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When will it be my turn?

I’ve always looked after others — but nobody looks after me!

It’s time to make the change happen, says our elder.

Dear EWC

From a young age, I’ve been the one to pick my mom up and help her through her tough times I’ve been there when my dad used to beat her up and at the age of five; I’d tell my mom to leave him. Five years old! Not once did she listen to me and it got to the point where he was taking it out on me and my siblings, more specifically my brother. It wasn’t until we were much older that she decided to divorce him and things took a turn for the worse. My mom would threaten to take her life and would constantly have panic attacks and would non stop cry because he turned my brother and sister against my mom. Who was there to pick up the pieces? I was. I always put my life on hold and helped others in my family because I “have nothing to do” during the week as my job as a mental health tech only requires me to work 16-hour shifts both Saturday and Sunday.

But just recently it’s been one awful thing after another happening in my family. My grandpa was hospitalized for pneumonia and got really weak and we almost lost him, so while I was at work nobody thought to call or text me to let me know that for a brief moment we could have lost him. Nobody ever checks up on me to see how I’m doing emotionally but I’m always the one there for everyone else. I know how it feels to not have anyone there for me. Between having to come home to all the awful events that are taking place in my family at the moment and having to help traumatized, abused, and emotionally unstable children at work, I don’t have time or the energy to take care of myself. If I do happen to buy something or go somewhere for myself I get criticized because I wasn’t available at the moment to tend to others’ needs. I just need someone to help me or be there for me in my time of need.

Roxie replies

You sound like a very good person, someone who others naturally turn to for help. And, you have used the skills that you have gained from your unfortunate experiences with your family to help children through your job. I think the fact that you have chosen this particular job suggests that you do gain something from your role as caregiver and problem solver. I know from my own life that when family or friends come to me for help I feel valued and respected. However, you are also experiencing the downside of always being the shoulder for others to cry on, and your frustration is understandable.

I think that the only way that things will change is if you make it happen. As long as you let people lean on you, they will do so. You need to set limits and enforce them. For starters, I think that you should ask yourself whether you can handle both a very difficult family and a very difficult job. If you like your job, then you should consider controlling your involvement with your family. Is there a way that you can move out of the house? Or, if not, create a quiet space for yourself in your home? Don’t let yourself get drawn into family disputes and problems, no matter how much the people involved seem to need you. You may find out that they can manage on their own. It’s sort of like a parent learning that a child, in fact, can tie his own shoes; as long as someone ties them for him, why should he bother?

Once you have achieved a bit of peace in your life, you will be in a better position to start looking for someone who can be there for you. A positive, long term relationship, whether it is a romantic one or just a friend, will make a huge difference in your life. But, be careful that you don’t end up with a companion who plays the same role as your family or your patients. You need to avoid people who have a history of mental illness or serious problems, or who are needy or emotionally dependent. I worry that given your past experiences, this may be the kind of person that you are drawn to. Look for someone who is stable, calm and mentally healthy.

Finally, you might think about getting some counseling. I would imagine that you understandably have a great deal of anger as to how you have been treated by your family. Someone to talk to might help you resolve these feelings and enable you to be happier.
I know that none of this is going to be easy. But, you have shown that you are a very strong person. It’s now time for you to use that strength to take care of yourself.

Letter #: 442347
Category: Family

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