I feel I’m really at the end of my tether

Dear Suzie,
I am looking for some advice to cope with stress. I feel that i am not coping very well. I am 40 and my partner of 2 years is 49 and he has advanced cancer of the bowel and liver. he has had 2 cycles of chemo and radiotherapy. I have felt increasing stressed and ill over the past 4 weeks especially. I am his carer and he has good and bad days when can be bedridden.

We have a 6 month old baby who is really good but still a responsiblity. We have just moved house which i had to do almost single handed and although keeping busy keeps my mind off of things I feel really at the end of my tether and exhausted .

I am angry and tearful and worry over absolutely everything. Our grown up children from previous relationships ranging from 18 – 25 are little use except to ask for money or lifts and seem unconcerned – my older son and my daughter seem to avoid the situation as they find it ‘depressing’. I have only one close friend to confide in and cant afford to see her much as she lives some distance away. My partner says he is fed up with my mood swings although i try to explain to him i am upset and stressed he thinks that as i dont have cancer i am the lucky one and should be happy. I spoke to my gp who says that i have situational stress and there is nothing to do about it as i was reluctant to take antidepressants. I am also about to go bankrupt for 42K after a disasterous 5 years of trying to make ends meet ie exhusband withholding maintenance, my brothers suicide, car crash, son off the rails etc. No one seems to be bothered and think that people assume that as I am ‘coping’ that all is ok. I have a respite babysitted 2X3 hour sessions a week but no other help. I dont know how long i can go on like this.

Well, for a start you can get rid of that bloody useless doctor of yours!!! “Situational stress”? What the hell does that mean? If he meant, as I might say, “Good grief woman, no wonder you’re feeling awful, anyone in your situation would!” then why didn’t he say it?

Because it’s true. What you have on your plate – a seriously ill husband, a baby, a house move, a family loss to suicide, a car crash, a son giving you cause for grief and no real support network – would make a superwoman quail. It would have me on my knees, I can tell you and I’m totally impressed you’re not a gibbering wreck.

But as for “Unless you let me shove chemical suppressants down your throat there’s nothing I can do…” …Oh rubbish!! What you desperately need is someone to talk to. Someone who will listen, who will confirm that what you are struggling with is overwhelming and that you need have no guilt at finding it so. On the accepted stress scale, house moves, new babies, sick partners all come top and the number of stress points you’ve racked up in the last year is enough to force anyone to the wall if it happened over five years!

Talking to someone would help you put all this into perspective and that in itself would make it feel a bit better. You need to stop feeling bad about feeling bad. And someone to talk to would help you see that being the carer of a partner who is seriously ill makes you just as worthy of and needy of help as the person who is ill. When you’ve had time to take a deep breath and get a portion of your anger, pain and grief out in the open, someone to talk to will then

What to do? Apart, as I said, from asking round and finding a more up-to-date, sympathetic doctor who can refer you for proper support, get in touch with the two main cancer charities, Macmillans and Cancer BACUP. Both have helplines and both – particularly Macmillan – could put you in touch with counselling care which is routinely given to the carers as well as the patients. Macmillan is at Macmillan and their helpline on 0808 808 2020. Cancer BACUP is at Cancerbackup , helpline on 0808 800 1234.

Then stop being so brave. That’s the problem with us strong women – we tend to turn away the help that could be available because we want to seem able to manage. When someone asks you how you are, say “Awful. What I could really do with is…” That gives them the chance to come through for you – and many will, if you give them the chance. Even your kids – sometimes people avoid illness, especially serious illness ,because it frightens the life out of them. “It’s boring” actually means “It’s horribly scary”. Tell them clearly how much you’d appreciate their support and you may get it. I do wish you the very best.

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