An open letter to your sick sibling

My dear sibling, I write because there’s something I need to put square between us. You see, we share so much – genetics, parents, upbringing. Out of all the people in the world, I am most like you. However much we may differ in temperament and character, our blood binds us together.

To my sick sibling,

Illness will always be something between us,

Yet there’s one thing we do not share. You are sick and I am not. You struggle with your health and it will always be something you think about, whereas my life is not like that. You have doctors’ appointments and medication and a whole world into which I can never enter fully.

I wonder, sometimes, how this makes you feel. Do you ever feel guilty when you get attention, or when people tell you how brave you are? Do you ever feel jealous of me? Do you ever look at me and wish we could swap lives, swap bodies, swap trials?

Do you ever want to strangle me, because I can be carefree and you must be responsible? Or do you ever hate yourself because you look at me and feel weak and needy in comparison?

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How to make hospital visits less awkward

I’ve spent quite a bit of time in hospitals, both visiting Loved Ones and working. It’s made me realise that visiting someone in hospital is not quite the same as taking someone out for coffee or popping over to see someone at their house.

In fact, for many of us, visiting someone in hospital might be a novel, somewhat unsettling experience. Perhaps we have bad memories of other hospital visits, or perhaps we’ve never been to one before.

For others of us, a hospital visit might seem easy and we don’t understand why we can’t just pop in at any time with whoever we like.

While neither perspective is ‘wrong’ (and I have held both at different times) they can both miss the point.

Visiting someone in hospital is not about us, how easy or difficult it is, or how it makes us feel.

Visiting someone is about loving them.

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How to love a chronically ill INTROVERT

When you’re an extrovert a chronic illness binding you to your home is an obvious torture. Yet what about those introverts among us? Is it easier for them?

Obviously there’s nothing ‘easy’ about having a chronic illness, but the question still stands: does a chronic illness impact an introvert in the same way as an extrovert?

And if so, what does this mean for us as we try and support our sick introvert friends?

I think the first thing we have to realise is this:

Sickness and introvert-ism are two very different things

Introverts recharge by ‘alone time’. If chronic illness means they spend large periods of time alone, well, surely that equals a lot of ‘recharging’, right?

Unfortunately it’s not that simple. Introverts do not get energy solely from being away from other people. Thus it is possible to be physically away from others but not re-charge.

You see, it is not restful to be alone but unable to think clearly. It is not relaxing to be alone but to have a pounding headache. It is not rejuvenating being alone when illness prevents you from dreaming and pondering and wondering!

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How to love a chronically ill EXTROVERT

We’re all different and unique. Some of us are introverts, and others of us are extroverts. In the normal scheme of things, we can navigate our differences. But what happens when chronic illness is thrown into the mix?

Introverts are well known for being ‘quiet, bookish types’ and extroverts for being ‘raging party animals’. Of course, it’s not that simple. Still, an easy definition (and the one I’ll use for this series) is:

Extroverts obtain energy from being around people.

Introverts re-charge from being alone.

Yet if chronic illness limits an extrovert’s socialising opportunities, how are they supposed to ‘re-charge’? How can we care for and love a sick extroverted friend?

Keep reading for FOUR thoughts and FOUR practical tips…

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When NOT to fight someone else’s battle (even if you want to)

Have you ever sailed into an argument or situation with all cannons blazing… only to realise later that you should have just let the matter drop?
Have you ever fought long and hard for someone else – and then wondered whether you’re actually doing the right thing?

I have to admit, I have a tendency to get caught up “in the moment”. With the adrenaline rushing through my veins, I find it only too easy to believe that my right is the only right and it needs to be defended at any cost.

Of course, this just gets more complicated when it’s not my own battle that I’m fighting.

As Watchers we are often called to fight on someone else’s behalf. But what if sometimes fighting is not the best course of action? What if sometimes the right thing is to step back and put down our arms?

How are we to know?

