Struggling with my own mixed emotions

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

I have caring responsibilities for my mum and sister who both suffer with serious mental illnesses. This Christmas period has been extremely difficult for our family and I'm struggling to cope with the mixture of emotions I'm feeling.

My mum has been ill for nearly 2 years now but my sister's condition has been on and off for over 10 years. Before my mum got ill, she was the primary person to deal with my sister and did a great job at that. It's only now that I realise the sacrifices she made so that I could live a happier life.
My dad is the sole carer for my mum and is exhausted by that as it is. So with my sister being ill recently, it feels as though it's fallen to me to deal with her.
I find myself feeling constantly miserable when I'm home and angry when my sister has her meltdowns, yet whenever I leave the house to go to my boyfriends or see friends and escape, I am constantly overcome with an immense feeling of guilt.

I feel miserable with my current family situation and hate feeling as though I'm the only one that can help my sister when she's at her lowest, yet at the same time I want to do all I possibly can to alleviate any extra pressures for my dad.

I'm just wondering if anyone else can resonate with what I'm feeling and whether anyone has had any kind of talking therapy that has helped?
I currently go to a group once a month for those who care for people with mental illnesses which does help but I'm still struggling to cope with these mixed emotions all the time and am wondering if there's anything else that can help my situation

Any advice would be greatly appreciated
Charli x
Charli, that sounds really tough. Have your mum and sister had a Needs Assessment from Social Services, and you, a Carers Assessment?
What do YOU want from your life? Marriage, kids, career?
Thank you for responding. They've both been assessed for PIP if that's what you mean? I don't think I'd qualify for a carers assessment because I'm not considered sole carer for anyone? But my dad has had one.

I want all of that. I'll be finishing my training for my career soon so will be starting that and am hoping to move out in the next couple years or so but sometimes I feel terrified as to how much I'll have to care for my family in the future and what this will mean for my own future, as selfish as that might sound.

Charli x
Charli, you cannot be forced to do ANYTHING for your family. Family always think it's better to have someone in the family care for them, because they know them, but you gradually need to wean them off this idea. They really just need someone else to do things for them.
Anyone can ask Social Services (not DWP) for a Carers Assessment, the criteria for being a carer being that the care they provide has a significant impact on them, so surely you fit this criteria?
If you go to "Quick Links" at the top of this page, click, and lots of information pops up, about the assessment, and lots of other stuff too.
Start by making a list of EVERYTHING you do, put it in order of priority, and then share with us what you find most difficult. We can help you achieve what you want. Think about your role as Care Organiser as opposed to Care Provider.
What's wrong with your sister?

The grim prospect is that at some point, your mum and dad will be no more, and if your sister continues to need care, that has to be provided by someone else (NOT YOU!) - so maybe it's time to start thinking ahead to what really does have to happen as your parents age, and of course if your mum's health worsens.

Why does your sister need their care?

You should NOT feel guilty - you are entitled to your life, even if you do, very naturally, want to be 'on hand' for SOME of the time to help your parents - but they should not be in a position where they have to rely on you to keep the current situation going. If they DO rely on you to keep it going, then he situation has to change.....and 'something else' has to be sorted for your sister.
Thank you bowling bun I'll have a look into the carers assessment and start thinking about making a list of the things I do.

Thank you for your response Jenny, My sister has Bipolar which is sometimes very well managed but recently she's been starting to deteriorate which is what she has needed help with. I don't think they necessarily rely on me but I would just feel awful if I wasn't helping out. There's only four of us in my immediate family and with half of us ill, it would seem like I was doing a terrible thing by not helping out. Especially right now when I don't have my own house or children to look after.
But I do worry for the days when I do have those things and am less available to help.

Charli x
Charli,
A few years ago I had counselling, and the counsellor taught me to think differently. Not to keep thinking I should be doing... but instead to be proud of the help I was able to offer, because I had my own life, my own responsibilities, and I needed to BALANCE all the competing demands on my time. Also, that it was OK to say "No" to some things, but even better to avoid doing things by using different language. So if I was given one job, and another, and another (which often happened) I should choose which one I thought was most important, and see it through before starting the next one, saying things like "You asked me to do this for you, so let's get this finished, and we can then talk about what needs doing next. Often, the newly invented jobs would be forgotten about. I realised the jobs were just a way of keeping me at mum's house, it was my presence mum wanted most! Unfortunately, I would sometimes avoid going to see mum as she would often get her notebook out with the jobs that needed doing before she'd even said Hello. There were times when I needed a coffee and chat with mum without the jobs, when I was newly widowed and newly disabled.
If you can work out what annoys you most, or you find most difficult, we might be able to suggest coping strategies. You will never be able to change mum, or your sister, and you need to accept that. But you can change your reaction to them and their needs. It can feel liberating to take control.
I do understand the immense sense of obligation and responsibility and 'ongoing parenting' that parents of an adult child with MH of any kind creates - my brother and SIL feel that towards their almost middle aged daughter with chronic depression and all sorts of other 'issues', that keep her from being independent (luckily, she has a partner and lives next door, but they are always 'on duty' for if she has 'bad times' etc etc).

However, it CAN be that the kind of 'endless parenting' that is bestowed upon an adult child with MH is not, actually, in the daughter's best interests - it can keep them 'infantilised'. Yes, I appreciate that it's instinctive just about to keep looking afte 'a child in need' whatever the age of the child (ie, adult!) and whatever the need!

But for that very reason I agree that YOU having some counselling would be useful to help you identify whether your parents perpectual parenting is actually the BEST for your sister, or whether it is counterproductive by 'keeping' your sister in the state she is in.

If you read elsewhere on the MH section here you will see, time and time again, the distinction between SUPPORTING someone with MH and ENABLING them. The former strives for their independence from their condition, even if it's not fully achievable, whereas the latter KEEPS them where they are.

Obviously ,I would hope that your parents 'perpetual parenting' is the former, not the latter, and that your sister is as 'well' as the limitations of BP allow anyone to be, but it is worth checking that out with counselling!

You mention that your sister's mental health is deteroriating - is there any reason for that, and has that been explored, and is there any remediation of it? If it can't be improved, what will happen? Will she continue to deteriorate, and if so, to what point?

The reason I'm 'pushing' this is to try and get you to face up to the 'worse case possible' scenarios. Over and over and over again in Carer-world, we see people who have 'started out OK-ish' with caring, and then as the care needs just increase and increase they soldier on and soldier on until a 'catastrophic collapse' occurs. It's actually far better NOT to 'firefight with your back against the wall' but to look ahead to what is likely to be coming down the line, and to take pre-emtive action in whatever way mitigates against that 'worst case' scenario.

Even if your sister's MH does improve, can this deterioration restart, and if so, then what? And, as I mentioned originally, what is going to happen 'eventually' when your parents are no more? What will happen to your sister then?

Finally, you say you have no other 'commitment's (eg, husband/ children) - but what will happen when you do? And, worst of all, will you be 'allowed' to have a husband and children?? (I don't mean by your parents, who doubtless want a 'good life' for you, but by yourself??????)

MH is, without doubt, one of the most 'total afflictions' on a family - I've seen it utterly dominate by brother and his wife! - and it is, in a way, a 'life-sentance' not just for the person with it, but for so many others as well.....it's not an 'unselfish' condition, alas (however non-deliberate it is!!!!!)