Can’t a guy get a break?

The last several weeks have just wiped me out, hence my absence for the last week or so.  First was my roommate's whole medical fiasco and eventual return home (which was hectic enough), then my Mom fell ill, then I came down with a nasty summer cold (which is still not entirely gone), and now my roommate is back in the hospital.  It looks as though he might have cancer (lymphoma to be precise), but I won't bore you with the details.  Suffice it to say that he is once again quite ill and facing a serious health crisis.  To top it all off, work has been kicking my ass.  With emergencies and lots of big projects going on, I've barely had time to think clearly and certainly haven't had time to live my life.

And that brings me to my frustration of late.

As Jenny and I have been discussing lately, life has simply become too full of minding the affairs of others while my own personal life languishes on the sidelines.  I'm not saying I'm a cold-hearted bastard, but when did I sign on to be everyone's keeper?

I ask that because, for the nine months that my roommate was in the hospital the first time, I ran my ass off keeping his affairs in order since he was unable to.  I was also responsible for his health care when he was unable to make those decisions on his own.

Now, a few months later and back in the same situation (in the hospital, that is), it would seem that once again Derek's life falls on me to maintain.

It's not that I don't care about my roommate.  We're very good friends and have been roommates for many years.  Our interests have normally been similar and complementary, yet we both enjoyed the freedom of sharing living expenses while being able to live our own lives.

So how did it fall to me to be the responsible party when he fell ill?

I'm not a member of his family.  We're not married or dating or in any way involved.

Where's his family, you ask?  They've never been told about his condition nor that he has been close to death many times in the last two years.  That's a decision he made and I respected.  Now, however, I'm realizing that only exacerbated the problem as it was taken to mean that I did indeed accept responsibility for him.

Where are his friends?  They've never been told nor do I expect them to be told any time soon.

So who visits him in the hospital?  That would be me and my friends.  Who calls and asks about him?  That would be me and my friends and family.  Who takes care of his affairs when he can't?  That would be me and my friends.

At the expense of my own personal life, I have been forced into being the primary care giver for someone with whom I am no more than close friends and roommates, forced to sacrifice my own life and desires and plans time and time again in favor of his, forced to give up personal endeavors so I can manage his life, forced to make life and death decisions for his health and medical care, and the list goes on.

I've grown to resent him and myself for this entire situation.  I allowed it to get out of control and he's taken it for granted — taken advantage of me and my compassion in order to hide his condition from his own friends and family.

As I've explained to Jenny on many occasions and to my mother only recently, it's as if he's living vicariously through me now.  The only friends he has here in Dallas are my friends.  The only people who know about his condition are me, my friends and family.  The only people who take care of him are me and my friends.  The only people who will help him get the care he needs are me and my friends.  The only people who will clean up after him are me and my friends.

What's wrong with this picture?

As you might be able to tell from this post, I'm a little pissed about the whole situation.  Never having received a single "thank you" for all I've done already, I find myself in the same situation as before with Derek simply expecting that I will continue to handle his life while he's unable to do so, that I will continue to be his keeper, that I will continue to sacrifice my own life in favor of his.

Sadly, I've finally reached my limit.  I am not to be taken advantage of.  I am not to be stepped on simply because you can't or won't take responsibility for your own life.

Sick or not, hospitalized or not, I do not intend to keep doing this.  All of my free time is gone, all of my plans are canceled, and all of the things which are important to me are slowly slipping away as I have less and less time to focus on them.

This isn't living.  It's working for no pay.

And I fully expect Derek to be rather upset with me when he finds out I've decided we're not going to be roommates moving forward.  I intend to part ways this autumn or winter.  At this point in time, I feel it's the only way to force him to take responsibility for his own life, to use his own support structure of family and friends, and to stop using me — yes, I said he's using me.

Perception is reality, and I perceive that I am being used and have been for the last year at least.

Well, the buck stops here.

9 thoughts on “Can’t a guy get a break?”

