LTCI 3: How to balance skepticism with love

Hello, my name’s Emily and I’m a Skeptic.
If this sounds like a therapy group meeting, you’ll soon understand why.
But first, take a moment. Could this ‘greeting’ be applied to you?

If you’ve spent any length of time wandering around the Interwebs (Hello, Pinterest!) you know that there is no end to the suggestions, prescriptions or affirmations for people with Chronic Illness.

And I have a big admission to make.

From someone who doesn’t have a chronic illness, I sometimes find these a bit odd.

3 postures to help with X disease.”
or
“The scent that will bring you peace even as you face X”
or even,
“Exercises you can do even if you have X”

At first I dismissed any such posts as ‘unnecessary’ – but now I try and approach them with humility. Why the change?

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Wait! I feel guilty.

They are sick and I am not.
I can leave the house. They cannot.
I can eat anything I want. They must not.

Guilt is an emotion that it is easy to struggle with after a diagnosis of chronic illness.

When we as Watchers see how the illness is impacting our Loved One’s lives, and envision how it will continue to impact their lives,… the guilt creeps in.

Why do we feel guilty?

  1. We enjoy

When we are out partying or simply enjoying a day at the beach we feel guilty because our Loved One can’t be there with us.

Or perhaps they can – but they are exhausted and have to sit down and miss out on the fun. Maybe they have a health problem they need to worry about, and the experience, enjoyable for us, is isolating for them.

We receive what they do not – and so we feel guilty. Days out become a guilty pleasure. It seems wrong to arrive home to our Loved One or visit them, and recount the fun we had with our healthy body and mind.

Yet guilt is not just about imbalance. For instance, if instead of being painful, lonely and debilitating, chronic illness was like winning the lottery, I don’t think we would feel guilty.

I think we’d feel jealous.

Instead, chronic illness is awful, and so we feel guilty. Their life has been ruined. It is restrictive, it is pain filled. They will climb mountains and descend into valleys which we will never tread.

Likewise, we will enjoy delights that they never will.

Our close relationship with our Loved One means we can’t forget or ignore these imbalances.

After all there are thousands of people in slavery across the world and on the whole we do not spend our hours feeling guilty about our own freedom.

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Yes, you are a burden to your chronically ill friend…

Have you ever felt like a burden? To those around you? To your friends, your spouse, your community?
I have.

It’s easy to feel doubly burdensome when someone you love is ill or going through a tough time. You don’t want to add to their struggles… and yet somehow you accidentally end up doing so!

Are you a burden?
I am.

Sorry, but you are a burden

A burden is something troublesome. Something hard to get rid of. We can be burdened by duty, worry, conflict or disease.

But more often than not, our real burdens are people.

All relationships are burdensome. All attachments hurt. Friendship is ecstasy and agony.

When we love someone we worry about them. We weep when they weep, we laugh when they love. It is people – family, neighbours, friends, spouses – which hamper our futures and make our decisions doubly difficult.

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