In Sickness and in Health

Part of supporting a spouse with a chronic disease is acknowledging your feelings as a caretaker.

Q

: Having fibromyalgia, a chronic syndrome with a wide array of symptoms, I have worked hard to experience a good deal of recovery, and to see the lessons meant for me and the development of my faith. I was married only two years ago, and have a truly supportive husband who acknowledges me for having more strength than he. The thing is, it seems as though my low moments are equally difficult, if not more difficult, for him, and I'm wondering: "Is there is a limit to how much of my personal journey (anger, frustration, spiritual stagnation) I should share with him?"


--

Adrienne

A

: The wonderful thing about your question, Adrienne, is that you recognize that it is possible, perhaps even likely, for your truly supportive, loving husband to become overwhelmed by the difficulties of your illness and your struggles with recovery, relapses, fear, pain, and more. Even in the best of times, most of us want unconditional love and support from our partners, and we expect these when we are struggling with a problem or an illness. Your perception of and concern for your husband speak volumes about your spiritual growth and depth.



As you have seen, often it's as difficult to remain supportive and loving during a chronic illness as it is to deal with the illness itself. The roles are obviously different, but the despair and anxiety that can set in are remarkably similar. But although it is, as you say, difficult for your husband to handle your "low moments," you shouldn't spare him your pain out of fear that he'll be overwhelmed.



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Being human means making mistakes, saying things we regret, as well as having tomorrow to make amends. When a loved one is ill, we no longer have this sense of time stretching before us, and we often feel that because we are "healthy," we do not have the right to become angry or to criticize. This is when the frustration can set in.



This may well be how your husband feels. How can he possibly get angry or express frustration when your problems are so much more difficult than his? And if he does allow himself to be "human," then he may experience only guilt, because, again, he's not the one struggling with the difficulties of this syndrome. Your understanding and recognition that this problem may exist is both essential and remarkable. The struggle with an ongoing illness usually makes us a little selfish and self-centered. Our problems seem so much more real than the problems of others. Our lot in life is unfair, and we expect to be honored by our loved ones because of this. Your ability to empathize with your husband's pain is remarkable and truly inspiring.



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Hugh and Gayle Prather
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