  1. As we’ve discussed, this particular, latest incident, provides a window you need to use and did, to your credit. God knows I dont think I could have handled it as well as you. But finally you have to, in psycho-speak (and mind, I fully respect and owe my existence to the psychotherapists I’ve seen off and on since college, which was longer ago than I care to remember), set boundaries. or ‘just say NO!’. However this paricular position you found yourself in was one of extreme delicacy, not just due to the nature of the illness and ramifications thereof, but to the ethical and moral quandaries you had to confront. I think , IMHO, that you acquitted yourself quite well. But as I have said, he is not your lover. He is not your best friend. He is your room-mate. And you have a life to live, which may be compromised itself, and you need to decide when you give yourself permission to say “enough.”
    I love you

  2. I don't honestly think I've done anything that other people wouldn't do in the same position.  As Rick pointed out, when someone on crutches or in a wheelchair is at the door, you can't help but feel obligated to hold the door for them.  It's human nature to want to help and to provide for those who are less fortunate than we are, and this is never more true than when it is someone you know and care for (family, friend, significant other, etc.).  But there's a whole different spin to it when that same condition applies to someone who lives with you but is not your significant other.  Coming home every day knowing that you must spend so much of your own time tending to the needs of someone who is just a friend and roommate is something that I have found to be extremely difficult and injurious.

    As I said, I'm not a cold-hearted bastard, yet that's what I feel like in finally putting my foot down.  I feel as though I've done something wrong even though I know I haven't.

    I'm not looking for sympathy votes because I've been so nice and so accommodating for the last year-and-a-half.  This is my nature (as, I believe, it is the nature of most people) — to help when and where I can.  But to sacrifice so much under these circumstances seems, to me anyway, to be far more than one in my position should have to give, and it's certainly more than should be expected of me.

    And, as always, I appreciate you helping me with this, Jenny.  Just talking through it with someone is helpful, but you know me so well and understand my position.  You've been a guiding force through this and have helped me to understand that it is in fact OK to be selfish when appropriate — in this situation, for example, when his family would undoubtedly want to help.  You've helped me to realize that I have sacrificed a lot in a situation where it would have been acceptable to not do so.  I don't think you'll ever truly understand how much you mean to me and how much I love you.

  3. Well, holding the door for someone or helping someone with a large unwieldy package, is a one-off. It’s a temporary situation with a definite end. The situation that you find yourself in has no definite end, or rather of course it does, but that end is not necessarily in sight. It’s rather like caring for an elderly parent or a very ill spouse (same or opposite sex). Partner might be the better word as I don’t hold with marriage anyway. But that is not the relationship here.

    I suspect that in finally ‘putting your foot down’ you are feeling horribly guilty, which is why one of our conversations had to do with giving yourself permission to take care of yourself. Giving yourself permission to finally say enough, and the fact that *you* and you alone could do this, no one else could give you that. I think too there is anger that even though you might want to continue to give of yourself, you cannot. You cannot because it is destroying you. Those feelings are, I think, quite normal, especially in someone sensitive and caring. The past 18 months have been very difficult and you have paid a high price for that. I suspect however, that throwing yourself into his care has burned you out, an action I can certainly identify with. =) it’s not a bad thing, it’s focus and intensity, it’s throwing yourself without holding back into something, it’s a very good thing, it represents passion and deeply felt emotions, strongly held convictions.

    However, this particular arrangement has not been positive for you, it has been negative and grew more so as it went on. You were exhausted mentally, physically and emotionally, and that’s not a person who can care for another. And it’s not something you exactly signed up for here, you just did it and it kept going on and on and you kept taking on more and more. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, work blew up and began sucking you dry on its own. viola! burnout, exhaustion, anger, guilt. But it comes back to boundaries, it’s not that you won’t do some things for D, but you cannot do as you have been doing. You cannot. You drove yourself into the ground and you feel guilty that you are ……… what? human? mortal? a little selfish? Jas, it’s OK. You can let go and step back now. You won’t drop anything completely, but it’s time to hand this over to another. You’ve done enough.

    and I love you too Sweetie, more than I think you know

  4. Feeling guilty is definitely one way to put it.  I do feel as though I'm doing something wrong, betraying someone in a time of need, turning my back on someone who needs help.

