At the age of twenty three I was so tired, and wondered how long I could keep caring. My brother had his heart transplant, and I went interstate to help for the duration of his hospital stay. When we got home, I went travelling for a month. While travelling I tried not to think about it. I convinced myself I could keep caring with more boundaries and balance when I got home.
Once things had settled and I could allow my needs to surface again, I became very unwell both mentally and physically.. I couldn’t handle the reality of being a carer anymore. I didn’t want to leave, but I knew I had to.
I felt guilty and wretched with anxiety. I felt like I was putting my mum’s and brother’s health at risk, and I was abandoning them. How would they manage without me? Of course we discussed plans but it never felt enough to put my mind at ease.
It was a very conflicted time for me. I was excited about moving on, but also scared. I kept caring, until one day I snapped. Everything came crashing down and I realised I was heading towards completely breaking down.
At first only mum, dad, brother, my GP and my closest friends knew. I needed privacy for myself and my family so we could come to terms with what had transpired without judgement. I thought people might think I had abandoned my family. I had received so much praise and accolades caring for my family and was worried people would think less of me for “giving up”.
The people I told understood and were relived that I had taken this step for me. They could see toll of caring and wanted me to be well and happy.
It all turned out to be very different than I imagined. Nearly everyone was accepting and some were even excited for me.
When I left home I was relieved, but hugely guilty, partly because I didn’t leave because things were getting better for my family. I just had to put my own health first.
Establishing a new identity separate from caring was the biggest challenge. Even when I couldn’t care anymore I struggled to pull myself away from it. It was who I was.
When I first left, I kept very busy. I luckily secured a job and found somewhere to live. I decided the best way to do this would be to move into a share house with people I didn’t already know. I was lucky to find somewhere full of people that I felt I could become friends with. It was hard to adjust to a new living situation and new personalities. I had to really put myself out there at a time of my life when I felt like I could just cosy up and ignore the world.
Since leaving, my mum and I have almost restored a normal mother daughter relationship. My brother no longer resents me and wants to spend time with me. Dad and I are still very close but our relationship seems much less tense, and I feel like there are fewer expectations on me.
My friendship with my close friends has changed too. I had felt I was always taking but am now able to give. For a while I was drawn to providing a high level of emotional support to people in my social circle. It took me a while to figure out that I didn’t need to and set boundaries so I could focus on me.
It’s still not easy, and there are times I still step in to help, and do so around work. It’s great to see my family finding new ways of managing and developing their own resilience. I have a great group of friends now, and am having a lot of fun. I didn’t ever think I would be where I am