By Judy Sobiesk
Q: For 10 years, I have been taking care of
an elderly mother. Now she is 99 and experiencing difficulties related to old
age. My problem is that I am exhausted from the long period of care, and yet she
really is needy now. I've postponed making the choices that I desired in order
to remain close to her.
I am an only child, born of much older parents, and I have no help with her. She is mentally sound, so a nursing home is out of the question. We have little money, but we aren't so poor that we qualify for help. I'm at the point that I feel that it's either she goes or I will.
I am currently being treated for profound depression, but sadness isn't my problem: I'm tired down to my soul. I want to move closer to my children, go back to school and study to become a nurse. I have wanted to be a nurse all my life, but was never encouraged. Now I'm running out of time.
I guess I need someone to tell me that it's OK, it's my turn. The guilt is overwhelming, but so is the resentment. Do you have a thought on my predicament that might help? I'm not looking for solutions or quick fixes. There are none. I feel that I'm so close to the problem, I've lost my focus.
A: It is your turn, and you can start meeting your needs while you continue to take care of your mom. Your exhaustion comes through loud and clear, and it's not surprising. Your situation is overwhelming. But once you start actively pursuing your dream, the exhaustion and the guilt and the resentment will lift.
But you can't do it all
alone. You know that -- you reached out for help with your depression. Now you
need to get others involved in helping care for your mom so that you can find
some free time to start working towards your
Repeat after me: "Putting off pursuing my dream is a thing of the past." It may take creativity on your part. But you can start taking care of yourself now and redirect the energy that's fueling your guilt and resentment towards accomplishing your dream.
Start by breaking everything down into more manageable pieces. Accomplishing each small goal will get you on your way, and simply taking action will also have a positive impact on your depression.
If your mom is physically able to take such a step, you might consider moving closer to your kids now, especially if you think they would help out if you lived closer to them.
If moving isn't an option due to your mom's health or your job, consider asking friends for help. We often think we have to do it all by ourselves. Who stays with your mom when you meet with your therapist? (By the way, stay in therapy while you take this new direction.) Maybe that person would be willing to stay with your mom for a couple of hours while you investigate the offerings at your local community college, or while you get out of the house and take in a movie or sit in a bookstore sipping coffee and reading.
To get you started, here are a couple of small goals for this week:
Friends can't be expected to intuit our needs. And friendships often grow when one person asks another for some kind of help. Reach outWarmly, lillian