I cannot bear my life.

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

This is not a question, it’s a statement, because if the question is what do I do? I already know the answer but won’t do anything about it. In going for acceptance, the reality is resignation.
I cannot bear my life. There is no real outside reason, except a general disappointment and resentment that life is how it is.

I had a fairly good childhood, working class in a nice surburb. Didn’t really want for anything important. My parents were hard-working Irish immigrants. My mother was a disappointed, angry, child-like woman who couldn’t stand my father and was envious of almost everyone around her and such a martyr that she didn’t take care of her appearance or health, complained about both and almost everything else, but made sure the house was scrubbed clean and we had ironed and clean clothes and did our homework and ate well. My Dad pushed himself into the ground working and was generally very quite, stressed, and downtrodden.
She constantly criticized him. He got quieter, drank more, smoked more, did his job well (carpentry), and died of lung cancer. My mother took care of him round the clock in the end and told us in his last weeks he said he’s been working all his life with nothing to show for it and that he didn’t “get it.”

I’m the oldest of 6, thought, as others do in their youth, that the great wide world out there was exciting and that I would NOT end up like them. I never intended to get married or have children or hate my life as much as they did.

But through my own irresponsibility and stupidity, I did, but worse.

After years of working and traveling and still looking for “my purpose,” I had an unplanned pregnancy with someone I didn’t really care for. Stupid. I thought I could do it, I thought he was a decent guy and he was willing to go forward, I thought there was a reason I got pregnant at such a late age (37) and couldn’t justify an abortion, but that’s when the nightmare began. Like most people say, you are never ready for children, but I lost my mind and have been grappling with resentment, overwhelm, and depression ever since.

The marriage was a disaster. He was an adolescent, unwilling or unable to adapt to the responsibilities of wife and child, preferring to sleep in, play video games, brag about his meager salary on 25 hours of work a week, and take money from me when he was short.

Then my mother died 18 months later, my siblings got embroiled and fractured in a horrible argument over the will. I moved out of the apartment with my daughter, furious and frightened about the future – angry at him, my family, myself.
I continued to argue with and escape the husband who didn’t understand why I couldn’t be grateful for what I had – which as far as I could tell was 3 full-time jobs cleaning, shopping, working outside the house, trying to keep up with the filth at home with little help, trying to give my daughter a wholesome, stable life, lessons, time in the park, little playdates, trying to make friends with other parents, no cooperation over money, cleaning, family time, buying what we needed for the house, participating in family events .

Then through events too ridiculous to go into, I discovered I was pregnant again – abortion not possible because I was too far along before realizing I was pregnant – moron.

The second child was colicky – a 4-month-long nightmare I endured mostly myself because he was only coming by to see the kids and get dinner for his efforts. My family was busy with their own lives and unaware how hard it was despite my asking for help. A few visits to see how “cute” he was – but no babysitting or help to speak of.

I’ve been in therapy, studied philosophy, read religious material, gone to a 12-Step group, even read “The Secret.” I hear much of the same stuff when you boil it down. It’s about attitude, gratitude, and letting go, and doing your best. Life is rarely what we plan. But I refuse to accept life on life’s terms and can’t stand it.

The bottom line is I cannot stand my life. I hate almost everything that has to do with parenting – the dirt, the smells, cooking, cleaning, whining, interruptions, clothes shopping, grocery shopping, play dates, sleepovers. Nothing is ever done – or barely dented. My job is low-paying, my bills and mail are piled up along with dirty laundry, dirty dishes, toys on the floor. Almost everything is broken, dirty, or lost in piles. I am tired, unshowered most of the time, with crappy, old clothes. I feel like an old, poor, bitter, foolish hag, and I’m a semi-educated 44 year old woman.

I can see exactly where my attitude, actions, lack of action, etc. has gotten me into this. But I do little to nothing to change it. I get up and jump on the rat wheel for the day and get deeper in debt, deeper in dirt, and deeper in despair. I’ve got a lot of good things going on on the outside. I live in a good neighborhood, my children are healthy and active, but can’t get any joy or make change because I see that problems are the problems of everyone and life is hard and this is how it is and we’re all in the same boat so suck it up. I hate it and regret almost every decision I’ve made in this whirlwind of chaos. I chose to swim in anger and pretense every day. Some people would say be grateful for your children. I love them, but hate everything that goes along with taking care of them. I think they deserve better. I hate my life.

A: You’re right. Your kids deserve better — and so do you. You are in danger of repeating your mother’s life, doing all that is necessary but martyred all the way. Role models are powerful but they are not destiny. You can create a different role for yourself.

I actually have several suggestions for you: First, please see an endocrinologist. At 44, you may be perimenopausal – which could explain at least some of your angst. If your hormones are out of balance, that could be causing irritability, exhaustion, and general feelings of depression.

Second: You need some support. Since your family is unable or unwilling to provide it, you need to look elsewhere. Fortunately, you live in an area where there are a number of support groups that could be helpful. Check out this website. There’s nothing quite like talking with other parents who have kids who are the same ages. They have a level of sympathy and understanding that others, however well-intended, just can’t match. I hope you might meet another overwhelmed mom who would be willing to swap some practical help too. Attacking laundry and cleaning with a buddy makes the chores lighter. You go to her house one afternoon, she goes to yours another. The kids play. The women talk and work on imposing a little order. Trust me, it works if you can get into the spirit of the thing.

You’re also right that things won’t change unless you are willing to make some changes. I think you may be horrified to find that you are slipping right into your mother’s role. Horrified is good. Use that feeling plus the intelligence and stubbornness I see in your letter to do a healthy rebellion against your mother’s example. While you’re at it: Give yourself a break. Yes, you made mistakes. Yes, some of those mistakes put you on a life path that you are finding challenging. But those same mistakes gave you a family you would never have had and a chance to grow in new ways.

You said you’ve been in therapy. It might be helpful to go back so that you have someone in your corner, cheering you on, as you carve out a better life for you and your kids.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

Photo

 

 

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 16 Jul 2010

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2010). I cannot bear my life.. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 16, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/07/16/i-cannot-bear-my-life/