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Long distance relationship and anxiety/depression - Carers UK Forum

Long distance relationship and anxiety/depression

For issues specific to caring for someone with mental ill health.
Hi all,

I'm new here, I didn't know where else to turn right now. I'm still not sure how much I count myself as a carer, but I've been told I am so.. I hope this is okay.

My boyfriend and I have been together for a few years. We're currently long distance as I had to move a few hour's drive away due to illness in my family. I'm now training to be a nurse (finishing in November) and planning on moving back to where he is, and moving in with him, in the house he bought last August.

He's had depression since he was a teenager (he's 31 now), but for the last few years, he's been well, he even got off medication about 3 years ago.

In October, he started getting bad anxiety attacks. He had to stop work in November. He's not worked since. He did go straight to the doctor, and they've been trying various meds, and he's just started CBT. He's okay financially until May or so, but obviously he's worried about the mortgage if he can't work after then. I've said I'll find a way to pay it, but it's a worry.

When he gets bad, he shuts me out. I go down about once a month, but it's hard to go more often as I'm so busy with uni (i also help look after my dad, who is disabled following a stroke) . The last week has been awful, we've barely spoken. He thinks he partly does it because it makes it easier to cope with missing me, which almost makes it worse...

I just feel so helpless. I'm too far away to do the easy things like make sure he eats, or do the shopping. I just worry all the time, and it's beginning to really get me down.

I don't even know what I'm looking for. I just feel lost, fed up, helpless. I also find myself getting angry with him at times.. I don't tell him that, but it makes me feel so guilty. I know he's not trying to hurt me on purpose. I feel like my feelings are so insignificant compared to what he's going through.

Sorry for the long rant. I just don't know where to turn. I'm pretty sure my friends are sick of this, I'm starting to avoid talking to people about it.

Thanks for listening.
Hi corinne and welcome. It sounds like you have a lot to cope with right now I'm a trained nurse so I no how hard the training is and you're trying to look after your father and boyfriend too. It's ok to feel angry sometimes we all do and I wonder if you actually get any time just for you. You need to look after yourself to enable you to cope with the demands of caring for others . My husband suffered with depression fo years but he seems much better now so there is hope for the future for your boyfriend. Don't know if I've helped much but wanted you to know people care and it's good to let off steam on here
Hi Corrine
You don't say how old you are, but I guess fairly young yet. You are between a rock and a hard place with two men in your life who need a carer. Caring is hard, very hard and you have to put yourself, your life, your needs, your ambitions, your potential, your whole self, on the shelf, second, not considered, not important, not fulfilled for ever (or so it feels and indeed can be).
Love rules all but if the person you care for is your child, then the overwhelming urge, understandably and rightly, is to provide that care. When it is your parent, then 'duty' kicks in and obligation and responsibility. If it is your partner, (married or not) then add shared life, shared home, shared past, shared children and that promise perhaps, for better, for worse.
Now your brief description of what is happening is flashing bright red danger lights to me. Yes, you love this man, that I 'get' , but just maybe you love the man who has been 'well' during your relationship. He is now changing into another much more needy and non supporting person.
OK look at it like this. Your best friend comes to you and says 'I was planning a career in nursing, but I am also planning to move away from my father who needs help after a stroke, so I will have to look after him from afar and keep driving back and fore. In the meantime my fiancé is shutting me out because he has mental health problems but I am planning to take care of him too and it doesn't matter about me or my hopes and my career because I've got to spend all my time looking after them now. Oh, and I'm going to buy my fiancé's home for him.'
What would you say to your best friend?
Hi - a lot to cope with! No wonder it's stressing you out!

Sometimes, a problem divided up can be a problem that becomes 'manageable' .....let's see:

You have three areas of stress:

(1) your training
(2) your dad
(3) your boyfriend.

Now, if I asked you 'which is the most important to you?' you might come up with an 'instant answer' that MIGHT be the 'true' one, or might simply be the one that causes you the most 'problem'.

For example, the one that causes you the most stress might be (3) (because you are far away, because its the one you most want NOT to be a problem, etc), or it might be (2) because it's the one that 'irritates' you the most, keeping you tied to a parent and their needs when young people want to be 'free'.

However, the one I'd say that actually IS the most important is (1).... because it is the only one that is about YOU!

Would it be fair to say that you could cope with TWO of your problems, but not all three?

Right now, if dealing with all three problems is 'too much' (and it sounds like it is!), then you have to find ways of reducing the problem load, either by cutting one of them out together (eg, dumping the boyfriend!)(bit drastic, but it's a possible!), or 'handing your dad's care to someone else' , or 'putting your studies on hold'.

How long have you spent training to be a nurse (ie, how much of your time and effort and possibly money too have you invested?). You've got another six months or so to complete - is therefore sensible to make this your priority, because once you are qualified you have reached a secure level for your future, and can then, if necessary, 'take a breather' to focus on your other problems then (dad and boyfriend.). What would happen if you asked your course for an 'interruption of studies' due to personal family issues (dad and boyfriend)? What would be the implications? Is it worth considering?

