I have no idea who I am anymore. Is this my life now? - AgingCare.com

I have no idea who I am anymore. Is this my life now?

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Hello. First-time poster here; not in the US. I hardly know where to begin, but here goes...

Nine years ago, my husband's mum was put on a ventilator and was expected to die. She pulled through, so we sold up and moved back to my husband's county, as he's an only son. He got another job but I didn't, thinking that I would look after my MIL for her last few months. Two years later, we'd built our dream home in the same village as my DH's home place and, five days after moving in, my FIL had a heart attack. Both of DH's parent's moved in with us. DH has an Aunt, who is widowed, childless and difficult. Almost without my realising it, I was given 'jobs' like collecting her pension, cooking, cleaning, etc. These 'jobs' got more personal and she was very belittling of me. When I tried to express my dislike, DH explained that she was elderly, had had a tragic, childless life etc...

This went on for seven years. Then, two years ago, my FIL died at home of kidney disease in April. That October, the Aunt had a suspected stroke and moved in with us. Things got harder. I felt like I was failing. I saw a counsellor.

Last October, I lost the baby we'd tried for years for. The next week, I was Matron of Honour to my SIL, with my six-months pregnant sister as the other attendant. Lots of people knew about the baby, but not about the loss. It was hard.

In January, Daddy got sick. Then Mammy had difficulty swallowing. Mammy was kept in for a biopsy and I brought Daddy in to visit Mammy and get his test results. We found out that Daddy was dying on the Monday and then Mammy died on the Sunday. It doesn't feel real, even now.

The Aunt was in the hospital for Rehab that she refused to comply with while Mammy was dying. I visited her on the way back from seeing Mammy. Once she was home, and immobile, my MIL had three successive hospitalisations of acute COPD exacerbations, which ended in her death last month.

Which brings me to today. When I began to care, I was a chatty, open, loving person. Now I am silent, angry every moment of every day, hateful and depressed. My doctor has prescribed sleeping tablets and anti depressants and I must meet with a counsellor.

My question is this; is this my life now? Is this who I am now? I feel that there is only death and pain and loss in my future and I'm so hollow inside that I don't really care. I'm afraid for my Daddy and for myself. I feel like the woman I was before caring has died too and I'll never get her back. Everything is so bleak and difficult and I can't even call my Mammy anymore to cry and be comforted and have her good advice.

I found this forum looking for advice on dealing with grief, so perhaps Mammy was prompting me to ask you for advice, as she can't be here. Please help me.

Jenny

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I don't want this to come as a shock, but bear in mind that all I've got to go in is the outline you've given us in just a short time. It's very clear and well-written, so thank you for that and well done, but I wonder if what jumps out at us readers is quite so obvious to you.

Your husband is a lovely man, with key qualities such as loyalty and industry and compassion. That's very good.

You left your home town and moved to where he comes from. You gave up your job. Bit by bit, you became his family's go-to caregiver. Very sadly, the baby you and your husband had longed for was not to be; but life went on around you with your SIL's marriage and your sister's pregnancy. When your parents fell ill and your mother so abruptly died, you had to journey to spend the little time you had left with them as a couple. When you returned, the aunt immediately expected you to refocus your attention on her. You feel your personality has changed, so that you have become withdrawn and cut off.

The thing is. Where is the compassion for you? Where is the focus on your needs, support for your priorities, respect for you as a person deserving consideration?

It is lovely to be welcomed by someone's family; and it sounds as though your family has welcomed your husband's side too. Normally that is a very good, productive thing. But as things have fallen out, it's not so much that you've been included, as that you've been absorbed.

You need time to mourn your lost baby; time to mourn your mother; time to regroup after the loss of your FIL and MIL after years of your caring for them; time to spend with your father as his daughter, not his nurse. What you don't need is to spend any more time being taken for granted as the live-in companion and - forgive me - sucker.

Now, I don't know how your husband's aunt has swung this. I have encountered a couple of characters who get away with similar cuckoo-in-the-nest type strategies, and from their point of view it works, and good luck to them. But I do think the parent birds, if you'll allow me to stretch the metaphor rather, should be encouraged to take a clear-eyed view of what is actually going on so that at least they can make an active choice about whether or not they are prepared to carry on.