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Why you SHOULD fight someone else’s battle (when you’d rather not)

If you’re like me, there are times when you are ‘rearing to go’ when a disagreement comes up.

Someone needs you to stand up for them? Done. Need to make a complaint? Done.

Need to convince the well-meaning shop assistant to check out the back for more stock? Done.

And yet…

… Some days the last thing you want to do is rub against the grain. Instead you want to take the back seat, keep your head down and maintain the peace. You’d rather deal with the consequences later rather than speak up in the moment. 

There’s nothing wrong with this – except in the context of chronic illness sometimes the consequences aren’t ours to absorb.

As Watchers, caregivers and loving friends, sometimes we are called to fight our Loved One’s battles, not our own. When we give up, they are the ones who suffer for it.

So what do we do?

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O woe is me! (Watchers, we are not Victims)

“Oh look at all those other people with their lollipops and rainbows, skipping hand in hand in a luscious field of poppies. If only that was me. Instead here I am in my dark corner with my pet spider and my burden of responsibility.”

Which character would you be in a novel?

The hero?

The villain?

The love interest?

Some days it’s easy to feel like the victim. The character that gets smacked over the head with a tonne of Tragedy just so the hero can realise that yes, the world does need saving. I’d better find my cape…

You might not struggle with your health on the same level as your friend or family member with a chronic illness, but it can still feel like you’ve got the raw end of the deal.

After all, your life has been disrupted too! You have added responsibility, added financial strain, added demands on your time and energy. On top of all that you spend a lot of time in close quarters with someone who is unwell (and the truth is, unwell people aren’t always as much fun as ‘well’ ones – I personally turn into a monster when I have the flu).

When you feel overlooked and depleted it’s easy to imagine that your identity is not in being a Watcher, but rather a Victim (yes, with a capital V).

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What to do when you are unable to serve your local community due to sickness

There are seasons for all of us where we are not able to do all we want. When chronic illness enters the picture, these seasons can be long indeed. It can be especially difficult when we are unable to serve or help our local community.

For those of us who are part of a church, a neighbourhood, a sports club or a community group we know what it is to volunteer our time and energy. It is a worthwhile and often enjoyable experience.

It can be challenging and even draining, but there’s something about working as part of a team toiling towards a common goal that can be very uplifting.

If you are a Christian, it is also part of fulfilling Jesus’ command to “love your neighbour”.

Yet illness can get in the way of even our most passionate desires to serve. Being available for a Loved One struggling with their health can mean we are unable to give of our time or energy.

So what do we do?

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Why must we express our anger to God? (Book Review: A Sacred Sorrow)

“Lament” is an old fashioned word. I can often be more of a ‘let’s just move on’ sort of person myself. Yet the Bible teaches that there’s something sacred about our sorrow.

I’ve recently finished A Sacred Sorrow: reaching out to God in the lost language of Lament. This book by Michael Card was given to me by a friend after my mum was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

I must admit I thought I knew quite a bit about turning to God in the midst of sorrow, but this book helped clarify and stretch my understanding.

Most of all, it helped me understand why it’s important to cry out to God – even when I’d prefer just to ‘move on’.

If you want to an overview of the book, read on. If you want to skip to my assessment, scroll down!

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Twenty-eighteen – your favourite posts

My hope is that so far 2019 has been full of Hope, anticipation and quiet assurance for you all! Since we’re still in the early days of the new year, what better time to do a little reflection?

For those of you who have so far found the New Year disappointing, may you find something to celebrate in saying goodbye to 2018.

It’s time for some stats! I thought I’d continue the tradition

Last year the introductory posts: But what is Watching? and the About Me tab were very popular. This year they have slid down the list… nice to know we’re all on the same page now 😉

This year also saw the first interviews of other Watchers, which were very exciting – thank you to Helen and Mary for being willing to share your stories!

Another exciting feature of this year was my partnership with Chronic Joy who do a wonderful job of exploring the intersection of Jesus and Chronic illness.

Anyway, without further ado –

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