As a veteran, then military spouse, my family and I did a lot of traveling in our combined 28 years of service. We experienced some hardships during those years, from missing and damaged household goods to missing life events with friends and family who were literally a world away. Looking back, it’s clear that navigating those big losses was a learning lesson for coping with life’s even bigger losses.
Together, we’ve said goodbye to loved ones stolen away by disease and made our way through my own struggle with illness. During those life-chapters when I couldn’t dress myself, cook meals, or drive the kids to school, my husband, Chuck, became the wind beneath my wings, literally lifting me in and out of places. On our healing path, he taught me how to swim (I’d never learned as a child!); it became my saving grace as the only “medicine” to alleviate the pain and virtually put Fibromyalgia in its place — as a mere whisper inside my body. 18 years later, I swim a daily mile and enjoy a balanced, nearly symptom-free life. When illness or hardship strikes, we have a choice to make: live underneath its weight or live above it, one determined step at a time alongside heroic caregivers.
Our guest blogger today, brings a story of inspiration and hope for the Sick and Tired. Kimberly Rae has lived in Bangladesh, Uganda, Kosovo and Indonesia. Her suspense novels on international human trafficking and missions (Stolen Woman, Stolen Child and Stolen Future) are all Amazon bestsellers. Addison’s disease brought her back to the US, where she now writes from her home at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina. Rae is married and has two young children. Click HERE to learn more about Kimberly’s new Sick & Tired series on living joyfully with chronic health problems, and her other books. Her motto, “Know Your Worth, Change the World” capsulizes the ultimate greatest outcome of life’s most difficult journeys.
Lifelong Illness Changes Relationships
~ Kimberly Rae
It’s tough being a sick person. I know; I have Addison’s disease, hypoglycemia, asthma, scoliosis, and a cyst on my brain. I know what it’s like to be tired of having my whole day wrapped around taking the right pills at the right time, eating the exact right combination of foods, going to doctor after doctor, and of course often hearing, “But you don’t look sick!”
However, I know it’s also tough loving a sick person. Loved ones struggle with the same worry and temptation to fear as we sick people do. They struggle with the unknowns, perhaps even more than we do because they can’t feel what our bodies feel. And they feel a sense of failure and frustration that, no matter how much they help or pray or work, they cannot make our worst problem go away.
That is hard, so hard that a loved one needs to grieve over their own helplessness as much as over the sickness itself. During the time of initial diagnosis or crisis, or when the sickness takes a turn for the worse, loved ones may cling closer together, or they can find themselves drifting apart because of their different ways of handling (or not handling) the unwanted reality.
Just as those of us with lifelong illnesses need to give ourselves time to grieve, we need to give our loved ones the space and time to grieve in their own ways as well.
And somewhere along the way, maybe not right away, we need to let them talk to us about it. Secrets between loved ones tend to grow the longer they are kept, and they create barriers between hearts that may still be full of love, but now the love cannot be seen past the unspoken, unaccepted feelings of loss at this major life change.
Chronic illness does change relationships, but that is not to say that it never changes them for the better. My illness has brought my husband, Brian, and I very close. We have learned to sometimes talk as best friends more than spouses. As his best friend, I can listen to his frustration over the limitations my disease puts on his life, without feeling threatened or assuming he wished he’d never married me. I can try to provide him a break from life with illness, out of love for all the times he has given me a break from having to function through pain.
Once, after years of living and loving and facing illness together, Brian wrote me a card that said he would live in a purple house and throw his phone away if it would make me better. Now I know for sure that he hasn’t stopped loving me, because he can’t stand the color purple and he really, really likes his cool phone!
Talk. Really talk to the people you love, and let them talk to you. You might be told something you’ve been needing to hear for a long, long time.
Meeting with tradition here at Hope Matters, Kimberly Rae provided sweet touch whimsy to close her guest post:
Kimberly Rae’s best friend and husband, Brian, thinks it’s funny that Kimberly waves her hands around when she takes pills, cries at the touching parts of her own books, and gets a very southern accent when she talks to certain people in her local area.