Chronic illness draws your focus inward. The desire for comfort, the wish for relief, and the longing for understanding creates an environment of ‘need’ within one’s self. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It can be a healthy and natural pursuit to invite those who are trustworthy to share in the burdens we bear. But a watchful eye must be kept over this for the purpose of not overloading the ones who love us with the weight of our chronic illness, which at some level we must bear alone.
This can help maintain perspective when it seems like those around you just, ‘Don’t get it’, in relation to what it’s like to be chronically ill day in and day out. No one human can know exactly what it is like to live inside your body. We can share our thoughts, struggles, and experiences. But ultimately, only you know what it’s like to be, well, ‘you’.
I spend a good majority of the day alone. So when my husband comes home at night, I have a tendency to throw open the flood gates of my mind; how I feel, the latest research on Fibromyalgia/CFS/ME I’ve done that day, my newest symptom, how that symptom feels, what concerns me about that symptom, ect. Needless to say, it can be a bit much.
He wants to hear about what is going with me, and he is concerned with what concerns me. However, a little temperance thrown in is a good thing. Ways of relating that do not selfishly dominate the conversation with just ‘what’s going on with me in my little world’ are called for.
A Few Ideas For Maintaining Relational Balance
Check yourself before you launch into speaking: Ask: Am I about to ‘unload’ the miseries of the day on this person? Is the other person finished speaking their thoughts? In other words, am I about to change the subject to steer the conversation back to what pertains just to me? Have I asked them how their day was, and really listened to their answers?
Rely on several sources as an outlet, not just one or two people: It can be easy to ‘wear down’ those around us, who in all fairness, can only attempt to understand the reality of living in a body with chronic illness. Reach out to reliable online sources, such as chronic illness blogs like this one where you can read what others like you are going through. Join a good online support group, or possibly an outreach within your own community.
If possible, try to remember to do something special once a week for that person: Keep it simple. Make their favorite cookie recipe, or something to that effect. Agree to watch the movie they want to see (even though it’s the last thing you would pick). Remember to pick something up for them while you’re out. For example, this week while I was shopping I saw D’s favorite childhood cereal, Peanut Butter Captain Crunch, so I popped it in the cart and gave it to him as a surprise that night. Small gestures can mean a lot.
Finding relational balance can be difficult when chronic illness’s demanding voice is always clamoring for attention. The sacrafices we make for the ones we love are worth it. They keep chronic illness from robbing us of one of our greatest needs; harmony with those we hold most dear.