Your husband is a good man who wants to do the right thing by his blood. Nothing wrong with that. But he needs to wake up to what his aunt is taking and *think* about what is really due to her. And more to the point, he needs to be a lot less generous with your time and compassion. An hour a day is a nice gesture, and I'm glad you have a canny, alert lady coming to help you, but that's all it is. What about the other 23 hours? Did anyone ever actually *ask* if you were content to give them up to other people?

A great many terrible things have happened to you one after the other, much too fast, and you need time to recover. You also need time and space to adjust to what's happening with your father, and decide what involvement you can cope with.

But then there is anger. You don't mention anger. You call yourself bitter. Does it occur to you that you might have things to be angry about?
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Well, there was WW3 here last night.

When DH came home, I just cried and cried and told him that I couldn't do it anymore.

I ought to have been upfront and said something when I saw the counsellor that first time, before the baby was lost but then Daddy got sick and everything went on the back burner. I suppose I just thought that I would get better, she needed a different tack, I was hormonal after the baby - lots of things.

Long story short, DH believed me! He spoke to the Aunt and said he had put two and two together from oblique references that the day lady and neighbours had made about 'Jenny having her hands full'. He asked her to choose between the NH of her choice, or to stay here with us and attend day care in a nearby town, initially once a week, increasing to three days a week by Christmas. He has also promised to arrange two week's respite for us to take a holiday before the end of Summer.

The Aunt wasn't happy, said she wasn't wanted, better off dead, lots of things. She called me names and DH said he was happy to see her true colours. Once she had exhausted all her spite, she apologised.

I feel a Rubicon has been passed. I know now that my silence gave assent to her treatment of me. DH said she has always been a controlling person and, housebound and coming to the end of rather a tragic, difficult life, she's exerting that control in unhealthy ways. With Day care and the activities there, she'll have more to occupy her that Judge Judy and whatever I'm doing!

DH also called the Aunt's SIL, to whom she had been telling lies about me. She told her I went out for hours and left her soiled, that I gave her cold porridge - none of it true! I never leave this house unless DH is here, or the Day Lady, in a pinch.

This morning, she apologised again, and I hugged her and said we'd make it work. I'm not foolish; I know who she is and what she does. Even so, I'd hate her to end her days in a NH. She has many health issues and a 7.5cm inoperable AAA, so I hope, when her time comes, it will be at home.

I couldn't be more grateful that I found this group. I wish I'd known about it in all the year's I've been caring! I suppose I've fallen into the role of 'The Carer' and I should take some responsibility for that. I'm a 42-year-old, educated lady - too old to live for a pat on the head and universal good opinion!

Thank you so much to everyone who replied. It was good, hard sensible advice. Exactly the same kind that Mammy would have given, were she here. Bless you all for your help. xx
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I would "like" Countrymouse's post a dozen times if I could! Yes, you are bitter, and for good reason! Putting your needs first doesn't won't make you a shallow person, but putting everyone else before yourself definitely makes you a doormat. Where is your career, your time for friends and life outside of endless sorrow and caregiving? Temporary so easily morphs into years, then decades, you shouldn't have to start a revolution to say enough!
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Jenny42 - Bless you for being such a loving, caring woman. As said above, you have suffered more loss in a very short time than most do in a lifetime.

Please stop with careing for HIS Aunt. She elected to be alone, with no children. She should have planned better for her golden years. Not your problem. Your husband needs to place her in Assisted Living or skilled nursing home. She refuses? Too bad - she has no say in the matter.

You have "hit the wall" and need time to heal both physically and emotionally. Rest and a Vacation are due ASAP.

Say NO, NO, NO! No more stress, no more caregiving. Time for YOU and HUBBY to spend quality time together and you take care of your health. You are truly an Angel and my Prayers and Best Blessings are sent to you.
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Resentment, that is what happened to me, after caring for my FIL in our home for 13 years, he is now finally in an Assisted living place (2 months), but we are still on the go constantly for him. At this moment, he is in hospital, following a fall and Pneumonia.

I too lost 3 parents in only 14 months time 13 years ago, and my FIL immediately moved in with us.

