Help! I’m jealous of their chronic illness!

Imagine this. Or perhaps you don’t have to…

Your Loved One has lived with their chronic illness for ten years. There’s been highs and lows, but you’re just beginning to understand what life looks like for them and also for you.

Help, I'm jealous of their chronic illness #caregiver #struggle #chronicillness #writer #hope #chronic #faith #watching

Then a close friend receives a diagnosis. They’re sick. Chronically sick… perhaps with the same illness as your loved One, perhaps a slightly different one.

Everyone is dismayed and shocked. They surround the newly-diagnosed one with gifts of love and support. Maybe they look at you, and assume you too will visit and offer your help. After all, you and your Loved One are ‘old hands’.

Perhaps someone nudges you and quips that maybe the past suffering of your Loved One was preparation for loving this person – that all that agony was raising you up for “such a time as this.”

You know you should help. You know you should love. But instead you feel… jealous.

How can I be jealous of someone else’s illness?

It seems an awful thing to admit, and it can make us feel terrible. How can we possibly be jealous of someone else’s awful diagnosis?

How can something that ought to move us to pity and sympathy instead make us feel bitter?

I think it’s important to acknowledge that it does. These are real feelings and have to be examined and discussed. There is no part of our character that is too dark for God, and so we cannot simply lock our feelings in a room because we are ashamed of them.

But why do we feel this way?

There’s not going to be a single explanation which will fit everyone’s experience, but perhaps we feel bitter and jealous because:

They are more popular

This new person is getting more attention than our Loved One does, or ever did.

Maybe they are younger, maybe the culture and attitude to chronic illness has changed. Perhaps your community is better equipped to respond, or perhaps the newly diagnosed person simply has more friends.

There’s even the chance that perhaps we merely perceive that they are receiving more attention because we are standing outside their struggles and looking in.

They are ‘better’ at being ill

The new person is better at coping with their disease than our Loved One.

Perhaps the reason is their illness is less severe. They’ve certainly had to struggle with it for a shorter amount of time than your Loved One. Maybe they are simply stronger or more capable.

Either way it is easy for fear to slink in. Have we been exaggerating our Loved One’s illness? Or are people going to suspect that we have? Or will they think our Loved One is simply weaker?

They have more help

The new person has access to treatment that our Loved One does not.

Perhaps times have changed. Perhaps the newly diagnosed suffered has more money, or different circumstances or a different strain of sickness.

Perhaps the cure that did not work on our Loved One works on them, or God works a miracle in His sovereignty and answers their prayers for healing. It seems so unfair. How could he heal them and not our Loved One?

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The only cure for jealousy

There’s only one answer to our bitterness and our jealous, and it’s not an easy one.
We need to trust.

Trust God with our Loved One’s life – that He is working a marvelous plan in their circumstances, and it might be different to that of the other person. It may seem harder, but that does not make it second-rate.

Trust God with our own imageour identity is not tied up with our community’s perception of our Loved one. It is linked with God, and cannot be shaken, no matter if one hundred people are diagnosed with the same illness as our Loved One and each of them cope with it better.

Trust God with the world – God is God. He gives people different abilities and different amounts of strength. Some people fight anxiety, other do not. Do we truly trust that He knows best, and works in the best ways?

It’s easy of course to simply say ‘trust’ – but how do we live that out?

Sometimes a heart change only follows a life change, so what can we practically do to fight our inclination towards jealousy?

Will you replace bitterness with love?

Will you actively love your newly-diagnosed friend?
Not because everyone expects you to, but because God invites us to. Do you have experiences and knowledge to share? Or are you being called to sit humbly with them and listen? Do you alone understand some of their practical needs – and can you meet them, or guide others in doing so? Let us not be afraid to invest time and love.

Will you pray for them?
This is a truth I’ve found time and time again. Prayer, genuine prayer, is the best way to erase hate. You can’t pray for someone and hold onto hatred. So pray for this newly-diagnosed neighbour. Pray prayers only you, with your experience as a Watcher, can.

Will you commit to the truth?
It’s so easy to make assumptions: they’re receiving more attention. They don’t need help, they have everyone else around them. They’re clearly doing fine. People obviously think that I have been exaggerating the depths of this disease.

Let’s search carefully through what we believe. How much of it is true? Have we jumped to believe something without actual proof? What do we want to believe, and what would it be easier not to?

It’s OK to battle jealousy (as long as we battle!)

Ah my friends. It is difficult to fight against the desires of our heart. Hard to love when we incline towards jealousy, hard to care when we’d prefer to build up defensive walls.

Let us pray for the grace to turn from bitterness to God.

//Have you ever felt the subtle tug of jealousy? I certainly have! I’d love to hear your story – comment below, or get in touch with me on the contact page!

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Author: Emily J. M.

Hi, I'm Emily. Two of my closest family members struggle with chronic illness, and I watch them. That's hard, and so I write about life as a 'Watcher', what it looks like to support them and find Hope.

4 thoughts on “Help! I’m jealous of their chronic illness!”

