Looking after my girlfriend, trying to cope

Hi everyone

So until this morning I wouldn’t have thought of myself as a carer… until I was talking to a friend (who is in a similar situation) about how I’ve been struggling and she pointed out that it seems like I’m at least sometimes in a caring role.

I don’t really know how to feel about this, I know people care for their partners often but I don’t think my girlfriend would like the idea of me being her carer - she already feels guilty when I have to look after her as she feels it’s something I “didn’t sign up for”/shouldn’t have to do.

For context, I’m 24F university student, she is 29F working as a nurse. We’ve lived together about a year. She has some mental health conditions though she takes medication for them so they’re generally under control. What she really struggles with and what I help her with is endometriosis, and now chronic fatigue after having COVID last year. She has extremely low energy most days, from a combination of these conditions, medication which makes her sleepy, and working an extremely taxing job.

I have ADHD, which affects my memory & ability to focus - I find it hard to remember tasks I have to do, motivate myself to do said tasks, and generally keep on top of housework although I do try. It also affects my sleep so I feel tired most of the time. I’m not medicated for this at the moment.

As far as helping her, I do the cooking (sometimes bringing her meals in bed when she can’t get up), most of the shopping (she sometimes feels up to going, but it is usually me), washing, etc, try to stay on top of the cleaning. These are things I would be doing for myself if I lived alone obviously, but with two people it seems like a bit more effort, I guess because I’m working around someone else’s preferences/schedule etc. Also obviously there’s providing emotional support, running baths, bringing hot water bottles, giving massages, researching pain control methods, keeping company, sometimes staying up through the night when the pain is too intense to sleep.

So, when she’s not at work my gf spends a lot of time in bed. If she’s not been able to sleep through the night she often sleeps in the day. She does have hobbies but rarely finds the energy to enjoy them which is a huge shame. This also means we don’t really get to do things together. We both like going for long walks/hikes for example, but she never has the energy or she’s in too much pain.

This has started to knock on to my hobbies/free time as well. I find myself just not really doing anything. It feels like I’m worn out from trying to support my gf, or I don’t want to start something in case she needs me part way through. I also really struggle with guilt. I don’t feel like it’s fair for me to do something fun while she’s in the next room in agony, or for me to go out on a walk and leave her at home by herself.

It doesn’t feel fair to her, but it… doesn’t really feel fair to me either? I feel really guilty for feeling like this - of course I wish her pain would go away so she wouldn’t have to suffer and that’s my primary concern, of course. But I also partly wish it so we could spend time together, so I wouldn’t be feeling so worried and guilty all the time, so we could go out and do activities together and not just sit in bed watching TV all day.

I’m finding it impossible to strike a balance here. Even if I do muster the energy to go out for a walk with a friend, for example, when I come back home and find my poor girlfriend has just been lying in bed in pain the whole time, the guilt is so immense. I think about how lonely I would feel if our roles were reversed, if I was the one feeing unwell and she left me alone. I’d hate it.

The unpredictability of her condition is also really difficult. Today, for example, I had an activity scheduled with some friends (online, sigh) but as my gf is not working I offered to reschedule it so we could have some extra time together, and she said yes - great! But then her pain got worse, and now she just wants to lie in bed… by herself. Which is fine, I know it’s not her fault and I don’t blame her. But I feel really sad that I’m now missing out on my activity (which I only get to do once a week) and I don’t get the time with my gf either. No one’s fault but it’s so frustrating and feels so unfair.

Like so many days, I haven’t managed to do anything today. Just sit around feeling miserable and hard done by and sorry for both of us. Some days I feel so sad about this whole situation that I feel nauseous.

Because of my ADHD, it’s really hard for me to get up and start my day without a routine, but I can’t have a routine when I don’t know how my gf’s pain will be and what the consequences will be for our day. Well, I probably could, but it feels utterly beyond me to come up with one by myself at the moment.

Sorry for this really long post. I suppose I just wanted to vent, maybe find some support. I feel guilty about this too, but I’m getting tired of venting to people (with their permission of course!) and they focus on how hard it is for my girlfriend and how sorry they feel for her. Of course she deserves endless sympathy. Sometimes I just want a little bit for myself too.

Hi & welcome

As you both have different health and medical issues. It’s important to both seek outside help.

Helpline | Endometriosis UK.

Given you are at Uni and your partner is a nurse. Within these settings you should both be able to access some services.

Are you a carer there are many definitions of what a carers is. One definition below.

A carer is anyone, including children and adults who looks after a family member, partner or friend who needs help because of their illness, frailty, disability, a mental health problem or an addiction and cannot cope without their support. The care they give is unpaid.

What are you study at UNI? As UNI can be a stressful place and hospitals. You are both highly likely under a lot of work stress.

Hi there
Welcome to our forum, I’m sorry to hear you’re having a difficult time, lots of people are struggling for all sorts of reasons which is why we have started weekly online zoom sessions were carers can come together each week, talk and share information. There’s no pressure to share anything you’re not comfortable with. If you would like to come along we hold them every Monday at 3pm. I’ve attached the link for you. We would love to see you there. Many of our members have said they’ve found the sessions really helpful.
with all good wishes

She needs to sort this out for herself!
You have become her slave and need to set boundaries!
If she is a nurse, a demanding job and can run around people at work, but is too tired to do anything when she gets home then she needs to reduce her hours or do a different less physically demanding job. She should already know this, be asking her occupational health department for help.

This is my first reply to anyone’s topic on here but I really wanted to say that I really respect what you have been doing for your girlfriend so far. I understand what it’s like to have your whole life revolve around your partner and it simply isn’t healthy. You need time for you and if you have planned activities then you need to stick to them no matter what changes in your girlfriend’s schedule. Because at the end of the day, you don’t live with your friends and you need different kinds of interactions to keep yourself healthy and fulfilled.

You have pointed at your need for structure and I think your needs need to be as valuable as your girlfriend’s whenever possible.it is not you being selfish. It is you making yourself stronger in order to help her and be in a functional relationship. I think others are right in saying that she might need to alter her work schedule a little bit

Too late, I realised that everyone is responsible for their own happiness,
I spent years trying to make someone happy, they were in denial of there being a problem.
Blaming others for your unhappiness isn’t a solution!

Personally, I have had some enormous challenges in life, people ask me how I keep smiling?
I simply REFUSE to spend the life I fought for, having narrowly avoided death, being unhappy.

You cannot make other people happy by doing things, because as soon as you do one thing, they’ll come up with another. No consideration for you and your life.
Unless people are trying their best to get better themselves, having first acknowledged there’s a problem, your efforts are pointless. It’s generally accepted this applies to alcoholics, but also to hoarders and other psychological issues.