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Counseling question

LunaLady
Posts: 25
Joined: Mar 2019

I have a question for those that have dealt with, or been dealing with, this and getting counseling for themselves.

If the person you are caring for (in my case my husband) refuses to get any counseling for themselves, and you do, does it really help?  I get that counseling for yourself is important and I am going to set that up.  We still have 2 children living at home (16yo and 19yo).  Our 16yo is in counseling (for this and other things) and our 19yo is setting up counseilng as well. 

I understand counseling is benefcial and I am a huge proponent of it.  However, how do my children and I address my issues with my husband and learn to deal with everything before the diagnosis (there are still underlying negative feelings from issues before this) AND the cancer and resulting feelings, if he won't go?  Does it really do any good if we go and learn coping skills and ways to communicate, only to go home and have his chemo/radiation brain and anger and fear projected to us because he HASN'T learned any coping skills? 

He thinks he's dealing with it all fine but he is not.  He had a short fuse before but it is almost non-existent now.  The smallest things can set him off.  I know it is fear over his diagnosis and the possiblity of his own mortality.  I understand it is because physically he is feeling awful from all of the treatments.  I get that.  But he is continuing to damage his relationship with me AND our children.  And he refuses to acknowledge it.  He thinks we should all just deal with his diagnosis and treatments in HIS way and our way is wrong.  I keep reminding him that everyone deals with large life events in their own way and it's not fair to expect us to do everything like he would.  That's not reasonable.  As far as he's concerned, it is and is the way it should be.

I don't think counseling is a waste of time normally but I wonder how much good it will do right now or if this is better done when he agrees to go.

Thanks for letting me vent/rant/question.

GingerMay's picture
GingerMay
Posts: 134
Joined: Sep 2016

Hi Luna. I am sorry you are going through this. I firmly believe a cancer diagnosis affects everyone in the family, even though it is easy to only think of the one that has to fight it.  As for counselling, I think there so are many variables.  I believe some of what makes it worthwhile depends on the individual counsellor's skill, knowledge and communications skills.  If one does not seem to be helpful, perhaps a different one would be.  Also, sometimes I think support groups might help in cases where one-on-one counselling doesn't. Trust your feelings, and if what you are doing now is not helpful then nobody *has* to keep doing it, or maybe just try a different approach.   

For my 2 cents, I think counselling can be a benefit to individuals even if the entire family does not go. I cannot speak for kids, but I have gone alone and found it helpful just for myself.  What I did was not how I could get someone else in my family to change, but instead how I could process my feelings about them and what I could do to guard against further emotional injury.  For some people, if hurtful behaviors give them a desired result, they just don't see how changing would be better.   

You are welcome to post here any time and vent to people who understand.  I will be wishing clarity for you on the next steps that will bring you peace.  

LunaLady
Posts: 25
Joined: Mar 2019

Thank you GingerMay.  I am a firm believer in counseling and support groups.  My first husband completed suicide and the support group I went to was pivotal in my healing.  My concern is that if we go to counseling and then go home, where my husband is and still not dealing with his emtions, will it just negate what we worked on in counseling.  I haven't looked into the support groups in our area yet mainly because I know others that might be there.  That might seem like a good thing but I remember the most cathartic part of being in a support group before was being able to say what you feel, rational or nice or not.  If there is someone in the group that knows us, I have protected my husband's image for so long, I won't feel comfortable expressing myself.  Or maybe that is a cop out and the truth is I'm too tired to make the effort.  I won't deny that's a very good possibility. 

I appreciate having a place that is safe to come and express myself and know that others might have gone through, or being going through, the same thing. 

accordiongirl
Posts: 63
Joined: Sep 2018

GingerMay said it so eloquently and i agree with her wholeheartedly.  Counseling in this case wouldn't be to "fix" your husband, but to help you process what's going on, develop ideas on how to cope with various situations, and learn how to co-exist with someone without losing yourself in their "crazy-making" way of approaching things.

i also am a firm believer in support groups - and, like a good counselor, if the fit isn't right, try another one until your heart tells you that you've found the right one. 

You cannot control your husband, how he views the world, how he deals with his cancer, etc., but you CAN do something about how YOU handle it all.  Ironically, when you feel that you are in control of your emotions and responses, you will feel more in control of the uncontrolled situations that involve him.  It's SO helpful to have a plan, a road map, so to speak, and that comes from a good counselor and maybe even a support group.

Like GingerMay said, you can always post here, too.  We've got your back.  You are NOT alone.

