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Living With My Decisions

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It is difficult to decide how much I can devote to the illness of my family members and still have some wholeness in my own life. I am afraid that I am avoiding the pain of trying to deal with some very painful situations by limiting the time I spend trying to meet the needs of my family. I don't want to make irresponsible or selfish decisions and then be eaten up by feelings of guilt. How much is enough, too much or too little? I definitely cannot be a "fixer" since there are no solutions. My older sister has a very rare, progressive disease that is incurable. It's called PSP, Progressive Supranuclear Palsy. She has been deteriorating for 6 years and can no longer talk, can walk only a few steps with a lot of assistance, and has great difficulty swallowing her food. My 101 year old Mother lives 1,000 miles from me in Michigan and never sees a family member except for me. My older sister cannot travel and my younger sister does not visit our Mother even though she lives only 18 miles from the assisted living facility where Mother lives. My younger sister is schizophrenic, very intelligent and very manipulative. My parents tried so hard to "fix" her and that was an impossible task. What my sister learned is how to use her illness in super manipulative ways to get things she wants. It is hard to separate real problems from purposeful dramas created to control others. I have been the primary person trying to help her (younger sister) for the last 14 years. I feel so empty after I fly to California to encourage, love and support my older sister. I feel the same way when I leave Michigan and never can come up with the solutions or do enough to resolve my younger sister's complaints. My Mother thinks my younger sister does not have a car because she never visits her. We provide a car and take care of the related expenses for her but that car is not nice enough, good enough etc. I am tired. I have to really work to maintain a happy demeanor when I see my older sister's suffering. She is so brave. I don't know where she gets the strength to keep trying to walk and talk etc. Two weeks is my limit for each visit in California. When I get back home I am exhausted. I had a pacemaker implanted in mid November, 2014 and have had to adjust to various medications designed to deal with heart arrhythmias. I have always been a solid, competent person but do not feel very strong and capable now. Depending on a pacemaker and drugs to function well does have a psychological effect. I am torn between not knowing if I am doing everything that I should to nurture and support my family and still maintain my own health and have a life of my own. I don't want to feel guilty later if I feel that I have not made the right decisions or done enough. I feel like I just recover from one trip and then am off again to fly to California, or drive to Michigan. Maybe I am weak. Maybe I have a bad attitude. It is so difficult when there are so many circumstances beyond my control. I am a watcher of the unfixable. I am 73, soon to be 74 and work out 5 days a week at an exercise class trying to stay as healthy as possible.

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How much is too much or too little? When you notice you don't have time for you, it is too much...all we can do is prioritize and try to strike a balance. Try to let go of guilt, it doesn't add to your quality of life one bit. As far as I can see, the only benefit to guilt is to call our attention to something we need to change. You're already considering everything you can, so guilt's purpose is needed no longer! Let go of it. If you have a hard time letting go, try to see a counselor to get help with it. Peace to you.

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