Dear Annie: I’m 60 years of age. I’ve been trapped my entire life taking care of people – caregiving and people-pleasing. I’m always making sure everyone is OK when I’m all emotionally screwed up.
Since I was a teenager, this has been going on with family, friends and marriage. How do I separate myself?
I have observed that the majority of recent generations of children are so self-absorbed that I am trying to remove myself, yet this compulsion to take care of everyone continues to find me. – Always Giving
Dear Giving: You have built up some serious resentment while feeling obligated to take care of everyone else. Stop. The best thing to do is to create boundaries for yourself. If someone asks you to do something and you don’t want to do it, don’t do it. It is that simple. The word “no” can be very powerful. You don’t need an excuse; you can just say, “No, that doesn’t work for me right now.” Some people will be annoyed with your new boundaries, but they will respect you more in the long run, and most importantly, you will respect yourself more.
It’s time to take care of your own emotions. Seek the help of a professional therapist if you feel really terrible, but also try doing things that make you happy just for you. You certainly have earned that.
Dear Annie: My mother lives alone and has bedbugs in her living room and bedroom. She also has a lot of clutter.
She had a professional treatment of one of the rooms, but the bugs returned. She says that preparing for further treatment would be too stressful, so she is choosing to live with the bugs. She has refused any assistance from me or my siblings. We have offered to help her prepare or get rid of the bedbugs.
Lately, she is saying she thinks the bugs are gone because she can’t see any of them. But she cannot see very well, and when we check, we always find bugs. Because of this, we are limiting our contact with Mom to phone calls and occasional visits outside. It’s heartbreaking!
Meanwhile, Mom continues to have visitors inside her house, and she visits friends at their homes. Should we tell these individuals about the bedbugs? It feels like an invasion of Mom’s privacy, but we don’t want others to be bitten or carry bedbugs to their houses. What to do? – Bugged by Bugs
Dear Bugged by Bugs: Your mom’s inability to clear out the bedbugs has her feeling powerless, like it’s too much of an effort to clean, so she just lets them live in her house. You are right to be concerned. Living with bedbugs is not healthy for anyone. It is not right or ethical for your mom to allow people to visit her, knowing that the house has bugs.
Gently sit your mom down and have a very soft intervention. She can’t just live with bedbugs. It is unhygienic and unhealthy. She must do something about it, and if she won’t, then you have to take action. Start with a professional cleaning service, and set up a program for regular servicing so the bugs won’t return. If that fails, you and your siblings should consider trying to persuade your mom to go into assisted living.
Send your questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org.