~ accordiongirl

LunaLady
Posts: 25
Joined: Mar 2019

Thank you accordiongirl. I have reached out to the social worker at his cancer center and am going to get the process started.  He has just agreed to a port for his chemo so I am hopeful he will agree to counseling as well.  We shall see.  I believe in support groups as well and have experienced the good they can bring firsthand. 

Part of my concern is my kids have not been super open to counseling before but are now.  I would hate for them to go and then think, because things are better with their father, that counseling doesn't work.  I know it does but they haven't been convinced yet.

Thank you

Catholic's picture
Catholic
Posts: 86
Joined: May 2016

You say:

"I keep reminding him that everyone deals with large life events in their own way and it's not fair to expect
us to do everything like he would."

and the good news that I can take away from this is that you can talk to your spouse and say things to him
and he listens.  My wife stopped listening to anyone about 2 years ago.  She even hates her sister who
occasionally calls and tries to get her to calm down.

I have 3 kids ages 13, 9 and 6 and I dont think counseling would help or hurt any of them.  I cant imagine
what a counselor could say to me to make me feel better.  Its amazing to me how often my kids just avoid
their mom/my wife and I know I avoid her as well because she can be extremely difficult to be around.  My
wife sleeps on the floor downstairs; she is up all night and sleeps during the day so when we are sleeping, she
is awake and in the basement and when we are up and awake, she is out cold on the floor downstairs.  If 
we wake her by accident, she blows her top. Nobody can go to her and tell her anything including that 
"everyone deals with large life events in their own way".  She will tune me out almost immediately and 
act like I never said anything.

What I try to stress to the kids and to myself is to go on with our lives and not let my wife's anger get to
them at all.  That she is a good person but going through a really hard time and that she doesnt know how
to deal with anything.  My kids seem to be handling it well but I think counseling at some point in the future
might be beneficial.  Its hard to go to counseling when you keep living in the same bad environment.  For
myself, I realize more than anything that I can do nothing for my wife; that she doesnt want help, or talk,
or any contact whatsoever.  I need to exercise and eat healthly and find happiness way from her else she
will drive me crazy.

 

 

LunaLady
Posts: 25
Joined: Mar 2019

he actually listens but I definitely tell him!  There are times when I think he is making the appropriate noise to get me to stop talking.  After this many years, he should know better!   Part of the time, I think he listens but has such chemo brain/fog that he doesn't retain.  And part of the time, he just doesn't agree so doesn't remember.  I keep trying to remind myself, that for him, this might feel like the first time we have had this conversation even though it is the 2nd, 3rd or even 4th. 

My kids have been trying to avoid confrontations with their father and have done it pretty well. The downside is he then gets upset because they aren't spending anytime with him.  They really can't win in this.  Both have agreed to go to counseling and I think it will do them some good.  They are also dealing with their own anger and fear about his diagnosis and have not been able to work it out. 

You hit the nail on the head when you said " Its hard to go to counseling when you keep living in the same bad environment.".  That is my concern about counseling.  Not necessarily if it is beneficial - I know it is. But until the environment is better and less toxic, does it really help or is it, as my Grandmother would have said, throwing good money after bad?

a_oaklee
Posts: 464
Joined: Nov 2013

You said "it's hard to go to counseling when you keep living in the same bad environment".

For me, that was the trigger, or defining moment, when I knew I needed help.  Things had to change, and I had to do something different that I was surely unable to see possible solutions, or the role I played in keeping things "status quo".  

I believe that some caregivers can become "codependent".  I really do hate using the psych buzz words, however, it was true for me, and perhaps others.  Therapy did help me see my options that ended up helping all of us.

Catholic's picture
Catholic
Posts: 86
Joined: May 2016

So what are the options?

I can take the kids and go find a place to live. 

I dont think that as a caregiver Im codependent.  I speak my mind.  The problem is, my wife
wont listen to any thing.  I have completely moved on in my life.  I work, I have friends, I have
a great relationship with all 3 of my kids. There are many happy times.  My wife is like an alien
in the house; she knows nothing what's going on, she has no idea where we go and what we do,
how the kids are doing in school, with friends, how I am doing.... my wife is clueless.  I do agree
that her bad behavior and non-participation is toxic.

My youngest child is 6 years old and in kindergarten.  6 years ago we came home from the hospital
after her birth and my wife went to live in the basement.  I had a 6 year old, 4 year old and 1-day old
and somebody had to pay the bills!! She lived there for 2 years straight.  After 2 years in the basement,
my wife started coming upstairs and calling the police on me and accusing me of something bad.  She
called the police 12-15 times and finally some officer said "one of you has to get an apartment".  And
she left.  She was diagnosed with cancer 2 months later, then 11 months of chemotherapy.

