protective service. What I suggest at 6 am where I am is that you call adult protective services, tell them you have a parent who is in need of more care than you can provide because of several reasons and ask them if they could help you or point you in the correct direction. That would be a far more loving thing to do than just allowing things to remain the same.

Some parents are over protective of their children and thus the children often fail to grow up or grow up soon enough. Such over protection is not love. You do sound a bit like an over protective parent if you don't mind me saying so.

I think if you ask social services or go to there web site that this is or there was a program for poor adults and poor young adult to be able to get a version health insurance that is similar to medicaid.A friend of mine's daughter when her children were small had to find that.

Many months ago, we had a very long thread with an only child who was only a few years younger than you who was in a terrible situation with a very ill mother who had gambled away all of the support money that her family had sent. They stopped when they somehow found out how the money was being used. The young lady was so protective of her mother that she would not call child protective services for herself of adult protective services for her mom despite all that was going on, plus having no money to pay the rent, buy groceries, pay the utilities or put gas in the car which her mom made her drive despite not even having a learner's permit. That's how her mom got to the gambling place and her daughter would just sit and read in a nearby restaurant.

You are correct that you can't force her to change, but you can change yourself without having to wait for her to change.

I also think that in order to move out of the being your parent's parent, you may well need some counseling to make that emotional break for it's so entrenched after being the one looking over her. Evidently, there is a stronger emotional bond between you and your mother than your mom and your sister given that she is in your care and not your sisters. Several therapists do charge on a sliding scale with proof of economic need. If even that is not a possibility and you are open to other potential helpers for counseling, many clergy have had some training from seminary in that area.

I will also say this, if you fail to move forward because of waiting for your mother to change, you will set yourself up for an emotional spiral of resentment, bitterness which will fall into depression because of the situation as you loose more and more friends because of emotionally cutting them off which will very likely keep a dating relationship from becoming serious enough for marriage because of the extra baggage you are carrying. That would be very harmful to yourself. After getting to know someone on a couple of dates, they can pick up without knowing what precisely it is that you have some tremendous burden in your life. That sometimes makes people back off unless they think that they can rescue the person. You don't need rescuing. You need to rescue yourself.

No, your moving forward emotionally is not dependent on your mom moving on with her life!

You need to move forward with your life and that may or may not light a fire under her to get on with hers. Boundaries are not about motivating a person to change not to punish them. Boundaries are about what you will and what you will not have in your life. Boundaries are like a way of saying this is where you end and I begin for you only get deeper into my space by earning my trust and respect.

Tell me, what does your mother do in your apartment. Does she cook any meals. Does she do any cleaning. Or does she sit in front of the TV or computer all day long?

Right now, you are enabling her and letting her drag you down at the same time. This is hard to see because your background did not teach you good boundaries. Are you looking for her to change and be the mom that you say she once was before something happened and changed her? I doubt it for she's not made much of an effort for the last 8 years of moving ya'll from one apartment to another, one hotel room to another, one park to another and how ever many nights you lived in the car.

You didn't make your mother how she is. You can't fix your mother. You can't control your mother. I hope you will let those three statements sink deep into your thinking.

The only person that you can control is you.And in doing so, you have to put yourself on a healthy path regardless of her decision to do or not do the same thing of getting on a healthier path. That's tough, but that's part of being an adult who has boundaries around what they can do and what they can't do. Ultimately, you have to be responsible for yourself, but you can't live her life for her. That's part of the being the parent of the parent that I'm hearing. She must be responsible for herself in the final analysis. Ya'll have become emotionally enmeshed with each other. That must change for you to be a fully functioning adult. But don't make that dependent on her changing.

I'm curious, how was your mother different before you were twelve when the three of you went on this wild journey of being evicted our of apartments and hotels, living in the car, and living in parks?

(I am surprised that a policeman never checked on the car spending the night in whatever parking lot your stayed in and that no one ever saw ya'll as school aged children living in the park night after night.)

This part of your history does not sound like she was being a responsible, stable parent. I can see to some degree why your family has stopped helping her. Nothing ever changed.

Thus, from where I'm sitting they have likely decided to stop enabling her in hopes that she might become responsible and stable. Unfortunately, that meant less money in your and your sister's childhood to be spent on ya'll if that is how she handled the money she was given.

I gather you must have a job on the side to keep afloat financially. Being so poor, how have you managed to buy and apartment and a car? Do you mean rent an apartment and making payments on a car?

Well, I have written an essay. I hope it helps?

Take care. Keep in touch. Thanks for coming back and answering my questions. That's helps me to grasp the bigger picture better.

Love and prayers.
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Sendme2help

I did look into your recommendation and the book seems interesting.

