No one signs up for being a care-giver.
We expect in our relationships that caring for each other will be reciprocal. We don't necessarily expect the return in equal measure, but we certainly didn't expect it to be one way.
In working with families of people with mental illness, I often tell them it that their personal resources are like a well that can run dry. You have nothing left unless you keep filling it back up as your thoughtful essay suggests. And taking care of yourself isn't selfish; it is the only way to be able to make yourself available on a long-term basis.
We want to take care of someone because we love them, but when we give too much, it makes us resentful. Some of that is unavoidable. But resentment should trigger a warning that you need to do more for yourself, and perhaps delegate some of the responsibilities to someone else for a while.
We aren't the same person from day to day. Responsibilities change from day to day. Some days we have a lot more f*cks to give than on other days. Sometimes you'll get it wrong. But the goal isn't perfection, it's good enough.
Caring for someone too much can also be a problem. Taking care of them too much can infantilize and dehumanize the one being cared for. It also sends a message to the one being cared for that they aren't capable of doing it themselves.
In psychotherapy, I learned that healing depends upon 3 things: 1. Genuine warmth, 2. Accurate empathy, and 3. Unconditional positive regard. When you have those three things, there isn't a lot you can do wrong.
Your essay sounds as if you have all three.
Sometimes those of us who are mental health professionals don't listen closefully enough to the needs of the care-giver. All of us--including the patient and their family--are all a part of the team invested in someone's recovery.
Thanks for an insightful and honest explanation of your life as a caregiver.