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Love and Chronic Illness: Keeping Love Alive

Posted Feb 12 2011 12:00am
5/52 Happy Valentine Week :) Image by BurgTender via Flickr I have been married for 43 yrs to a wonderful man. Our only daughter, was born within a month of of our 20th anniversary. We led a normal, quiet life until RSD ( Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy ) came into our lives. I had finally reached the pinnacle of my career; a 6 figure income.  The sole support of my family, I never thought it would end so abruptly.

After hand surgery in Jan 2005, I was diagnosed with RSD. It is chronic, progressive and incurable. The medications to manage the condition are strong and have many side effects. Nerve blocks, physical therapy and various medications were tried unsuccessfully. Depression set in; a depression worse than any I had ever experienced in my life.

My husband became my full time caretaker. I was confined to a wheelchair and could not use my hands for even the simplest tasks. He took over managing the house and taking care of all my needs, even to the point of having to cut my food up like a child. I became more depressed and angry. Not angry at my husband, but at the disease. Our finances suffered because I could not longer work and along the way so do our relationship. The "perfect storm".......

What was previously a husband/wife team had turned into almost a patient/nurse relationship. And, I resented it. I resented being sick; I resented having to be helped with the minor things in life most people take for granted like brushing my hair. The anger over no longer feeling useful or desirable turned into resentment toward my husband. I felt that his life hadn't changed. He still had freedom to go out, take a shower whenever he felt like it; all the normalcy I was missing.

After almost 5 yrs, the illness and medications had caused such emotional problems for me that we actually considered separating. Can you imagine? Here I was disabled, home-bound and making life so miserable for everyone around me that even my husband, my best friend could no longer stand to be around me. He had stood by me through it all; he didn't really have freedom. He had to take care of me 24/7. His whole life revolved around my needs.

Yet, I was so self-absorbed in my own pain , that I couldn't see what I was doing to our relationship. In a brief moment of self-reflection and prayer, I realized what I had been doing. I asked for help and got it. It has not been easy and to this day I have to remind myself to keep a lid on my impatience. I didn't ask for or deserve this chronic illness, but neither did my husband. It is hard when you are feeling sick to not strike out at others. It's so easy to blame your misery on others.

Through this process I learned many things. Never take your caregiver for granted. They need to be shown that you appreciate their efforts. On the days when the anger and resentment feels overwhelming, remember what you are angry about. Don't just blindly strike out at your loved ones. It's the disease you are mad at; not your loved ones. Try to keep a positive attitude; it's up to you how you react to your situation. No one can "make" you happy. But, your actions can certainly make other people miserable if you continue to ignore their feelings and their pain................

Happy Valentine's Day to my husband and my daughter; thank you for all your love and support.
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