My wife's bad behavior has not changed. What has changed is:

1. Everyone else's view of my wife; it used to be that she could get on the phone and accuse me of
something bad.  Now no one believes her and she doesnt call any one in her family any more.

2. What also has changed is it takes a lot more for her to get me upset.  For the most part, I ignore her
and have moved on in my life.  My wife is immature, lazy and abusive and cancer diagnosis and
chemotherapy amplified her worst traits.  If I say anything to her, she acts like Im not talking and/or
walks away.  So I gave up trying to talk to her.

Things do need to change.  Surprisingly I am taking the kids on a 1-month vacation this July to visit...
my wife's family!  There are all nice people.  And my wife is not going so I have a 1-month rest.

a_oaklee
Posts: 464
Joined: Nov 2013

The above posts have such great inspiration and insight.

My personal experience is that going alone is very beneficial.  I struggle with some of the same problems you are experiencing.  My therapist reminds me to not confide in my kids.  I dont, but she just wants to make sure I hear that marriage issues are not to be expressed to kids.  My relationship is completely different and separate from the relationship between kids and their dad.  I think that your kids should talk to a therapist without you being present.  Sorry to say this but they might need to say stuff about their mom and dad.  I just think it might feel pretty awful for your husband to feel like everyone is against him.  

I hope I haven't offended.  Never want to do that.  I know what you are going through.  

LunaLady
Posts: 25
Joined: Mar 2019

I do everything I can to not let my feelings or anger with my husband show to my kids.  I also don't cry in front of them if I can help it.  It's a double-edged sword - I want them to learn to express their feelings and show emotion in a healthy manner, yet I am hiding mine from them.  I have a close enough relationship with them I am not sure how successful I am but I try.  So not sure I am really showing them the best example of that but it is truly what I feel is ncessary for them.

My son is currently seeing a counselor on his own and my daughter will be doing the same.  I know I need to as well.  I would also like to do family counseling, which my husband is okay with, to help us learn to communicate better.  My husband is okay with family counseling but not individual for him.  He agrees the kids need it.  He doesn't want to admit he could be struggling or not perfect.  I think family counseling will be a shock for him when the counselor doesn't automatically agree that his way is the only way and the kids and I are wrong.  I honestly believe that is what he is expecting.  I am expecting a safe place for us to express our emotions and feelings and learn to communicate.

You didn't offend me.  I agree my kids need to have their own counselors that they can talk to openly and freely.  I know they don't always like me and that's okay.  I don't always like them.  But I remind them I will always love them.  I am sure their dad is not the only person they have issues with!  We do tend to talk it out more so maybe not as much but I would be surprised if there are things they haven't told me. 

From my conversations with my husband, I'm not sure he feels like everyone is against him.  He feels like the kids don't care and he has told me he doesn't feel like I support him emotionally.  To an extent he's right about me.  I am overwhelmed with taking on everything else, as well as issues we had before he was diagnosised and it has made me distant.  It was actually something I suggested marriage counseling about before he got sick and he refused to go then either.  Said it wasn't necessary.  I know why the kids are holding back. They have both confided in me about their feelings, as well as their reason for not talking to him about it.  They don't feel, rightly so, that he is in a place to listen without getting mad and blowing up at them.  This is based on recent incidents.  So they hold back and are more distant then he wants them to be.  Ironically, their reasons for not talking to him are partly for themselves and partly out of concern for him.

Thank you for your insight.

a_oaklee
Posts: 464
Joined: Nov 2013

It really sounds like you have great instinct, and a good plan going forward.

a_oaklee
Posts: 464
Joined: Nov 2013

Catholic...You have had such a trying, difficult time dealing with your wife these past years.  Frankly, I think you must be Superman to keep it all together.  You are being both mom and dad to your kids, in a very difficult home environment.  I applaude all of what you have done for yourself and the kids.  It sounds like you are succeeding at taking care of yourself the best way you can under the circumstances.  I love that you see your friends, and are taking the kids on a one month vacation.   I think all we can do as fellow caregivers is to try to share our own situations and possible helpful suggestions of what may have helped us.  I cannot begin to really know what exactly you are living with, and therefore I dont believe I'm at all qualified to present options.  I think that's what a really good therapist is supposed to do.  I'm guessing you are Catholic, and your options are probably different from what some others may suggest.  I'm Catholic too, so I understand what marriage means in that faith.  Talking to a priest about options can be good too.  I think it's possible to love and take care of a person that you dont live with.  You know what's best for you and the kids, and I completely admire the kind of husband and father you are.  Enjoy your vacation.  Make some good memories.  Breathe.