Will things return to normal, will you find yourself ever again? I hope so, I truly do. I do know that things can and do get better, but we are continually challenged at every turn, as the go to caregiver.

I recommend you stay with finding a counselor to discuss all of your many losses, and your Auntie needs to go. Find her a nice Assisted living place or more likely a Nursing home, as she is bedbound. This is all too much too fast for one person to take, and until you do this, you will struggle to find your new normal. I'm so sorry!

Please know, that you have found the most Amazing website here, as the folks on this site are so caring and generous with their support! We all need to have a place where we can jot off a quick note, and get such incredible advice and friendship! You will love it here!

I know you will continue to get great advice, and I hope you take it to heart, perhaps share it with your hubby, so that gets can see the caregivers journey from many different sides. Good luck, and yes, it does get better with time! Sincerely, Stacey B
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Jenny; there are some cultures in which it is assumed that caregiving elderly relatives is the work of women. It's an assumption, not a law.

The part of my family that is from Ireland is quite fatalistic about life. Things are not to be changed, they are to be accepted. According to my mom, when I was young and talking about feminism...."Ah, it's the life of woman to accept pain and suffering....it's the way of the world, ordained by God for the sin of Eve".

Um, no.

I think you need to have a private sit down with your lovely, understanding and supportive of everyone husband and tell him what the score is...that this caregiving gig has made you ill and that you will no longer be able to do it.

If he's really the lovely guy you tell us he is, he'll understand.
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Jenny, wow you've been through more than one person should in their lifetime. You are burned out with nothing left - very understandable. Did you ever get counseling for the loss of your child? Where is your husband in all this? Sounds like you've been given the caregiver burden with no help from other family members. As above yes you need to take care of yourself and do something NICE for you. Sounds like you need time away from all this, a nice retreat/vacation. Time to think what to do next with your life. Sounds like you're not getting any support from other family - seek out counseling and if one doesn't work keep switching up until you find one that helps. No this doesn't have to be your life and who you are now - counseling should help you figure out what and where you are, where to go from here. I'll assume your in your late 30's-40's? since you were trying for a child. I'm so sorry for your loss of your child, your mammy and your daddy(?), your MIL and FIL. My heartfelt sympathy to you and many hugs. I would discuss with your husband different living arrangements (SNF, AL, or other care facility, or other family member) for HIS Aunt - that you can't take care of her any longer. You two need to work on your marriage and have quality time together without family. It is okay to say NO to things you don't or shouldn't be doing. Do you have any hobbies you enjoyed before all this hit you? Perhaps join a garden group or other social network/group. Please keep referring to this great website and keep us up to date on your status. I feel your pain and suffering much love and many hugs - friendly!
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Here in the states Auntie could have been evaluated and sent to longterm care from rehab.
You and DH need to talk.
With everything else and losing a child you need a break. There r many reasons why u may have lost the baby but I would say it was stress and your age. A 42 yr old woman should be taking it easy when pregnant. They found with me, I didn't make enough progesteron (hormon needed in early pregnancy) so I got a shot every week. I had. MiL that was one way in private and another in public. Tape the Aunt and let husband see hoe she is to you. You don't have to take it. When she gets going tell her u no longer are putting up with it and walk away. You r entitled to a life of ur own.
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Hi Jenny! Great development with hubby. Be sure to keep firmly/kindly/neutrally asserting your needs. Sometimes a breakthrough moment is just a moment -- for the partner who was not properly supportive. Make sure hubby knows that this is the new way....and not just a new day. 🙂 ((((hugs))))
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Jenny, I'm so glad to hear you've had a good discussion with your husband, and even with his Aunties outburst, that there will be some real help in your near future.

Now you be sure to stick to your guns on these new changes, as we all know, words are words, but actions are Actions! You will need to stay on top of it, and increase your caregivers needs as things progress with her decline and increased needs too!

I hope this makes things must easier for you, that it will alow you and your hubby to spend more quality time together, as well as your Dad.

You know all to well how caring for others is ever changing, but you have needs too!

Super happy for you, and enjoy your free time, and don't forget to come back here and let us know how things are going! Good luck!
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