  1. So true!!! I find people seem to get a lot of support for short-term things like a hospital stay for an operation, but for lifelong illnesses the support is not the same. Possibly because people with chronic illnesses are in their “new normal” – life has sort of stabilised even though each day is still a struggle, whereas the people having the operation or those who have just been diagnosed are in the crisis phase. Maybe they do need more help? I don’t know, but I know that jealousy over comparisons is definitely a real battle at times!

    1. Yes, I know the battle! It’s hard… I think it is just a ‘different’ kind of help, for different stages, but it’s so easy to feel jealous because there is often ‘more’ visible help when someone’s illness journey first begins. I often need to counsel myself to remember that love right now is important and it’s not up to me to be ‘cynical in advance’ for what I/they may or may not receive in the future.

  2. I suspect my wife has some sort of disorder which makes her jealous of my chronic illnesses. I am a 59 year old man, diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis in 2013. I have not had much success in managing the illness. Some treatments have worked for a while but eventually become less and less effective. Recently I switched from Humira to Entyvio – the Entyvio seemed to be working wonders for a few months, but now I am back to being as bad as ever. There is no way I can hold down a full time job because I am tethered to the toilet from 5am to noon most days. I have been trying to make ends meet as a real estate broker and a math tutor but it is difficult, even more so because of the career and financial success I have had in the past.

    Bad enough, right? but I have always tried to look at the glass as half full – I dont have a fatal disease and plenty of people deal with much more difficult trials and tribulations in life. I have been and continue to be blessed with a good life compared to most human beings on this planet. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when I curse God and feel sorry for myself, but the reality of my relative good fortune has helped me stay grounded to a certain extent.

    Apparently, no good deed or attitude goes unpunished. I have for several years exhibited behavior which I now understand to be REM Sleep Behavior Disorder (RBD), where I act out nightmares in a violent fashion – screaming, kicking and punching to the point where I have injured myself and fear I may injure my wife as well. My wife and I had laughed about it in the past, but when I looked into it recently I became extremely distressed to find that RBD almost always precedes the onset of Parkinson’s ( worse). It can take a few months or more than a decade before classic symptoms of PD begin, but research indicates that if you are diagnosed with RBD you will eventually end up with PD or Dementia with Lewey Bodies (DLB) or Multiple System Atrophy (MSA). MSA is the worst case – it is sort of PD on steroids and is usually fatal within 3-8 years. It is rare, but I probably wont know perhaps for years what my fate will be.

    Last night I went through a sleep study that will either confirm or rule out RBD. Before leaving for this procedure, my wife told me she suspected I have Munchausen’s Syndrome – which is a mental illness where people fake illnesses to get attention and sympathy (for those with Munchausen’s, apologies if my description is not completely accurate). It is difficult for me to express just how angry, hurt, disappointed, sad, alone and depressed this made me feel!

    I know wonder whether she believes I am faking the Ulcerative Colitis as well, poisoning myself or something to fool the doctors and everyone else. My wife’s sister is a nurse, and I wonder whether she planted this idea in my wife’s head.

    But when I was able to get over my anger for a minute, and started to think back over my wife’s reactions to my condition with colitis as it has progressed and changed our lives for the worse, I remember that she has on several occasions suggested (without directly saying it) that I toughen up and deal with my chronic illness like she has dealt with her asthma, which she has had since childhood. It has landed her in the hospital several times in the past. We actually moved from NJ to Florida to help her with her condition (her trigger is dry heat which is unavoidable in the winter up North; Florida heat and humidity much better for her).

    Now with this most recent accusation, I am wondering whether she is somehow jealous of my troubles. It sounds weird but I guess it is not all that surprising that she might feel that way. Maybe we both need to see a counselor together? I love her but I cannot tolerate this attitude toward me any longer on my own. I would rather be on my own than to continue to endure her disbelief. Maybe she is in denial, or maybe its something else?

    Any words of wisdom? The dissapointment, distress and depression I am feeling over my wife’s attitude and reactions I think is worse than the illnesses. I really don’t know how to deal with this. I apologize for such a long post, but it actually helps to get this out and at least write about it and hopefully gain some insights from others.

    1. Hi Sandy, that sounds really, really tough. I can’t even try to imagine the pain you must be going through. It takes bravery to share something so complex and personal. I often find writing things out can be very helpful: it can clarify the issue and help me figure exactly what is the main problem, and how do I feel about it. I am a huge proponent of talking through situations: both with the people involved and also a third party person (a counselor can be very helpful). It is always easier to deal with a problem acknowledged by both parties: at least then you know what sort of mountain you need to climb! Be encouraged, the hardest part of any relationship issue is often coming to the point of admitting that there is an issue and clarifying it. Once that has occurred, behaviour and feelings can be tackled together. In Christ we know that there is no “point of no return” while on this earth, and He can transfigure the most desperate of circumstances for our good and His glory. That doesn’t, of course, mean that life isn’t incredibly hard, and at times depressing – but it does mean that whatever happens we can know that it is not a mistake. He fully capable of healing: whether that’s of physical symptoms or feelings or emotional distress, and when He chooses not to, we can know that it is for a purpose, and He will be enough for us during it. Take heart, Sandy, and cling to Him.

Thoughts? I'd love to hear from you, friend.