LunaLady
Posts: 25
Joined: Mar 2019

Thank you everyone for your insights and kind words.  It really does help just having a place to vocalize without concern of hurting someone else's opinon of my husband.  That is my biggest reason for not going to a local group session.  I have had several people recommend them so there is the chance they will be there. 

It is times like tonight that make me want to scream or cry and I have been pretty good about controlling those emotions.  My husband felt my son disrespected him again and wants to punish him for it.  I have heard both sides and, based on how far my son has come in therapy, honestly believe it was not as bad as my husband felt.  However, perception is reality and his is that our son was "pissy".  My son made the comment he thinks his dad is now just looking for something to pick a fight over and I am leaning towards agreeing.  It is hard because I don't want to undermine any authority my husband has but I can't let my son feel he is wrong when I don't honestly think he is.  And punishing my son for something that I don't agree with feels wrong.  He has made a lot of strides forward and I don't want to set those back either. 

I had a conversation with my husband, again, about how his fuse has become almost non-existent and I think he needs to talk to someone. I am now phrasing it as the social worker at his cancer treatment center who is used to dealing with cancer patients.  I have no idea if I have gotten through or not.  I guess when I mention it *again* tomorrow, I will find out.  As it is now, he is not happy with me.  Makes it harder when I work nights and have to do some of this by text. 

I can handle anything but having all of these things piled on at once is really starting to wear me down.  I will still do what I need to at the end of the day but my husband is not the only one who will come out of this with scars.  My fear is how deep those scars will be on everyone. And at the end of the day, I don't know how much more my kids and I can take of this before we crack and relationships are permantly damaged.

GingerMay's picture
GingerMay
Posts: 134
Joined: Sep 2016

Boy, while growing up my parents would tell me I was being "pissy" too when actually I was having a normal reaction to angry words being said to me. Something about that word made me want to chime in again.  I love my parents, but I could never dance fast enough to please them and I still can't.  

As for counselling, I think it is a great option but also believe it is not a replacement for following your own moral compass and doing what you believe is right in your heart.    

I know it is tricky when dealing with illness, but I am not so sure the best results come when driven by guilt.  As a kid, I never thought it was my role to support my parent's emotional needs but it seemed like I had to.  I don't know your situation, but I do believe it is always good to hear that it is not your fault if someone is angry, and that you know they are a good person.  Those supportive words have power.  And know that you matter in all of this too.  I guess this is a personal decision and I believe you should do what seems right to you. 

LunaLady
Posts: 25
Joined: Mar 2019

that I am not sure what is right.  But this isn't it.  The reason my husband was mad at me was because I didn't agree with him and told him I thought our son didn't respond in a pissy manner.  I also told him our son has made really good strides and more than my husband gives him credit for.  That didn't sit well with him.  That actually  has been part of the problem for a while.  He doesn't feel I support him over the kids and he's right.  His parents were military and he wants to do things based on how they would have.  But it doesn't work that way.  I don't parent that way and I haven't this entire time.  And since he spent time working out of the state for quite a while when they were younger, they are used to my parenting style.  That has been a point of contention.

I agree it is not the kids place to support his emotional needs to a point.  There should be some support but it needs to go both ways and right now it isn't.  Part of that is my husbands illness and we all know that intellecutally but emotionally it's a whole different thing.

a_oaklee
Posts: 464
Joined: Nov 2013

Do you think it's possible that some of your husbands behavior has to do with his treatment and medications?  Maybe side-effects of therapy?  It can really change people.  I didnt even recognize my husband for about two years.  Lots of it had to do with medication side effects and pain.  It's just a thought I had.  Still doesnt make it any easier for you.  Personally, as a mom, I would step in to run interference for your kid.  Your kid cant do it, so it's up to you.  I think that is what you are doing.  One day at a time.  

LunaLady
Posts: 25
Joined: Mar 2019

then the kids and I would know there *might* be a chance of this changing.  But his personality has been devolving since long before his first diagnosis.  I think as he has gotten older his personality has gotten more....I don't know.  Crotchety?  Obstinate?  OCD is a definite issue.  

He has been upset with me lately because I am not backing him over our son.  Our son has made some really great strides moving forward and in getting help.  I can't/won't allow setbacks.  It scares me to think what could happen if there are. 

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