As for moving out, I already own my own apartment, my own car, and pay all associated bills (both mine and her's). I'm sorry, I should have made this more clear in my original post. As for "failure to launch." I don't think I am risking a point of "failing to launch." I am successful in college and optimistic about my future career. What worries me is not moving on emotionally beyond what has happened in the past due to my mother not moving on in her own life as well.
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Hi cmagnum,

It's rather late here, but I'll try to answer your questions anyways.

I do believe she has some form of mental illness. However, I can not force her to be evaluated for this, nor do I think she ever would allow it. In addition, she has trouble walking and cannot walk more than 20 minutes without her legs aching too much. This makes me believe she is developing arthritis. It's unfortunate in that we don't have health insurance or money to spare for medical bills (of which she already has debt in). Health clinics are helpful, but even then are limited in resources.

Yes, when I look back at the past it's hard to imagine I made it this far. It's hard to even believe it sometimes.

My degree is definitely demanding yes. But it is very fun as well. I'm sure you remember the demands it probably asked of your father.

About me and my sister remaining out of radar of child services, again I'm skeptical posting these past parts of my life. I'll simply say that my family avoided social services like a mouse avoids a cat. Me and my sister were (and still are now) best friends and love our mother. We was young at the time and we didn't want to lose her. We also was frightned by the idea of being placed in a foster care where me and my sister would be potentially separated.

Yes, my relatives do see her as unreliable and uncaring (both to herself and my sister and I). I do believe that if I left to go to a college out of state like I planned, she would have went homeless again. But I can't say she's not caring, because deep down I know she is the same mother I remember her before she changed.

My family always worried for me and my sister. Me and my sister was partly why they did (and probably still do) resent her. They would occasionally help. But I think they stopped because they didn't think it would change much. Even though it sometimes hurts, I do understand why they don't really help and still love them.

My sister's life is much better than when we were younger, but she unfortunately never went to college. But she does have a job and takes care of her self, which is better than what it could have been.

Yes, I have started to realize that this detachment from emotions is unhealthy. And even though I am making an effort to get better, it probably won't be very effective if I am trying to have conflicting roles as a "parent's parent" and a developing adult simultaneously.

In terms of social assistance, I do know a number of social services available since me and my sister was exposed to it for so many years. I actually take advantage of some social assistance for bills currently. But the problem of rehabilitative services is that the individual has to, as you mentioned, take responsibility. They have to want it. And this is the one factor I can't control. As for my father, I don't know where he is. I haven't seen him since I was 14 and my mother was trying to obtain child support. We did have child support for close to a year, but it ended due to him quitting his job.

I hope this covered all (or at least most) of the questions you had.
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Think ahead to age 40, when you write in then, it will be called "failure to launch".
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At your age, no regrets. You've done nothing wrong. It is perfectly normal to move out at your age. If mom doesn't understand, and you've approached her as if moving out is the next phase of your life and expect her to be happy for you; and then she makes a big fuss, run as fast as you can because that would not be normal. You will do fine.
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Your story could be any one of many. As a matter of fact, there is a book, entitled: "Lost Boy" by Greg Laurie. You can also read his story online, I think by googling Greg Laurie. It could be your story, or so many other anonymous stories. Seek counseling at your college, get help to move into a dorm room. As long as you are in the role you have permitted, Mom won't be motivated to change and you will be complicit in her not getting well. There are other helps out there for her, let her find them. Being nice is sometimes not nice, and not good for her. (Not good for you either.)
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What exactly are your mother's health problems?

I am amazed at your survival of such a terrible journey and thankful that somehow you are trying to break the chain of dysfunction by being in college. Your degree is very demanding. My dad go that degree.

I'm, surprised that you and your sister didn't get on the radar of child protective services for the living conditions of your childhood were terrible. It sounds like your relatives see her an unreliable person. How do they feel towards you and your sister.

How is your sister's life?

It's not good or healthy to be distancing yourself from friends. It does sound like your emotional connection from being the one caring for your mother has hindered your social life for it sounds like you have taken on the role of your parent's parent.

I think she needs to look for some social assistance, and get evaluated by a doctor for a possible disability that would qualify her for extra help. Does she have a diagnosed mental illness that might explain how she has handled life?

I don't see where all of this is sustainable for much longer.

Also, you have been in the role of being a parent to your parent for more than long enough.

You need to be the young adult man that you are not a substitute parent or whatever for your mom. She needs to take some responsibility for her own life as a middle aged adult. If she's mentally disabled, then she needs such a diagnosis and pursue getting help so that you can be set free.

Where is her ex husband, your dad? Has he never paid any child support or alimony? Where does he fit or not fit in this whole puzzle?

I'm sorry you feel that you will need to delete this thread in a week. You should be safe here since your anonymous.

At this late hour, that is all I can think of with the information that you have given us.

Please stay around for more input and to let us know how you are doing!
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