How to stop applying therapy to everyday life?

For anyone who is bereaved or no longer providing care.
Hi,

I was involved in caring for a younger sibling with schizophrenia/schizo-affective disorder along with the rest of my family. Her illness lasted six years before she died suddenly and tragically. During that time I had taken a year out to move back home with my parents and look after her while they were at work as they were utterly exhausted (and in the meantime my mother was involved in caring for her sister who passed away due to cancer).

It has been five years since my sister died and I have grieved as well as can be expected. However, I have had more difficulties with the way that I think and I would like to know whether there are other people who found this?

In this case I was using CBT techniques and other anxiety reduction tricks and I read a lot at the time about mental health and illnesses, now I can't seem to assess "normal" life without putting it through the mental health prism.

The concepts of "Healthy and normal" don't seem to exist. One of my friends pointed out that all the words I use to describe emotional/psychological states are almost pathological, someone isn't "very happy" they are "manic", they aren't "sad" they are "depressed". If I am not calm and reasonably even keeled I must be ill.

I would like to know whether other people have had difficulties with this. I understand from Reading other posts that some people feel a loss of identity when they lose their role as a carer and other people who find it hard to stop caring for people around them.
I hope this makes sense.
Some people focus on exact words, others focus on what the meaning is behind the words. I've been a carer for over 30 years, and the language you are using seems pretty normal to me. Given your experience with MH issues, I can't see what is wrong with using these terms. However, I wonder if you are really saying that you don't feel like "me" any more? My husband died nine years go, and then I had a series of difficult events, so I didn't feel like "me" any more. The solution was very simple. I spent two weeks in Crete, at a singles hotel in the company of some lovely people. I discovered that many had been carers, some were taking a break from "heavy end" caring. The mixture of friendship, sun, wine, etc. made me feel better than I'd felt in years. Five weeks time, I'll be back for my regular "top up"!
Ellie, I'm sorry for the loss of your sister. I've not been in exactly the same situation, but I have experienced mental health problems over the years and can completely understand what you mean about having to put everything through a mental health health prism and not knowing what 'normal' is anymore.

I think with me I had to spend a lot of years working very hard on my mental health and making some big changes to my life. That involved a lot of counselling, a lot of self-help books some (pretty useless) psychiatric evaluations and I found that I was analysing every single thing, both in myself and in other people. It was necessary, to a certain extent, as I worked my way through various issues but eventually it became more of a tie than a help and perhaps that is the point you are at now (which is probably quite a good sign). I sort of had to retrain myself again to just let certain things go and to accept that everyone has good and bad spells, good and bad luck, good and bad moods and that none of those things necessarily has anything major attached to it, it's just life. I wouldn't worry too much about the way you describe things, I think you just get used to talking a certain way when you deal with something a lot. I did find it helpful to ask myself what I would say to a friend in my situation (if I was wondering what was or wasn't normal or okay) - and generally speaking I would have told them not to worry about it. It was something else I just had to practise and over time it becomes second nature again.

I think, as BB says, when you care you focus primarily on someone else. Then you had a bereavement to cope with which must have been very hard and I think as you start to come out of those situations there can be a bit of a hole as the things you used to focus on (quite necessarily) aren't such a big part of your life. Finding other things to do can be difficult but I think over time things just settle down again and all of a sudden you realise you haven't thought about what 'normal' is or fretted about whether or not something is okay for a while and that becomes your new normal, if that makes any sense?
"New normal" is certainly where I am now. A very different life, but one I can enjoy.
It's not surprising you soak up what you live and breath for so long. I know it's really different but I worked in debt recovery for a long time where gallows humour and deep cynicism over the human race reigned supreme. You have to deliberately leave it behind and return to normal.

I was wondering earlier this evening what I will do once my caring comes to an end as it seems to eat up most of my existance at the moment, not so much the caring itself but the organising of things, and doing what I do because of situation etc. One day I will have a big blank canvas.
Thanks for your replies, it is a relief to find somewhere to write this with people that listen without jumping to conclusions (ie. many of my friends).

I guess I will just try to take a step back from each situation that I encounter and stop "therapising" the people around for no reason. Part of the legacy that my sister left is a great toolkit of anxiety management techniques that I can use if anyone I love ever needs them. But in order for it to be most effective, I guess it is about learning that they aren't necessary for every small bump in the road and to learn to trust people around that they can deal with their problems instead of trying to get to the root problem of every situation.

Henrietta: I know what you mean about the dark humour... I think it helps, though sometimes leaves people speachless! And I think you are right, this is something that we have to make an effort to "leave behind." I try to think of the skills that I have because of it that I would not have had before.

Mum who cares: I really like the advice you gave about finding other things to do (I made a list of some activities I would like to start soon, Money permitting). You are also write, I guess that this is something that needs to be worked on over time. I will try to keep that in mind. Good luck with your journey and thank you.

Bowling bun: I am really happy to hear that you found something that works for you and a place where you have met people who have gone through something similar to yourself, so that you can relate and move forward with life. I will try to think of something, though a singles retreat won't work for me as I have a boyfriend who has been beside me through my own health dificulties :) )
Having been a wife since I was 19, multiple carer for 36 years, somewhere along the line I totally ignored my own needs, desires, wishes. Working out what I REALLY wanted to do was incredibly difficult when I had more time. Lots of people would have loved me to do things for them (10 invites to stand for council for example) however, I politely but firmly declined them. After 36 years of caring, this is my time - at least when my son with SLD isn't home for the weekend that is. Someone put a saying on the forum "Don't burn to keep others warm". So if someone brings you a problem they expect you to solve, just don't get involved. Point them in the right direction, but let them sort themselves out, so you can enjoy life, especially being with your lovely partner. If you love, and are loved, make the most of every moment together.
Ellie I'm glad you've found some of it helpful (and I think every time we sit there thinking we're the only ones with a certain type of problem there's always someone else who's having exactly the same difficulty) and good luck with finding some new hobbies/interests. It's taken me a long time but I'm getting there slowly and you are right, it's a journey and I think it keeps changing and we keep having to find new ways to change with it.

Re your comment about leaving people to deal with problems instead of trying to get to the root of them, there were two pieces of advice my therapist gave me that I have found really helpful over the years and still refer back to when I feel the need. One was that if you jump in to sort other people's problems out for them you deny them the opportunity to grow and improve their own lives. I found that really helpful. I spent years leaping in and dealing with everyone else's situation and eventually I was just exhausted and, of course, when I conked out no bugger helped! The second piece was sort of related and helped me see the difference between genuinely helping people and helping in a co-dependent sort of way, and that was to decide whether the person genuinely couldn't do something at that point or whether they could sort it themselves but just preferred to have me do it for them. That helped me massively, particularly as I've had a lot of people in my life who I call puppy dog types, the ones that are a bit helpless and really sweet but always need to borrow some cash or your phone or can I have a lift or would you just sort this letter out for me, etc etc - could get themselves better organised but don't need to bother because you'll sort it out for them :) I've also realised that we're all a bit messed up/dysfunctional/peculiar in our own way and as long as it isn't abusive it's okay - I can forgive people for not being psychologically perfect and people can either accept my slightly crazy ways or not, it's their choice :)