Chronic illness or Christmas? Which would you prefer?
I know which one I’d choose. But too often we don’t have a choice – and this is very evident during the holiday season.
Over Christmas we often spend more time with family, and for many of us, that means spending more time with Chronic Illness.
Chronic Illness doesn’t go on holidays over Christmas…
While the shops and the media try to convince us that by November 1 we have entered into a ‘new world’ of perfectly laid tables, wrapped gifts and dizzying heights of tinsel – most of us know that’s not quite true.
Nothing’s really changed.
Certainly not our loved one’s health struggles.
The rest of the country may be feeling care-free and relaxed – but often our Loved One’s have more cares than ever before. Continue reading “Christmas & Chronic Illness… friends or enemies?”
Sadness after a chronic illness diagnosis, that’s valid, right?
It’s a good thing… yes?
Well – sort of.
Sadness can be restrictive
Strange as it may seem, having mixed emotions can actually be a saving grace.
If we are sad over our Loved One’s suffering, but simultaneously frustrated at the doctors, angry at God or jealous of others, no one feeling has complete control.
After all, we’re only human, and cannot plumb the depths of ‘anger’ at the exact same time as we are reaching into the extent and intensity of ‘grief’.
With many emotions comes also many options for relief, more opportunities for someone to say ‘me too’.
Yet when we are simply sad, it can become all-consuming. We can easily develop ‘tunnel vision’, and our sadness may push aside every other happiness.
In one sense that’s okay. It’s not wrong to feel grief, and immense grief will be felt immensely.
But it can also be harmful, because we all need some measure of distance. Continue reading “The 3 dangers of being sad after a chronic illness diagnosis”
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.
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!
Continue reading “I think I hate my chronically ill family member”
I find it quite difficult to respond to: ‘How are you?’
It doesn’t seem like an appropriate answer somehow.
It seems a bit silly to even have to say this, but when a Loved One is diagnosed with a chronic illness, it can make us feel sad.
It sounds ridiculous. Of course when someone is sick it is going to make us sad. But I genuinely believe it’s not that simple. At least it wasn’t for me.
4 reasons we find it hard to be sad after a diagnosis
1. Sadness is unexpected
To be sad – and only sad – is quite rare.
Life is complex, and so we are often experience several emotions at a time, particularly in the wake of a chronic illness diagnosis.
Our grief is often tainted with anger or bitterness or frustration, or even exhaustion. As a result, when we find ourselves ‘simply’ sad, and ‘only’ grieving, it can feel a bit odd. It is an experience we are not prepared for, and don’t know how to cope with.
This can be uncomfortable and confusing. It was for me. Continue reading “4 reasons admitting we are sad is not that easy”
Perhaps you have been here:
A knock at the door.
It’s a friend, a neighbour. She has just popped over for a chat.
She holds a covered dish:
‘Cooked a bit extra and thought you could do with a home cooked meal’.
She asks how we are, how our Loved One is.
She complains for a while about her work, and how tired she is from the high tea she went to on the weekend. She has another date with friends in a few days but unfortunately it coincides with the birthday of a family member:
‘It’s always the way isn’t it? Everything at once, so frustrating.’
She shifts on the door step:
‘Ah well, no rush to return the dish – we’ll be away for a few weeks.
Going on a cruise. Just a small one. I’m a bit worried actually, I’m terrified I’m coming down with a cold. There’s nothing worse than a sniffly nose!
Anyway, got to rush, I have a hair dressers appointment this afternoon. All the best!’
You juggle the still-warm meal and close the door, the hot smell of cheese and silver foil clouding the air.
After the door is firmly shut and the neighbour out of sight, you give the wood a short, hard kick.
It’s not fair!
Continue reading “Why aren’t I allowed to say that chronic illness is not fair?”
As we know, chronic illness goes on and on and on.
There is no end, no use by date. This is a problem.
Because we are only human. We find it difficult to stretch out our emotions. A state of perpetual excitement, for example, is extremely difficult to maintain.
So is a state of sympathy.
Yet what happens when the tragedy has not passed (and may not pass) and our sympathetic feelings, our desire to be involved, our sadness in what is, has come to an end?
Do we simply give up?
Do we stop Watching?
First of all let us ask ourselves a probing question:
Why is lack of sympathy a problem?
Why is it a problem that we no longer feel interested in our Loved One’s suffering? Why is it an issue that we don’t wince as they wince any longer?
Is it really that wrong?
I suspect we want to instinctively answer ‘yes’. Yes, there is something wrong when we don’t care about suffering anymore.
That answer is right.
But it’s also wrong.
Everything becomes normal
Continue reading “4 things to do when you run out of sympathy”
Have you ever felt like a burden? To those around you? To your friends, your spouse, your community?
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?
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.
Continue reading “Yes, you are a burden to your chronically ill friend…”
How do you respond when a family member or friend is diagnosed with a chronic illness?
How can you possibly support them in their grief?
There are many practical, emotional and spiritual ways you can (and should!) love and care for them – but there’s one thing that I think is most important. It’s a mindset, not a method…
The one rule of a chronic illness diagnosis:
Do not judge.
1. Everyone’s diagnosis is different
A diagnosis might be quick – or drawn out
For some people diagnosis comes quickly, a lightning spring shower swooping out of nowhere, tearing the sky apart. One moment they are healthy and happy – and the next they’re crying in pain and fear.
For others it’s more gradual, like following a paper trail, picking up pieces of the puzzle one at a time until everything makes sense, and the sneaking suspicion is confirmed.
It’s important to remember that however a chronic illness diagnosis begins, it still must be lived through, and this can take a very long time.
Continue reading “The one rule to survive a chronic illness diagnosis”