Long story short - (seriously, this is the short version)
FIL has stage 4 prostate cancer that is being effectively controlled with hormones. This won't last forever, though. Once hormones stop working, chemo starts until he dies or refuses it. FIL told only immediate family (3 kids, me, and wife) about his illness and forbade us to tell anyone else.
MIL started having panic attacks a year ago because the future was so uncertain (they never know when the hormone treatment will stop working). She hid her emotions from FIL (her DH) because she didn't want to upset him. FIL is dealing with own guilt about not taking action when symptoms started (and potentially saving his own life). MIL had only her kids to talk to - but doesn't have many close friends anyways, she's a complicated person.
MIL's panic attacks turned into severe anxiety. She pretty much stopped sleeping and eating, and now has a serious case of depression (where she talked about suicide). She admitted herself to hospital this March.
I had a very rocky start to the relationship with my inlaws. They've done some pretty crappy stuff to me, and as I'm learning, feel like I've done crappy stuff to them. At Christmas, there was a huge blowup and my DH had to leave my parent's family xmas dinner to go deal with some issues. Inlaws were so upset about the unequal time we spend between the two sets of parents. They blamed me for not "pushing" to be with them like I push to see my parents (even though it was both DH and I who don't love spending time there). They also talked about a bunch of things that I did that hurt them. DH listened to their concerns and agreed that things weren't that fair and that we would make an effort to change. Then DH told me about the convo, and listened to my side of the story. It was important for them to understand my side, so DH calls MIL up in January to give my side, but concluded with, we understand where you were coming from, we will make more of an effort, let's move on.
So DH doesn't hear anything from MIL (his mom) for a long time, which was unusual but they were travelling. Anyway, DH should have guessed something was wrong. Finally, we get a call to learn that MIL is in hospital for her anxiety and depression. Through the course of DH asking what he can do to help, he learns that MIL is focusing on a few events regarding me, and now resents me with a passion. I'm sure FIL does nothing but exacerbates the situation by agreeing with her.
The crazy thing is that MIL and I got along fabulously at Christmas this year! We had a really nice time, but then all these conversations happened (without me involved) and now, MIL can not bear to think about seeing me. She is thinking that I hate her and she hates me and as a result, will be all alone when FIL dies and won't get to see her closest son (my DH) or grand daughter (my DD).
There are two main issues floating in MIL head. My behaviours Xmas 2009 (where I was mean because I din't show interest in looking at DH's baby pictures, or making a necklace with the beads she sorted out for me, or going shopping with her, nd sitting on the couch watching TV (I was pregnant xmas 2009)) AND when I refulsed to talk to them on the phone after DD was born. They are so insulted by that, but it was pure self-protection as I was a traumatized mess who spoke to no one but my mother the day after DD was born.
Now FIL wants me to apologize to MIL (with no preamble - just a straight apology) for the above indiscretions because he thinks that will help her on her road to recovery. DH wants to help his Mom. I don't want to apologize for 'sins' I didn't commit, but would be fine talking about the issue - however, I mostly think that MIL isn't in right mind to talk about these issues at the moment.
To those who have experience with anxiety/depression. What is the best course of action to help my MIL? (while preserving my own self-respect if possible)
Also, to make matters worse, FIL has just sent an out of the blue email discussing how I have been a horrible person to them since I came into the picture. He blames me for many, many things which were completely over the line.