I hate my chronically ill family member
Have you ever thought the above sentence? Maybe not in those words. Substitute ‘hate’ for one of these:
Am annoyed at
Would like to strangle
Does the sentence ring true for you now? Has it ever? If so, this post is for you.
This is why a relationship with a chronically ill person is hard
We all live in relationship with other people. It’s different though, when one of the members of the relationship is always sick. Whether it’s our spouse who is constantly hurting, or our sibling who is often in pain, it makes the relationship difficult.
It can mean their ability to engage in social niceties is limited. Often it means we can’t simply leave them whenever we want – there is no ‘space’ or ‘time out’ in our relationship.
Often this is okay. Other times it’s just too much. And there are some days where we can’t stand the sight of our chronically ill loved ones.
We feel like we are about to explode in frustration or annoyance. Our reservoirs of sympathy have dropped to critical level and we just want to grab them and shake them – or yell, wave our arms and leave.
With no plans to return.
But then we feel guilty. We are absolutely awful people. How can we possible get angry at someone who is sick? How can we stand and yell at someone whom society tells us is more vulnerable than ourselves?
After these thoughts, it’s easy for our frustration to double. It’s not fair. Why are other people allowed to have fights with their partner but we can’t? This sickness, it gets in the way of everything. There’s no release for our emotions.
You can’t run away from chronic illness – Tweet!
But what triggers our frustration?
Let’s start at the root of the problem. There are many reasons we feel annoyed at our chronically ill loved one. Perhaps:
- They aren’t looking after themselves in the way we think they ought
- They aren’t treating us in the way we believe we should be treated. They snap at us when we’re trying to help, they have unreasonable expectations.
- Their sickness is negatively impacting our life. Their attitude is upsetting us, or perhaps their sickness limits the type of activities we can enjoy with them – or dictates them
- They are not reacting in the way we think they should be. They are too negative, too naïve, too positive.
Now these points could be valid and right – or they could be the result of a twisted perception of the world and our own importance. Before we accept them as valid triggers for our frustrations, we need to ask an important question…
Is it our fault?
We’ve agreed that relationships with chronically ill people can be frustrating. But whose fault is it? Is it an ‘us’ thing, or a ‘them’ thing?
I’d like to propose that it is both.
In almost every situation we will both be to blame. That’s just how this broken world works. We can’t seem to stop ourselves sinning. Someone wrongs us – and we’ve wronged them before we even have a chance to think about it.
Still, this doesn’t mean we don’t need to question our own motives or actions. After all, it takes one person to initiate a disagreement and one person to exacerbate it – and they don’t have to be the same person.
It is possible to minimise the effects of chronic illness in my relationship?
Our reactions of frustration or fury are often the result of unmet expectations. What are our expectations for this chronic illness relationship? Are they appropriate?
Let us remember:
- Our Loved Ones are not in our debt. At least, not if we are caring for them and sharing life with them out of love. Love keeps no tallies or holds no debts. Is our anger the result of a feeling that we’ve been ‘ripped off’?
- We are holding unrealistic expectations on how a sick person, or how our loved One should act. Are we holding them to a higher standard than we hold ourselves?
- Our Loved One is only human, and so are we. We get annoyed with our healthy friends as well as our sick ones. It’s part of our flawed hearts and destroyed loves. Are we expecting ‘sickness’ or ‘tragedy’ to be a cure to our sin?
- Illness does impact people. Pain does not make us into the best version of ourselves. It is true that hardship can refine one’s character, but it doesn’t have to. And it often only develops one aspect (ie. perseverance) unless the individual is actively pursuing the others. On the contrary, pain normally shortens fuses and cramps benevolence. Are we forgetting the type of person we are when we’re in pain?
And so we live and love our chronically ill spouse, friend or relative
There’s no doubt that chronic illness affects relationships. Sometimes the most important thing we can do is realise that, accept it, and move on.
We can’t choose chronic illness – but we can choose how we will respond to it. We can decide whether we will snap back, or clutch onto our resentment, or let go of our anger.
How we live in the context of our chronically ill relationship is important.
//Do you ever struggle to love people who are sick? What is it about the situation you find frustrating or disheartening? Comment below or join the conversation!