    I suspect that it will take some time to get over the guilt as I have always been one to do whatever I can to help someone who legitimately needs it.  In this case, however, I know I've done more than most other people would in the same position.  I also know that we are just friends and roommates and that I cannot live the rest of my life under these circumstances.  Besides, if his family is never given a chance to help, they may never get a chance to help considering his condition at this point.

  5. you are not completely turning your back, nor am I. But you need to set some limitations on the expectations here and you need to ask that other folks be involved now. When this first happened, it looked like we were going to be burying someone pretty soon. That didn’t happen. But that makes a huge difference. Because now this has no finite end, and it’s time you handed this off to the next relay. You’ve acquitted yourself with exemplary laurels, but you cannot and did not sign up, handle this for the next 5-10 years.

    I want you to talk about it because I’m a firm believer in talking and working things out that way, but you are not obligated to continue. repeat: you are NOT OBLIGATED to continue.

  6. bah: expression of disgust: used to express scornful irritation, disgust, or contempt

    Really?  Such a limited vocabulary for one wishing to communicate so much information.

    You posted anonymously because you didn't want to be identified by me or your own family members who are also visiting here to read what they can about Derek's life and last few years.  Suffice it so say that such a simple mind should not be trusted to roam the internet without parental supervision.

    As for your comment, you're a small-minded, hypocritical and hateful little creature.  You expect everyone to be perfect and to never expose their human emotions regardless of the circumstances.  Since you've obviously never been in this kind of situation and you have such little regard for the person who cared for (and kept alive) your family member when you ignored his health crisis (and yes, I know you knew he was sick long ago yet did nothing about it), I say go fuck yourself.

  7. Then you should have informed his family long before the situation got out of hand and long before you got “tired” of being “used”. You didn’t even have to use your name if you felt like you were betraying someone you grew annoyed with. An anonymous letter or phone call would have been all the information his family would have needed. A little something to raise a red flag that something was seriously wrong seeing as he disclosed that information from his own freinds and family. It is greatly appreciated for all that you have done. Please, in now way feel that that has gone unoticed. And for that, thank you. Your annoyance with Derek should have forced you to do alert his family a little sooner, don’t you think?

  8. First, don't tell me what to do.  Were you there?  No, you ignored Derek's health problems until it was too late.  You knew something was terribly wrong, yet you did nothing.  Considering that, don't presume to think you can judge me in any way.

    Second, don't try to take your guilt out on me.  I didn't fail him.  Despite feeling this way (which would be quite normal for anyone under such stress), I took care of him regardless of the personal sacrifices.

    Where were you?

    I am human and I do have feelings.  I was under tremendous stress at the time, so can you honestly fault me for feeling somewhat resentful?  Notice I said "I felt like" rather than saying "I was."  There's a big difference, so I suggest you pay attention to that next time.

    I have feelings.  When I get stressed and fatigued and overwhelmed, things look far worse than they actually are.  Have you never been in a similar situation?  Unlikely.  Have you ever thought or felt something so strongly that later seemed an overreaction?  Or that was wholly incorrect later but seemed entirely true at the time given the overwhelming circumstances you were faced with?  Of course you have.

    On a personal note, I will not be your whipping boy because you feel guilty for your own failures with Derek's situation.  I didn't ignore the signs that were so blatant and in my face.  I didn't sit on my suspicions of his health crisis until it was too late.  I didn't leave it for someone else to deal with when I knew my own family member was so terribly sick and probably dying.

    Don't take it out on me because you failed, because you weren't there for him, because he trusted me with his life more than you.  The fact is you weren't there for him and I was.  Despite how I may have felt when under this seemingly portentous strain, I didn't turn my back on him.  On the contrary, I took care of him when you didn't.

    It may be easy for you to make such judgments with the benefit of hindsight, but I refuse to let you beat up on me because you feel guilty about your own failures in this situation.  I suggest you point that anger and guilt back at yourself where it's due and just.

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