Compassion Fatigue & Relationships

Lately I've been feeling so tired, short-tempered, always irritated and just wanting to be left alone. Every day I wake up and reproach myself for not being more supportive the day before, and promise myself I'll do better. Rinse and repeat. Every day I wonder where my love for this woman has disappeared to, how can I feel so cold and dead inside, how can I be such a terrible person?
Then I started spending those sleepless nights really examining everything that had happened, and it all started to make sense. I'm not a cold, heartless person--I'm exhausted, drained dry, with nothing left to give. And yet, I keep on giving. What is this doing to me? What will it do to what's left of my relationship? How do I make things better?
In the relationship prior to this one, I spent 7 years as a caregiver to my boyfriend. Within the first two years, our relationship became sexless due to his ill health. Then eventually it became clear I wasn't even a loved best friend, I was a convenience, a necessity, and the easiest target for all his rage over his declining health. I had a health crisis myself, the only time in seven years I had needed to see a doctor. While I lay on the floor in agony, vomiting and crying, he took himself out to lunch. When I was released from the hospital two days later, I moved out and never went back.
I fell in love with a beautiful, strong, healthy woman. Life was a miracle again. Then shortly into our relationship, she got sick. Very sick, and no one could determine what was wrong. I cared for her, took her to doctors, cooked and cleaned for her. She had a surgery, and improved briefly. Then she got sick again. Soon she was sick all the time, and our entire relationship was about her illness, her doctors, her tests, her meds...This has been going on for over three years now, and she is sicker than ever, and we still don't have a root cause diagnosis.
I do everything I can for her, every day. Every day starts with a recounting of her aches and pains, every night ends with the same. All day, every day, an endless litany of various woes. I'm currently fighting with her work over her FMLA leave to try to keep her job, searching for doctors to run needed tests. It just never ends.
I know I'm the lucky one. I'm the "healthy" one. Or is it more accurate to say I'm the one who has no health insurance so I can't afford to get sick? I might have all kinds of health issues, but ignorance is bliss, right? I'm definitely the one who never talks about their own health, because it seems churlish when she has it so much worse. I'm the one who never expresses needs, because my job is to *meet* needs, not to have them. I'm the one who lives a celibate life, year in and year out, because she is too ill for sex.
I'm the one who pondered for 6 weeks before asking if we could have 5 minutes in the morning to talk about neutral things, happy things, before we started in on her illness. Apparently, we can't because it's not possible for her to go that long without bringing up something wrong with her that day. I was afraid it would be asking for too much, that five minutes of normality. It was.
So now I'm the one silently mourning the death of the relationship I had such hopes for. I'm the one feeling like the woman I fell in love with no longer truly exists. I'm the one who can't ever talk about how hard this is for me, because it is ALWAYS harder for her. I'm the one who can't have needs, have weaknesses, have fears. I'm the strong one.
A barrel made of oak may look strong and sturdy, but it can be scraped dry inside. it can be warped from improper use. The staves can snap, the whole thing fly apart.
Compassion fatigue has killed my relationship. I hope that if the ACA lets me obtain insurance I may after the first of the year be able to see a doctor, get on anti-depressants, and start healing myself. I just won't be able to tell anyone about it.
TwoWeevils TwoWeevils
51-55, F
2 Responses Oct 31, 2013

I can't understand why SHE wouldn't want to have 5 minutes out of every morning dedicated to normal, happy things, to not talking about her illness! Why anyone wouldn't. Did she flat out refuse this "luxury"?

I'd like to challenge your perception that it's always harder for her. It is unimaginably bad, and nigh impossible for people who haven't got a similar experience under their belt, to imagine the feeling when you resign, give up your life in hopelessness. And that's what you sound like.

Just like she, unwittingly wrapped up in this illness she never asked for, you are wrapped up in the role of a caregiver that you despise having to be. You are sacrificing your one special life for someone else's health. You have EVERY RIGHT to talk about how hard it is for YOU.

