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)”

Christmas & Chronic Illness… friends or enemies?

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?”

The 3 dangers of being sad after a chronic illness diagnosis

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 think I hate my chronically ill family member

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:

Dislike

Frustrated at

Disapprove of

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”

4 reasons admitting we are sad is not that easy

I find it quite difficult to respond to: ‘How are you?’
With, ‘Sad.’
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”

Why aren’t I allowed to say that chronic illness is not fair?

Perhaps you have been here:
A knock at the door.
You answer.
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?”

4 things to do when you run out of sympathy

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”

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.

Continue reading “Yes, you are a burden to your chronically ill friend…”