I have weird feelings of guilt/empty-nest role reversal?? My parents are relatively young (dad is 54, mom is 57), and I just moved out a few months ago 500 miles away, and I am scared to death that something is going to happen to them and I won't be there to save them. Is this psychological torture completely crazy?
posted by LemonGardot to human relations (16 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Hi MeFi world. You really helped me see the light before, and I'm hoping you can shed some on my current situation. sorry for the lengthy post (I kind of diarrhea-ed my feelings out here), but I really wanted to get feelings (accurate and perhaps superfluous) across. I appreciate your help. Here goes:
My parents are healthy (other than poor eating habits which has led to them packing on some extra pounds). I am the oldest of 3 (me-26, bro-24, sis-21), and I just left the nest after some non-profit post-grad stuff, and moved 500 miles away from the parents and brother. I am home for the holidays, and am sick to my stomach to know that I have to leave my family in 3 days to go back to where I moved to (I refuse to call this new place home because in my mind, I can only call where my parents are, "home"...crazy yet?) Because I have a strange, oftentimes debilitating, feeling that is close to a sort of emotional gasping for air, almost a choking feeling when I think about not spending enough time with my family, my boyfriend takes this to be a "disinterest" in him because I tend to choose my family over him (I think I spend a balanced time with him and my family when I am home for bouts at a time...but this is about WHY I feel the way I do about my family and not why he feels insecure about the time I spend with them....I digress...)
Anyway, oftentimes I get the feeling, or at least I psych myself out, by a little voice in my head that tells me that my parents are getting old without me, that they are lonely without me, that I should be the one to take care of them and make them happy--maybe this is a weird psychological obligation I feel to role-reverse. I don't know where this sense of morbidity comes from. It is almost to the point where, when I am not with them or if I spend long bouts of time away from them (for instance, if I spend an entire day at my boyfriend's), this immense and overwhelming guilt wells up inside me to think that they could be gone any second. Something could happen to me or to them, and I could lose them forever, the last time I ran out the door being the last time I'll ever see them again.
I am terrified, TERRIFIED, that something will happen to my parents, and I won't be there to help, offer support, or say goodbye, or just be there. This is where it really affects my sense of "freedom" because when I think about this fear of mine (realizing it might actually be crazy), I wonder how I will ever be able to live my own life and be happy, being wherever I want to be, without worrying that they need me or that I am not fulfilling my duties as a good daughter, or terrified of the guilt that I know is looming should something happen and I am not there.
And I know my parents are perfectly capable of handling their own lives by themselves and through the strength of one another. They both have jobs they enjoy, a nice house in a nice neighborhood, my brother still lives with them. So, perhaps my fear is rooted in a selfish confession buried inside me revealing the truth that I am scared to live my own life without them. And I know I can keep my own self afloat. I enrolled in a school, and paid some expensive tuition, moved my butt up to Boston, and snagged myself a sweet job. But still, there's a child in me that years for parental approval (WTF??), for them to pat me on the head and say, "good girl", and who wants to be assured that they will drive the 10 hours north, pack up all my stuff in the family station wagon, and carry me home when I'm homesick and have had enough of this fake adult-like life.
My parents do not harbor these feelings of guilt inside me, however, and want nothing but the best for me and want me to be happy, traveling the world, seeing different places, meeting new people, being as successful as I can be, etc. My fears became reality one night when I had driven home from my boyfriend's place at around 1 am (they don't like me staying over...that's another MeFi post for another time..), but I walked into the house, music still playing, lights on, half-eaten dinner on the table, with a note from my mom that had said they'd gone to the hospital. My father had had pains in his shoulder and back. This was enough to drop me into a depressing state of emotional panic and guilt, as I got back into my car, and rushed to the hospital, where I found my parents, and cried when I got there, guilty tears pouring down my cheeks after having not heeded my dad's cautionary "don't be home too late" he'd given me earlier that evening. Had I been home, I could have accompanied them to the hospital. Had I been there, my mom wouldn't have had to go alone, not have been scared alone, my dad wouldn't have had to fill out the paperwork with his shaky hand. I could have done it for him.
I am grateful for the love and loyalty I feel towards my family, but I wish I could live my own life, accepting what life gives me, and accepting that my parents will be ok without me. THese feelings are really emotionally debilitation, like I said, and I think I have started to fade into a slight depression being now 500 miles away from them, constantly worrying about them. I just feel fatality creeping up on me, and the fact that they do not have very good nutritional eating habits furthers this feeling of guilt since I am currently getting a masters in nutrition and this makes me dread the point in their lives when they (or parts of their bodies and insides) finally succumb to their horrid nutritional habits. I, their own daughter, their own flesh and blood, their own masters candidate in human nutrition, couldn't save them. I am supposed to be devoting my life to saving people from preventable nutritionally-related diseases, and what if I can't save my own parents.
I'm a mess.
(Last additions: I am also a very social person, so this may be compounded by the fact that I spent many days and evenings talking with my parents about different things and now that I live alone, I don't have that.)
Please please help. I pray everyday for tranquility and serenity. Honestly, I should probably just see a shrink. If it makes a difference, I frequently contribute feelings like this to my own self-admitted "Catholic guilt", but who knows.