Here’s a glimpse into a marriage where there’s chronic illness eating away at what was a healthy couple’s life. I am not making a distinction as to man or woman because frankly, I’ve seen this all too many times in either gender, so I don’t think it matters. It’s not really a male or female thing. It’s an understanding thing and a communication thing. Many times, this goes down in social media. A call for help. Here it goes: Individual with Chronic Illness: Hey guys it’s me. It was a bad day and I’ve been really sick. The pain has me so I can sit up without the world spinning and making me so nauseous I vomit. If that wasn’t enough, I have a sinus infection. I haven’t been to work and it’s causing financial strain. I’ve been told to buck up. I have to move on from this pain. I can’t sleep forever and there’s things that have to be done. They are resentful of having to do everything after long days at work and also needing to keep up with children. I get this. It’s not like I want to be laying here in pain. I miss work. I miss being useful. I’ve tried getting up but vomiting on standing is a great deterrent. Still, I’ve made my decision. For the sake of my marriage and my job I am ditching my doctors and my meds and I am getting up. Mind over matter as they say. I will do this. They will be proud of me. I don’t want to lose my marriage because I am weak. Wish me luck, I will need it.
First, as many of us are in groups for chronic pain or fibromyalgia or other chronic illness, we are only getting once side and it’s easy to hit that keyboard, typing out emotionally. I’ve done it. Not too long ago as a matter-of-fact. But we may not be getting the whole story. It’s not to say our friends aren’t telling the truth, but it’s just a general fact. Like any marriage, we aren’t privy to what is happening behind closed doors and that is very much the same when it comes to social media. We only know what one person is posting. That being said, being reactionary to a problem has never worked for anyone and making someone feel guilty for being sick, when it isn’t their fault for being sick is a terrible thing to do. As every therapist has ever said, communication, communication, communication. Two people who are invested in a relationship who are dealing with something as invasive as a chronic illness, need to sit down and talk about it. Ditching doctors and medicine and pretending like it’s no longer there will not solve a damn thing. You don’t pretend like you don’t have cancer and survive it for very long and while chronic illness may not kill you outright, it will kill your relationship and your career, if you don’t learn how to deal with it in a meaningful and logical way. That means sitting down and talking to your significant other and working out how you divvy up chores. What are you able to do on a day-to-day basis that won’t leave you so exhausted that you aren’t able to function the rest of the week? What are you able to do during the weekends that will lighten your load for the week, like preparing meals ahead of time or prepping work clothes or getting things ready for the kids? There are ways to work around chronic illness with your partner if you collaborate with one another instead of work against each other.
The partner who is chronically ill may be experiencing a deterioration of the body due to illness, but you as a couple, are experiencing a deterioration of communication due to an inability to come to terms with reality. Your significant other is trying to maintain life as it was before you got sick [Before Chronic Illness], while you are trying to navigate life with your illness, coping with bad pain days that leave you unable to get out of bed [After Chronic Illness]. You’re both speaking a different language and it’s nobody’s fault, really but it is society’s fault for shouldering the blame on the chronic pain patient and saying they need to, “buck up,” and that they need to “just get over this and move on.” Did that sound too harsh? Are you thinking, “c,mon now, no one really says anything like that anymore?” They actually do. Not just loving partners to one another, but doctors to patients. I know, right?!
Take a step back and remember that there’s a reason you are together. Remember that togetherness isn’t all about the good times. Sometimes it’s about looking at things differently and choosing to view it through a different lens so that what may have once seemed like a crappy deal, may now be a gift you never knew existed or a possibility that you never realized lurked behind that door. It really just depends on how you frame things and sometimes it’s not easy and it takes time to learn how to look at things differently. You can’t be upset at your partner for not catching up to your way of thinking and you have to be understanding that it may take time for them to catch up. Remember, it’s a life changing adjustment for both of you regardless who has the illness. But it is worth it in the end. You are gaining peace. You are gaining understanding of one another and you are gaining more time with each other.