Parent is the one with the terminal illness, but I (child of parent) feel that my own life is in danger. Career life, social / love life and general happiness of life are all at stake. Would like suggestions / advice how to proceed further. Warning: blizzard ahead.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
This has been a while in writing and there's a lot that has built up, so if this seems convoluted and wordy I apologize. The backstory is long and the questions are many. I hope you have the patience to read through it all.
I come from a family of first-generation immigrants, so the parents don't speak English very well. One of my parents was diagnosed with leukemia back during the summer. That's not hir only medical issue; suffice to say that the oncologist along with the rest of us were surprised that s/he made it through hir first chemotherapy treatment as well as s/he did.
I have invested myself entirely into the wellbeing of my parent. Even before the cancer diagnosis, with hir previous problems, I helped hir with med treatments and met with / conferred with the home health nurses. While parent was in the hospital I visited daily and tried to do what I can, and even developed my own sort of therapy treatment for hir since I saw not enough was being done at the hospital. Suffice to say that I've dedicated a lot of my time to hir care.
I feel as though I have no choice but to do all this. My other parent is in the 70s and hence doesn't have energy to do much -- already doing a lot by driving 2-3x a day to the nursing home (or the hospital, depending) to bring meals. (Diseased parent is a picky eater.) Though I have a sibling, s/he is not only in another city several hours away but also has a small child to care for. Hence I am the only one left.
But by investing all my time in caring for my parent, I worry that I am sacrificing my life away. For one, I am not even on a career path. I am now in my early 30s; I left home 7 years ago to teach English and came back home 2 years ago. Since then I haven't even settled into a plan of action: arrived home July 2010, took me 3 months just to get behind the wheel again, and 2011 was spent researching possibly going to grad school and picking up odd jobs semi-related to my areas of interest. I had started a career trajectory and was wondering where to go with it next. But thus far I've never even had a full-time job in the US here, never. I was thinking of going back to school to create a more natural progression from overseas to decent job... but I can't do that without leaving the area, and possibly the region, which means foregoing caregiving duties.
So now with this problem thrown in and possibly needing several years of my life (most likely more), I worry that I won't even be able to start a career. Caregiving for her takes up so much time as it is: though she is in a nursing home, I go to all doctors' appointments with her (she can't speak English well and also I'd like to know what's going on) and I have to arrange for nurses to accompany us during these visits. I also check on her at the nursing home daily to make sure everything is going well and if not discuss with the staff there. You could say this experience is great for someone interested in nursing / elderly care, but that is not where I want to go with my life. If you look at my background, with the years abroad and my academic interests, you can see clearly that I was leaning somewhere else before all this happened.
I have a part-time job; it's a job that looks good on a resume and I do enjoy it somewhat, but it's a VERY part-time job in an ultra-niche field. Basically I would get an assignment 4x per month. Granted I don't need much money now, as I am living at home with the healthy parent -- but am I going to live with the healthy parent indefinitely? Do I enjoy depending on my elderly parent to feed and house me? (NO.)
The job wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't in another city. When I have an assignment I have to drive through my city down the highway to a neighboring city, sometimes all the way to the downtown. It can take up to an hour, one way. And this is for someone who doesn't like driving the highway to begin with. Hence though I do enjoy the job, the commuting gives me a lot of stress which I feel particularly in my right leg from all the gas / braking. If I could find a job that was somewhat related to my career interests in my hometown, then of course I would ditch this gig, but I have combed and found nothing. (My hometown is not known for much international stuff, where my interests lie.)
And lastly, there's my social / love life. Socially I have practically no friends because there is basically no one with the same interests as me in this backwater area; also as said before I'm an ethnic minority (parents are immigrants remember) and most everyone else is on opposite ends of the racial spectrum. So people like me are very rare here. All the people my age are settling down and having kids anyway. Going out is a problem because I agonize over spending every penny since I don't have much income coming in at all. I have gone out and forced myself to buy a drink / appetizer to help myself feel more at ease and less pathetic, but there is always a twinge of guilt hiding in the back of my mind.
Love life is nil. The main crux of the problem is that I am gay and living in a rather conservative area, where all the native gay folk are closeted, repressed and full of guilt. Though I am coming to terms with my sexuality, I find it hard to find potential dates. There are 2 bars / clubs in town, but as I have basically no friends I would have to go to them by myself, which would make me feel stupid and even more lonely. There are the usual websites, Craigslist and all, but those naturally are seedier and not the direction I want to go. And yet there really is no other way for me to meet people except by answering online ads on these websites. My town is big enough to have gay social groups and I've tried going to them, but either everyone is much older than me, or they're incredibly established in their relationships, or they're people who are not interested me / I'm not interested in (again, minority problem). I could try looking around in the neighboring city where I have my assignments, but again the driving would drive me insane.
I have a ton of questions, but it all basically boils down to:
***should I continue taking care of my seriously sick parent or not?***
Broken down a bit:
1) Should I try to get a full-time job or stick with my very part-time job? If I get a full-time job, then I won't have time to take care of my parent without going crazy / getting drained / becoming very depressed and tired. There are days when I visit hir and feel really, really terrible looking at hir on the bed. No doubt I would be exhausted every day. But on the other hand, I'm not making much at all from this part-time job and it's not career-track.
2) Do I even have a shot at getting a career? If I continue caregiving, who knows how long that will need.... by the time it's all over I may well be in my 40s and by then I'll be too old for school and no company or boss or supervisor would want me. Optimally I would have a job with a flexible schedule so I could accompany my parent on those appointments...but in this job climate, what boss is willing to give so much to an old newbie?
3) What can I do to improve my social / love life? Websites are out, social groups are out, bars / clubs are out, hobbies are out. But the clock is ticking...already in my 30s and still very clueless how to proceed with this in this conservative area.
Basically, I just worry about my future.