A forum member on my FB group, Medical Musings with Friends, posted an “open letter” that her husband recently wrote. It is so moving for anyone who is the primary caregiver for their loved one. I thank Him for giving me permission to publish it.
To Whom It May Concern
My wife was recently placed on long-term disability from work due to a string of illnesses – including lupus, shortness of breath, and heart problems. Her body temperature control is broken making her hot a lot of the time.
What has followed is over a year of chronic physical pain, sometimes keeping Her bound to her bed for the day. As her primary caregiver, I had the feeling of helplessness when I realized that her conditions simply wouldn’t go away.
According to the Canadian Public Health Agency, over half of Canadians deal with chronic illness and the majority of the population have at least one factor that puts them at risk for chronic disease. For married individuals suffering with chronic illness, their spouse becomes the primary caregiver, homemaker and breadwinner. More often than not, though, all the caregiving spouse can do is be present and just wait by their loved one’s side.
Because things don’t disappear within a few days, it gives me time to exercise my ‘coping muscles’ every day, knowing that, apart from a miracle, things are never going to change. As my wife’s primary caregiver I understand the importance of compartmentalizing my emotions surrounding Her health so that I can best serve her needs. I’ve been crippled emotionally thinking about how she is feeling.
We try not to let Her illnesses rule our home lives too much, it’s not uncommon for resentment to grow in marriage relationships where one spouse is suffering from chronic illness. Spousal caregiving has physical implications as well. A report from the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences claims that caring for chronically ill loved ones also impacts the health of the caregivers themselves, including low immune systems, slow wound healing and high blood pressure. People overestimate their abilities and underestimate their stress levels. It’s recommended that care-giving spouses have regular medical checkups, specifically regarding their cortisol levels so as to ensure they have enough energy to administer care to their spouse and themselves. If your cortisol levels are too high, you’re going to burn out.
Support groups and counselling, are invaluable examples of self-care for the care-giving spouse. Regular support groups are very practical. When people can address these emotions in a safe place, it helps mitigate any resentment.
The journey to healing has largely been due to accepting that you can’t change the circumstances. In order to be in control, I had to relinquish the control I thought I had over the situation. It took a lot of the pressure off, realizing that, in any case, marriage requires giving all you can possibly give – even if your spouse doesn’t feel able to offer as much in return.
The sooner one learns marriage is not 50/50 but rather 100/100, the easier things will be. I didn’t commit to being a husband for my wife only 50 per cent of the time. I promised I would be there whenever she needed me and not only when it suited me.
Still, that doesn’t always make it easy.
Each morning, the first thought that goes through my head is, how bad is my wife’s pain today?
If you’re looking for genuine support, care, understanding & friendship, you are so welcome to join my closed Facebook support forum, Medical Musings with Friends . It’s a safe place to connect with others living with chronic and complex diseases, who truly understand the daily challenges. A warm welcome awaits.
I’m a Contributor at “The Mighty”. You can check out my published articles at My Author Page
I also write @ Blogs by Christian Women