How do you cope with invisible chronic illness in your family?
Have you ever thought to yourself how you cope with things? Have you wondered how events, either good or bad, affect your outlook and subsequent quality of life? Do you ever think of how your body, mind and soul is shaped through crises in your life?
For the past 14.5 years, I’ve experienced the incredible blessing of being married to the same woman. In many ways I’ve equated my good fortune to that of one who wins the lottery. I’ve always said that most guys have the good fortune to “marry up” and somehow, in some cosmic moment of great weakness, this beautiful woman felt it in her heart to marry me. Through thick and thin, better or for worse, good times and bad we’ve stuck through things together.
Part of the whole deal when we got married was that I promised this lady that I would take care of her. I promised to her, in front God, our families and friends, that no matter what happened I would make sure that she would be okay. I don’t view that as me doing anything extra-ordinary, but in these times it does seem to be out of the ordinary. Part of our unique situation is that when we got married I knew that my future wife had health issues. I didn’t know to what extent, but I knew that there would be some difficult times in our future. As our married lives progressed, it became quite apparent that our lives together would be difficult and trying due to her health concerns. Still, I promised this lady that, in sickness and health, I would take care of her. I didn’t expect all the sickness to start at the beginning of our lives and was sort of hoping it would happen way off into the future, but nonetheless, we took these challenges head on.
The title of this article is ‘Coping with someone who has invisible chronic illness’ with the intention to be inflammatory in nature. How can one possibly be able to cope with such inconvenience? How can any sane person take this upon themselves to actually care for someone else who has invisible chronic health and pain issues? How is it possible, as a person of faith, that such things could happen to me, of all people?
Recently, I’ve been through some difficult life challenges that forced me to make decisions based on my obligation to take care of my wife – in sickness and in health. This was a promise I made to her many years ago. During this time of challenge, I had to make decisions that any normal person would never think they would ever have to make. Any logical and ‘together’ person who doesn’t have a worry nor care would think that this constant state of ‘living in a fire-drill’ an impossible task. Sadly, people who aren’t faced with the daily ‘inconvenience’ of living in such circumstances simply don’t get it.
I have an illustration for these types of people. These types of people tend to like to control their environment. They tend to love to work with spreadsheets and know exactly what is going to happen from one moment to the next. These types of people tend to live in a box and, when something happens that isn’t planned or exists outside of this box, don’t know how to ‘cope’ with this sudden attack of illogical non-control and conformation to their ideals of what should happen according to their pre- prescribed rules.
A person who has or lives with a person with an invisible, chronic illness can’t live in this box. They are forced to think outside of the box because every day is different than the one previous. Each day is an adventure unto its own because there is no planning what will happen next. Having life scheduled out with no surprises is not an option and planning ahead is a luxury.
So, what does it mean to ‘cope’ with a person who has invisible chronic illness and pain? This is where I question the ‘spreadsheet crowd’ and their logic. I’ve never been one to ignore my heart, which has been suggested by some that this should be the approach I should take. This seems to be common thought – to cope means to ignore. How could I possibly ignore the pain and suffering my wife goes through? When we said our vows, we became one person. When we promised to live our lives together, we said we would take care of the other as if part of our own body. Are we not to take care of our own bodies? Common sense suggests that ignoring signs of sickness, pain and suffering in our bodies would lead to certain death. So, to ignore and simply ‘cope’ with the woman I made this promise to would be to throw sand directly into the face of God himself, His laws and the promise I made to Him… not to mention my wife.