What are the care issues around your dad? Does he have any alternatives to you? This is not about what he might WANT - he might WANT to be looked after by you (most parents do), but what can actually be provided by someone else (other family members, professional care workers, etc). How long is his care going to have to last (you talk about being able to move away come August, so is he supposed to be better by then?)

Finally, the stress your boyfriend is causing you. I would say that as you point out, the distance factor is adding to your stress....BUT, it is also, again as you point out, enabling him to 'shut you out', and you don't like that. Do you don't like it because you feel he may be mentally withdrawing from you (ie, making it easier for the relationship to wither away and end?). To me, him saying that it's easier to cope without being in touch with you is actually something you should welcome! I mean, if he's coping better without you, leaving you free to focus on your training and your dad, then isn't that good?

Also, and this is 'darker', the fact that you have now been exposed to your boyfriend when his MH issues come to the fore again, does show you what life together is likely to be like 'for ever' - MH is 'in the mix' of his situation ,and yes, people do 'outgrow' it, or get 'permanently cured' etc etc, but for many, many MH sufferers it is always 'there' as a possibility - relapse can happen and being 'on-off' with MH can simply be their way of life all their life....

That is really, really something you have to face up to! And yes, it may well be that you can cope, and commit to someone with MH - take it on board as part of your marriage - the 'for better and for worse' aspect.

But seeing what is entailed (as you are doing now) is essential to making that assessment of whether or not you can wholeheartedly commit to such a difficult relationship.

(EVEN IF you do decide to commit to someone with MH problems, you will need to remember, all through your marriage, that you are his PARTNER and not his nurse! He HAS to b e able to function as your PARTNER - shoulder to shoulder! - and not your PATIENT!) (Sadly, 'needy' people, however vulnerable they are, very, very often home in on 'caring people' to look after them......)

(Do you know what set him off again by the way? What is he so anxious about that he cannot work any more?) (Loss of daily routine and structure probably isn't helping him at the moment??? Alowing him to 'spiral downwards'??)

In practical terms IF IF IF IF you go down the route of paying his mortgage for him you MUST do so in the form of a loan only! Either that or the mortgage terms have to be rejigged so that YOU start buying equity in the house (with the mortgage lender's approval of course!). YOU CANNOT AND MUST NOT simply 'pay' the mortgage out of your own money, without having either a 'note of hand' (loan note - you can type it yourself: 'I, xxx, have leant £xxx to xxxx, to be repaid by xxxx' which you then sign and date, and he does too), OR a rejig of the mortgage so you 'buy in' to the value of the house.

Wishing you well, but I do think it's a question of reducing your stress load, either by shaving some stress off each of the areas, or ditching one area completely to deal with the other two. Easier said than done, but if you put too much stress into you, then, like a bucket that is overfilled, you'll crack catastrophically and spill all the water.....

Kind regards for now, Jenny
Following up on Jenny's post, you are far too close to completing your studies to withdraw from the course. Try to avoid interruption too as you will lose momentum. Becoming a nurse is a real way forward for YOU.
I agree - you are now so close to finishing, it would be a huge shame to stop now, even if only for an interruption/delay (even if that's possible.)

Also, to put it bluntly, what would giving up achieve? If you still have to stay to look fter your father (how is the student situation working out, location-wise? I don't quite see where you are based as a student!), then you can't be with your boyfriend anyway!

And even if you could 'rush to him' what would that achieve? If he is in treatment, and starting CBT, (great!), then what else could you bringto the party? If it's just getting shopping in, use online shopping for him. If it's getting him to eat, well, he'll eat when he's hungry! He can live a few months on easy-cook junk food, etc etc.

You see, I suspect that you are simply undergoing an 'urge' to rush to him and 'look after him' in a way that really, in practical terms, isn't that necessary......

As I say, it's absolutely vital for your long term future with him, if it is to be, that you do NOT make yourself constnatly 'on call' for him! You must have done enough MH training as a nurse to know the dread word 'enablement' (!) and the even worse one 'co-dependency' (!!), to know that its essential your boyfriend develop a resilience himself, to cope with any recurrant bouts of his MH, and that to do so you musn't encourage any 'unhealthy' dependency on you.

Long distant relationships are always hard, and take a toll (my son is in one at the mo!), but they are good if they develop trust, resilience, self-reliance and above all are an investment in a future together (ie, your essential professional qualifications.)

Finally, you say that your feelings are not as important as his - well, yes, they are, actually! Again, and this is going to be vital for a happy future with him, you cannot and must not subjugate your own problems to his. YOU TOO have as much right to your feelings, your reactions, as he does!

Partners live 'shoulder to shoulder' together - they may 'take turns' in leaning on each other, that's fine, but it cannot and must not be a 'permanent lean' from one on the other.

Finally (finally!) is your course tutor aware of the stresses on you at the moment? Please do make it clear to him/her that you are currently your father's post-stroke carer, and are coping with a long-distance relationship with someone with MH. You're not asking for special favours, but if your results etc start to drop, because of the stress, then you need your course to be on your side and to understand why.

Hopefully, this time next year your father will be considerably better, you will be professionally qualified in a satisfying if busy job, and your boyfriend will have pulled through this latest bout, be back at work and you'll be living together and paying a mortgage not a rent - and your future will have started. :)