Originally Posted by MonkeyBusiness
Here's how I see the situation you described:
You are a loving person. Your lady-love is grappling with serious issues. She worries about her mother (or whatever the issue du jour is), and that triggers a whole cascade of issues that cause her to lose her grip on her own life. The consequences of losing the grip are significant, including (in the past) suicidal potential, so of course you step in, to offer comfort and support. But this has become a cycle. Even if you did not live so far away, it is not a cycle that can go on indefinitely.
There are many things that need to happen. But the most basic one is that somehow there needs to be an exit strategy for this she-melts-you-comfort ride you two are on. It might seem okay to delay making that plan, because other issues seem more urgent (such as girl friend not melting down and failing out), but really the opposite is true. How you and she choose to cope with these issues now builds the shape of your future together.
I get that she is vulnerable, I really do. That makes it all the more important to emphasize her control of the situation when she is in crisis. It is vital to ask yourself, when offering comfort, how you can frame your response in a way that helps her actively regain control, rather than passively accepting help.
In this regard the conundrum regarding her mother is actually helpful. Although the issues that affect them are different, the core challenge that your girlfriend faces is the same one that her mother faces, and which is a gauntlet they both are failing to recognize and pick up: they need to take responsibility for their own health.
You can gently point out to her that, just as she worries - because her mother has no plan to take care of herself, and is too far away to run to help - so you worry about her. This puts you and your lady-love in equal positions. Ask her to discuss with you her plans for getting through the final months, so you don't have to worry, and so you can maximize your help to her.
Example: she has hypoglycemia. What is her plan for dealing with that? If she does not have one, prompt her: how can you help yourself remember to eat? Encourage her to think of ways to meet this challenge, then ask how you can help her make this plan work. (You might make a run to the grocery to buy some ready-to-eat healthy snacks, for example.)
This approach gently puts her in control of the situation ... not you. And *that* is the first step to her beginning to rise to meet her challenges, and overcome them. Loving couples take care of each other, of course ... but caretaking becomes a liability when it is one-sided, which is what you seem to describe here. Even when one person has a severe challenge, there needs to be reciprocity.
Meanwhile, do not let the conversation become derailed over mom. Mom is not the issue. The issue is the plans your girlfriend is making and keeping to keep herself in good mental and emotional health. Your challenge will be to transition from caregiver to equal partner. This is surprisingly hard, even when you want it with all your heart. I recommend that you find a therapist for yourself, to support you through this.
Thanks a lot for addressing this. I've got a bit of an update...
Visiting her for 4 days this weekend helped her dramatically. She was happy the entire time and has gone back to the mindset she was in before she left, which involved such things as planning her meals, ensuring she gets enough sun, exercise & sleep, etc... She's back in positivity.
She hasn't mentioned her mother since I arrived Friday morning. I don't know how this particular situation will go, but she'll be able to deal with it better with a better mindset.
The cycle you mentioned exists while we're apart. When she's in my direct presence, it seems to vanish. It takes a while after leaving my presence for it to start up... Initially this was about 3 weeks, but we've figured out how to slow it down in various ways. She returns to me in mid-December, but will be close enough to my family over Thanksgiving that she might drive out to visit me & my family briefly during that time.
While she reacts best to being physically near me, Skyping with me helps her a bit as well. She has a shirt of mine in a ziplock. I send her a new one monthly; post-worn, pre-wash, so it smells like me. She also has various reminders of me, and I try to relate them to touch. For example, the blanket she uses each night is mine, and I relate it to being the closest I can do to cuddle her. I can't give her direct touch, but try to placate with her other senses as best I can.
Her anklet is the best reminder, as it's from a small commitment ceremony we had Dec 22, 2011. It never leaves her ankle. I've also left her with a reminder of my visit that she'll see every day for probably another month as it slowly fades.
She's got a lot of needs... And she's capable of handling them, but may need various levels of nudging. No matter what the need is, if I'm able to physically touch her, she will listen if I tell her to take care of herself (or just about anything else, but I'd never abuse this power). That makes it resolve quickly and avoids the cycle you spoke of.
Another part of the issue I initially mentioned is that I was not in the best mindset either. I also do far better with her around and I've been surrounded by things that need doing that have manifested as physical mess. I have leaks under both of my apartment's sinks and haven't called maintenance because my apartment is too messy for them to get to the sinks. So I've been getting a little depressed, which made her need become a little draining. I'm far happier after this weekend with her, so I should be a lot better now as well.