Question: I am caring for my boyfriend. He has had 3 or 4 surgeries in the past year and has a potentially life threatening illness. He contributed very little physically and financially when he was well, caused property damage to my home, sabotaged my work, commandeered my vehicle, has foolish, childish tantrums, and throws garbage everywhere. I resent doing anything for him. He works from home now, for about 10 hours a day, slamming on the keyboard and yelling. I have been unsuccessfully looking for work to become financially independent and get him out of my house. I'm also running my own business, but I'm having difficulty with that because the stress has become so overwhelming that I'm having trouble sleeping or even breathing, and I suffer from severe panic attacks. I can't think straight anymore to make wise decisions. I don't even know what my question is, other than the fact that I've stopped being able to function and am suicidal. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
Dr. Amy: It sounds like your life has been very stressful this past year. Because you mention that you feel suicidal, I strongly recommend you call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) right away. This is a suicide prevention help line for Nebraska. The counsellors can talk to you about your situation. I encourage you to call without delay. They can also refer you to people and organizations in your community that can help you get clear about what you want, and they can help you make plans to move forward. It can feel overwhelming. You need support making a path for yourself. Reach out now.
I also encourage you to see your doctor and discuss how to cope with your anxiety. It's hard to think straight when you're in the grip of anxiety, so it's important to get that under control.
It sounds like your boyfriend, too, needs help. He must be very frightened by the events of the past year. He needs to find a way to release his fear and anger. There are many ways to do this. He needs to find the ones that work for him, given his health situation and personality. His doctor or the hospital can recommend places for him to get help. A support group for his disease would be a good start.
The important thing is for you to move forward. Reach out for help now. Don’t give up, and don't try to go it alone. Don’t keep living the same day over and over again when it’s not working for you. As Albert Einstein said, "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." I encourage you to look for new ways of thinking about your situation--and your options.
Something that I have found helpful in my own life is the idea, put forth by Eckhart Tolle, that we need to pay more attention to the present moment. In his book The Power of Now, he talks about how much negativity can go away if we can be more present with what 'is', without judging it. How do we want to 'be' in this moment--both with ourselves and with others? It's not about tomorrow or even later today--just this minute.
I am sure there is greatness within both of you and that you have something unique to contribute to your community. Establish long term goals for yourself, but break those goals down into a series of very small and manageable tasks. Don't look up at the mountain of work ahead of you. Just focus on now--what's in your power to control, and what you want for yourself.
Good luck to you on your journey. I send you strength.
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