I just wanted to say, I think the absolute saddest part of your post is your last sentence. It's also wrong. You can share your negative feelings with other people. I think most people would completely understand your distress, considering the situation you are in.

The famous triangle;
The Persecutor
The Savior
The Victim

Decide which of them you want to be in a relationship,but if that decision is forced upon you,then you'll be exploited,even if you're the Persecutor.
Maybe you were the Victim at one point in your life and have chosen to be the Savior to others,which inevitably places them into the Victims role.

Perhaps you should expose to others that you suffer and have your pains,someone will step forward and comfort you,but if you are the Victim,you'll have to rewind back to that time when it didn't feel good,then work your way back up out of the pit to be simply yourself.

Complex I know,but once you're conscious of the role you're playing,then you can be free to choose!

This is interesting. It does certainly feel true, in a lot of ways. But are you saying there are only those three options in a relationship dynamic? When you say I could crawl out of the pit and simply be myself, would that mean that I was no longer in any of those categories? What is this relationship theory you're telling me about? Could I find info online or in books to read more about it, and how to effectively break the cycle?

Hear me right.....I am certainly not critisizing you in any way as I too am in that dynamic,we all are....when we're annoyed with our partners it's because we are the Persecutor for a moment. The word 'Crawl' is also applied to myself as we do tend to fall into things as kids,and it takes a lifetime to get out of it sometimes!

Google the 'Karpman Triangle' or 'The Drama Triangle''ll guide you to a better understanding of perhaps how the mechanism works between people.

I'm still covered in oil with all the parts splayed around....trying to fathom out the mechanism of how,why,who and when?

Just a quick insight as to what you may be experiencing;

Breaking The Drama Triangle
The Drama Triangle is a model of dysfunctional social interaction, created by psychotherapist
Stephen Karpman. Each point on the triangle represents a common and ineffective response to
conflict, one more likely to prolong disharmony than to end it.
Rescuer Persecutor

The Drama Triangle
Participants in a drama triangle create misery for themselves and others. The goal is to transform
this lose-lose situation and create a more positive outcome for everyone.
Each player in this particular mind game begins by assuming one of three archetypical roles:
Victim, Rescuer, or Persecutor.
• Victims are helpless and hopeless. They deny responsibility for their negative
circumstances, and deny possession of the power to change them. They do less than
50%, won’t take a stand, act “super-sensitive”, wanting kid glove treatment, and pretend
impotence and incompetence.
• Rescuers are constantly applying short-term repairs to a Victim’s problems, while
neglecting their own needs. They are always working hard to “help” other people. They
are harried, tired, and often have physical complaints. They are usually angry underneath
and may be a loud or quiet martyr in style. They use guilt to get their way.
• Persecutors blame the Victims and criticize the enabling behavior of Rescuers, without
providing guidance, assistance or a solution to the underlying problem. They are critical
and unpleasant and good at finding fault. They often feel inadequate underneath. They
control with threats, order, and rigidity. They can be loud or quiet in style and sometimes
be a bully.
Players sometimes alternate or “switch” roles during the course of a game. For example, a
Rescuer pushed too far by a Persecutor will switch to the role of Victim or counter-Persecutor.
Victims depend on a savior, Rescuers yearn for a basket case and Persecutors need a
While a healthy person will perform in each of these roles occasionally, pathological role-players
actively avoid leaving the familiar and comfortable environment of the game. Thus, if no recent
misfortune has befallen them or their loved ones, they will often create one. In each case, the
drama triangle is an instrument of destruction. The only way to “escape” the Drama Triangle is to
function as an “adult” and not participate in the game.

Holy Bean Dip!! I have never heard of this before, and am so grateful to you for giving me the info to go learn more about this.
The one thing I can see clearly is that in my last two relationships I ended up as the Rescuer and that I am the common denominator in those two situations.
Again, just so grateful to you for this info!!!

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