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I Can't Seem To Get Over Any Of This


about a year and 3 months ago my husband daughter and i moved back to my home town to help take care of my grandmother with pulmonary fibrosis, we moved in with her and i took care of her every need until the day she died, that has been 9 months ago, she was in hospice care and one of the drugs they gave her was morphine, and i know it suppresses respirations which with pulmonary fibrosis could be a problem, she never took the medicine until the day before she died she asked me to give it to her, i gave her one dose, and in my rational mind i know i did not kill her, but i still feel guilty, i also feel like i could have made her last months here better, and no matter how many times i am told how good i did, i still fell i didn’t do enough, i dream about her almost every night, and cry every day, i don’t want to wake up in the mornings i never do anything that i used to do or love to do. then about 2 months ago my best friend who i have known my entire life dies in a car wreak, i have feelings of guilt about her because of the life she lead and i feel like i should have done more to help her…

i can’t seem to get over any of this and i feel myself going deeper and deeper into something, depression i guess, my father has bipolar, and i suffered from post partum, but that passed as soon as i went back to work. i am not my self and i don’t know what to do, i do have a family doctor, but my mother is the nurse there and i don’t want her to catch wind of anything because i don’t want her to worry, but i just need help so bad, i don’t know what to do. i don’t know what kind of doctor to see and even then i couldn’t afford to do anything(no insurance)…i try to tell my husband i need help but he says that i am stronger than people who need to take meds…..but i honestly feel i will never ever come out of this….i am so lost and i don’t know what to do. i get scared and nervous taking long car rides and get angry at things a lot faster than i used to . sometimes i feel like i am going to jump out of my skin and go crazy, others i just want to lay in the bed and never ever get up. i feel so selfish for feeling this way but i cant help, this is nothing like i used to be i need help

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Yes. You do need help. Something has gone wrong; you aren’t yourself, and you need to seek out help now, because you are overwhelmed and can’t seem to fix yourself via your own initiatives right at this moment.

What is stopping you from getting help appears to be complex. I read over your email and there is a strong sense that you are identified with the role of caregiver in your family. By this, I mean to say that you are the person people go to for assistance. You took care of your mother when she was ill, etc. The crappy thing about being the caregiver in the family is that when you need care yourself, there is no one to turn to. It is hard to admit that you need help in the first place, I think. I’ll bet you subscribe to the idea that you (as a caregiver sort of person) are supposed to be stronger than the people you care for, at least emotionally. When you are as depressed and broken down as you are saying, it must feel very shameful and guilt-inducing to know that you require assistance yourself. I think this belief (that you must be strong all the time) is a faulty one, based on irrational premises (for no one is a perfect person), but if you believe it, it can easily become a heavy weight on your shoulders.

Your husband isn’t helping things by suggesting that you are stronger than people who need medicine. By extension, he is saying that you aren’t allowed to be weak (even if you are). By extension, he is rejecting your reality, and asking you to put on a show for him; a false front. That isn’t helpful for you or your marriage. I’m not commenting on whether or not he is essentially a good man; only that in this particular way, he is being selfish.

There are more shame reasons for why you cannot get help. You can’t afford to see a specialist doctor (you say), and the only doctor you can see happens to have a privacy conflict. He cannot offer you privacy because your mother works for him and will go through the records. Stripping this down to its essentials, you are saying that you can’t seek help from someone halfway qualified to help you because that would mean admitting you are having difficult to your family, and it is more terrifying to have that secrete known than to go through the various agonies you are presently enduring. I wonder if that is really the case (that your family would reject you and laugh at you and make your life even worse than it is now). If that is the case, you must come from one abusive family. They’re out there, unfortunately, but I hope things really aren’t that bad for you. More likely (I hope), your fear of what might happen if your secrete became known is exaggerated and it really wouldn’t be that bad. So long as you are unwilling to reality test, however, and so long as you maintain that you really can’t afford another doctor, you would appear to be stuck.

This thing you’re dealing with would appear to be (can’t know for sure until you see a local doctor who can diagnose you) a complicated grief reaction, brought on by two significant losses in a short span of time. You have lost your mother and your best friend all in the space of one year. Some hard-nosed people might shrug this sort of thing off, but most of us would be pretty affected and demonstrate the sort of depression-like symptoms you are describing. Nine months is really not a long time to process such a major set of losses, so you may be being rather hard on yourself to think you should be feeling normal at this time. But you are saying that your life is really suffering – your ability to function is at risk – so I think that it makes real sense for you to seek out professional treatment for your wounds.

Mood symptoms of the sort you are dealing with can often be helped by appropriately prescribed medication, by psychotherapy, by supportive discussions with caring friends and family, and by frequent energetic exercise. Medication can provide you with a “floor” that can help you from descending too low into depressive moods, for instance. Psychotherapy can target your irrational guilty thinking patterns, and by so doing, help improve your mood. It can also help you become more aware of the complex web of relationship expectations you are part of (e.g., to be a caregiver never allowed to ask for help yourself) so that you can proactively consider whether it makes sense for you to continue living your life stuck in those patterns. Talking about and venting your feelings to supportive others just helps, and exercise can really raise your mood, improve your endurance and all around help support your life.

Really, you should find a way to seek out the care of a doctor, preferably a psychiatrist, and a cognitive behavioral or interpersonal psychotherapist (ask for those types of therapy by name when calling around to locate a therapist). I know it is expensive, but this is your life we’re talking about here. Scrimp on something else that isn’t necessary (like cable tv) and find a way to pay for a few sessions with a qualified therapist. Ask for generic medications when you get your prescription – they’re cheaper. Find a way to make it happen.

If you refuse to seek out professional help out of sheer stuckness and shame, there are still support groups and the internet. Many communities have grief groups (often organized through hospitals and clinics) that are free to attend or very inexpensive. There are good web communities that discuss grief and other loss issues anonymously. This sort of help is somewhat removed from the most effective professional stuff, but it is worthwhile nevertheless.

The key issue as I see it is not your grief reaction right now, but rather your stuckness in not being able to overcome your shame at needing help and failing to seek that help. Break through this stuckness and seek out that help, please. Life has a better chance for getting better if you do.

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