COVID19 and Chronic Illness: life on the edge of uncertainty

“Life can change completely in an instant.”

Many of us are probably well acquainted with this idea. A tiny niggling pain, a doctor’s visit, a diagnosis – and suddenly, nothing will ever be the same again.

We constantly live on the edge of this uncertainty. All of us – every day, every minute.

Covid19 and chronic illness

For as long as I can remember I have known I will not have my mum forever, and yet that split second phone call during my lunch break at work when I heard she had a mass in her pancreas still changed everything.

For as long as I can remember I’ve devoured books where dramatic things happen. Kids die too young; people are wounded in battle; last minute inheritances save the day; all is lost and all is rescued over and pver again. Yet I still remember exactly where I was when I found out that my ten year old friend had died suddenly from an undiagnosed brain tumour.

Likewise, I suspect that while many of us may “know” the speed with which reality can be remade, these past few weeks of of COVID-19 have also come as a bit of shock. No one really expects a pandemic. Not many people imagine that soon their actions – perhaps already severely curtailed by disease or circumstance – will be hedged further by governments seeking to prevent disaster.

Continue reading “COVID19 and Chronic Illness: life on the edge of uncertainty”

Why you’re moving forward this New Year (even when it doesn’t feel like it)

It’s the end of the year… again. Each year seems to go by quicker than the last, doesn’t it? We joke about it, but sometimes it can be disheartening.

We can feel like nothing has really changed and we’re caught in an endless loop. Over and over again – Christmas, New Year, Easter, a birthday: one year older, work, holiday, another year gone by –

Life can seem like on unending circuit, particularly if you (or your loved one) have a chronic illness. This is because:

Continue reading “Why you’re moving forward this New Year (even when it doesn’t feel like it)”

Why we need to celebrate small things

“Perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony…
it may be that God makes every daisy separately,
but has never got tired of making them.” – G. K. Chesterton

There are 2 types of people. Those who celebrate EVERYTHING and those who wait for the really big, land-mark events before they break out the confetti.

I admit I am often one of the later. I don’t want to celebrate prematurely, I want to wait until I’m sure it’s something worthy of celebrating… and as a result, I don’t celebrate much at all!

The problem is life doesn’t always bundle achievements or seasons into boxes. There is often no neat, conclusive ‘end’.

This is especially true with Chronic illness. When you can’t celebrate healing or an ending, it can be difficult to celebrate at all.

And yet I think we are called to celebrate, even when there’s no miracle or no big event. Why? Well I could talk about being positive and practicing self-care and embracing your life and all the rather ‘in’ phrases at the moment…. but I want to give you more concrete reasons.

Continue reading “Why we need to celebrate small things”

Abracadabra! (Watchers, we are not Fairy Godmothers!)

Contrary to popular belief, fairy godmothers are not trademarked by Disney. They do not always run around singing ‘bippity-boppity-boo!’ In fact, they may be closer than we expect…

A ‘fairy godmother’ is a type of character which charges into a dismal situation, waves their magic wand and fixes everything before disappearing in a cloud of fairy dust.

They exist outside of Cinderella – and in fact, are often viewed negatively by film critics. A ‘fairy godmother’, like a ‘deus ex machina’ can be a lazy way of resolving the characters’ problems and ensuring a happy ending by the two hour mark.

That said, how many of us would love a ‘fairy godmother’ in our own lives? A magic solution to all our stresses? Yes please!

Often as Watchers, we are tempted to try and fulfill the role of a ‘fairy godmother’ in our Loved One’s life.

Continue reading “Abracadabra! (Watchers, we are not Fairy Godmothers!)”

Why you should attend your loved one’s doctor’s appointment (and how to be prepared)

A while ago someone I know was diagnosed with a chronic illness. After the initial diagnosis, she had to make an appointment to see yet another doctor. Before this appointment, I was chatting with her daughter and realised something rather abruptly: there is an art to accompanying someone to the doctor.

I’ve been to many doctors’ appointments in my life, both for myself and others. I’m neither proud nor ashamed of this, but I AM used to them.

And perhaps, not everyone is.

As a Watcher, a doctor’s appointment raises several questions: If it’s not for us, should we go? Is it important that we be there? What is our role? Are there reasons we shouldn’t attend?

Every situation is different and so is every person. I don’t think there are right or wrong answers, but I also think we can be a valuable asset at a doctor’s or specialist’s appointment. Here’s why:

Continue reading “Why you should attend your loved one’s doctor’s appointment (and how to be prepared)”

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?

Continue reading “An open letter to your sick sibling”

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?

Continue reading “When NOT to fight someone else’s battle (even if you want to)”

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?

Continue reading “Why you SHOULD fight someone else’s battle (when you’d rather not)”

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).

Continue reading “O woe is me! (Watchers, we are not Victims)”

Loving a sick person is too hard! (Watchers, we are not impartial observers)

I’ve been absent lately.

I’ve discovered that it’s quite difficult to type with a broken wrist!

I’m also settling in to what it looks like to be at home, loving someone going through chemotherapy.

It’s not easy. Patience and domestic duties have never been my strong points. Far from it actually. Some days I want to give it all up and become an “impartial observer”. It hurts much less when you fail and takes far less effort!

Nevertheless, God has called me to be a Watcher right now, so I pray and know He will equip me in all the ways necessary (and probably in a lot I’d like to pretend aren’t necessarily, like the ability to  ‘see’ what needs  to be done around the house or remember to pick up my own clothes from the floor).

ALSO an exciting piece of news: This is the 100th post on Called to Watch! Is there someone you know who might find this blog helpful? Take a moment to send them the link, or sign up for email updates!

Being a Watcher is hard, and instead of ‘really’ caring, it’s tempting to disengage emotionally. When this happens, we become “impartial observers”.

Continue reading “Loving a sick person is too hard! (Watchers, we are not impartial observers)”