The past few days I have been feeling a little off. Dazed and confused (no not that kind of dazed and confused), lost is some kind of dark fog. I haven’t been able to concentrate like I normally do. My train of thought is rarely leaving the station, and if it does leave it falls off track not too far down the line.

So what is my deal? Definitely not pregnant. Not too much stress going on right now (although I probably just shouldn’t have said that). I figured I would just blame it on my nice little sinus infection that seems to have set up house and doesn’t want to leave. (wish I could charge rent). Then is dawned on me today. Monday would have been my aunt’s 65th birthday. There ya go! Feelings of overwhelming guilt seemed to overtake my brain without me even realizing it. Let me explain.

I was always super close with my mom’s side of the family (my dad’s side is a WHOLE other story). I spent a lot of time at that house. We were there every weekend. When my brother and I started school we had most of our dinners there (which was great because I loved my Nanie’s cooking). I even would have movie night sleepovers Friday or Saturday nights at least once a month. My Nanie was like a second mother to me and my Aunt wasn’t just an Aunt, she was a friend.

Starting in about 2000 my aunt started having mental breakdowns. It was the most horrible thing I have ever seen a person go through at that time. She was no longer my aunt, she was someone whom I no longer recognized. She would go into what doctors would say were “phantom pains”. She would rock herself back in forth on her bed with her head in her pillow, which eventually would make her lips and face swell from the constant rubbing of the material. I went into so many doctor offices, demanding they figure out what was wrong with her, but the concensus was the same with all the doctors “She is faking”, “There are no real pains”, “She’s doing it for attention”, “There is nothing medically wrong”. As a family member I refused to accept this. There had to be something wrong, until the day she tried slitting her wrists with a pair of dull scissors. She was in the local hospital psych ward for about a month or so. My poor Nanie was so distraught and after a few years of dealing with her daughter going in and out of the hospital, in and out of psych wards and being diagnosed in 2003 with uterine cancer, her health took a plummet. With not being able to find anything medically wrong with my aunt, with her having no insurance and with my Nanie’s health decline (she ended up having a hysterectomy which cleared everything for the time being, the stress was just too much), my family decided the best thing for my Nanie and Aunt was to put her in a convalescent home where she can be cared for 24hrs/day. Now, this wasn’t an easy decision and I’m sure my Nanie felt guilty to the last days of her life. No mother wants to be faced with something like that.

While my Aunt was in “the home”, she kept trying to sneak out of the facility (which she managed to do quite a few times). How, to this day I’m not really sure. Let’s just say the people that worked there didn’t care about anything or anyone and obviously weren’t capable of doing their jobs, but since we didn’t have the funds and since my Aunt had no insurance the option of suitable places was severely limited.

To make a longer story a little shorter, my Nanie ended up getting colon cancer mid-2006. For months she felt guiltier than she had before mainly from certain phone calls that were made to her in the hospital. After her surgery and being told the cancer had spread too far and there was nothing they could do, my Nanie went into a deep sleep (I was actually the last person to see her and talk to her as her eyes closed). A few days later she passed away, 1 month before I was to be married (again that is another story for another time). After her passing I began to see how the stress was affecting my mom. You see, my aunt was doing the same thing to her as she was to her own mother. After a little while and beginning to see my own mother’s health deteriorate, I took it upon myself to write a letter to my Aunt. Writing is my best way to communicate, I’m not very good when it comes to speaking to people, especially something this sensitive. I won’t elaborate as to what was said and I tried to word things as nicely as possible, but after the letter was received I was being known to people at the home and to my own brother as a hateful person. 

I did try to patch things up later, but in all honesty I don’t think it did very much good. Not too long after, she passed away unexpectedly in January of 2008. The guilt I carry from all of this is overwhelming at times. Friends have told me that I did what I had to do and that I shouldn’t feel guilty, but I do. To be so close to someone growing up and to have such a drastic change to that person later in life (so drastic that you feel you have to protect the other loved ones around you) it’s heartbreaking.

When I realized that her birthday had passed and that is probably the reason for my hazy funk, I’m not sure if that guilt will ever go away. So I ask this question, how do you learn to accept the things you cannot change? Can you ever get over that feeling or is it a burden that stays with you the rest of your life?

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