Saturday, July 20, 2013

Are You Hard to Live With?

On June 6, I entered year six of my pain journey (not that I'm counting or anything). While it sounds like a very long time, in some ways it has gone by in the twinkling of an eye for me. Between changing symptoms, new symptoms, new doctors, and new diagnoses to deal with, there are times when it still feels very new.

You don't understand

I am incredibly blessed to have a very loving and patient husband. I know there are many times when I am so focused on my own survival that I'm not there for him. Not once has he ever complained to me or to anyone that I know. Actually, that's not true. His only complaint has always been that he can't take my pain away. I still have instances when I am sobbing, tears streaming down my face, and I see the anguish in his eyes. Yet, somewhere at my core, I feel there is no possible way for him to know how I feel.

Walk a mile in my shoes

Most of us have heard the saying -
"Don't judge a man until you've walked a mile in his shoes"
While my husband doesn't judge me or my pain, it could be argued that I judge him because I don't think he understands what I am experiencing... Can we all agree that it is impossible to truly understand what someone is experiencing -
We are unique beings living unique lives. This makes it impossible for us to experience illness, or anything in life for that matter, in exactly the same way! While we can have similar symptoms, our uniqueness adds it's own flavor to the mix. This complex concoction can make it hard for our families, friends and even our health care providers to fully understand what we are going through.

Oh, NOW I get it... sort of

My husband was out rock climbing a couple of months ago. He had a fairly serious fall which left him with a dislocated shoulder and a badly sprained ankle, not to mention some nasty abrasions. He is used to healing quickly. I am used to him healing quickly. I did what I could for him, but with my fatigue being so severe, my ability to help was limited. This was a wake-up call to both of us as it showed just how dependent I am on him for help!

It showed me something else as well. I saw the pain on his face and heard the exasperation in his voice and I wanted to make it go away. I felt helpless because I obviously couldn't make his body heal any faster or calm his restlessness. I only had to watch him suffer for two weeks - he has had to watch me for almost six years!

The realization of what my husband has been going through all these years was sobering to say the least. I have a new-found appreciation for his tremendous love and patience. Every day he shows his devotion to me by living out our wedding vows -
"... for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part."    I DO!

When enough is enough

Even the most patient people can reach a saturation point. I could tell that today was that day for my husband. It wasn't what he said, but the way he changed the topic... QUICKLY

I remember when I became a new mom. While I loved being home with my new baby boy, after a few months I began to crave adult conversation that didn't involve baby food, diapers, and (yuck) the content of said diapers.

How do you stop talking about someone or something that has become your whole world?

This kind of tunnel vision is not relegated to just pain and babies. We see this with new -

  • relationships
  • jobs
  • hobbies
  • pets
  • religion
  • health (diets, fitness, etc.)

I'm not talking about denying how you feel. We can ask for help in a positive way. Let's ask for hugs before we collapse in tears. Have a list of a few people you can call when you really need to vent.

Family, friends, support groups

Do you live with someone? Whether this is your spouse, partner, or best friend, be cognizant that they see you every day. While they may try to be there for you all the time, they will need a break. 

Do you have friends you can call? What about online friends? Sometimes we don't have the strength or ability to get to a live support group. This is a great time to search out online groups for people dealing with your health issues. That way you can share with others who have been where you are. This is VERY important! I truly thought I was going crazy until I got around others dealing with chronic pain. It wasn't until then that I felt validated.


Do you attend a local church? Consider talking to your pastor/priest, etc. This can provide double benefits! First, you get to share your struggles; second, your faith is strengthened.

Professional counselling

Have you thought about seeking professional help? There is no shame in that! I have never had trouble admitting when I need counselling. Sometimes you need to work with a professional who can show you how to work through your painful emotions. If you feel you have reached this point, ask your doctor for a referral. If you don't feel you need help, but a family member or your doctor suggests it, it may be time to at least consider a few trial visits. Be sure to find a counselor/psychiatrist that specializes in your main issue. This is important as they will be in a better position to help you manage your pain medications and anti-depressants (if necessary). Also, professionals who don't understand chronic pain will often assume that you are in pain or exhausted because you are depressed. While this could be the case, ask yourself - 

Which came first?

Are you depressed because of your health? Did you find yourself feeling depressed for a period of time, THEN the pain/fatigue began? Or, did you become chronically ill, THEN over time you found yourself feeling more and more depressed? This is an important distinction that needs to be understood. 

Looking outward

Having a good support network is very important. It is also vitally important to start looking outward. The more we focus on our health problems, the more insurmountable they seem. We can become lost in the storm raging in our bodies if we are not careful. 

If there isn't a support group in your area, are you well enough to start one? How about starting an online support group? While there are lots out there, you may be able to help others in a way no one else can. God has gifted each of us uniquely. Use your gifts to help others!


Do you struggle with your support network?

Have you been able to reach out and help others?

How did you make the transition?