Posted by fxckfeelings on November 2, 2009Share This Post
Making the best of ill health, surprise, doesn’t usually feel good; there’s the burden you’ve put on others, and (if you’re caring for someone who’s chronically ill) for the burden they’ve put on you. If you can learn to ignore your emotions and focus rationally on what your life is really about, however, you’ll find that your pain isn’t really what’s important.
I have been basically bedridden now for almost a decade with constant pain and fatigue, and I’m not even 50. I have been diagnosed with many auto-immune diseases, as well as central nervous system disorders that have led to constant pain, and am on a diet of many medications for pain, neurological disorders, and sleep. I find myself asking why bother? I have lost so many years of my life; my “thrill” in life is getting through a grocery trip. My body is weakened and aged, I cannot please my husband, my now grown children see a mother who is weak and sad. Before this, I was an active, involved, strong woman looking forward to a wonderful active life with my husband, and ready to see my children become healthy adults with families of their own. Now I see a life of pain that no medication has been able to stop, the constant craving of sleep, and utter depression.
If your goal was to be have a wonderful active life with your husband and watch your grandchildren grow, you were screwed before you began.
We all wish for a life like that, but the reason I’m open for business is that none of us can make such a life happen, even with a perfect start and wonderful marriage, not in this world. So if you make a goal of wishes like these, you’ll feel like a total loser when uncontrollable things happen, like incurable illness and pain.
A better goal is to find a partner who is sufficiently strong, caring, and devoted to kids so that he will shoulder the load when you can’t and stick around when you’re not much fun to be with. Lucky for you, you’ve succeeded.
Your goal with your kids is to show them how to be good, caring, productive people in spite of all the unfair shit that life will throw at them, and that’s what you’re succeeding at now.
Your husband and kids may be sad and hurting for your pain, and you’re hurting for theirs. Happiness and pain relief, however, were never what was most important about your goals, so never say that you’ve lost “so many” years of your life.
For all those years, you’ve coped with illness while raising a family. If you put aside the negative thoughts that pain and depression have put in your head, I’m sure your family still considers the day better if you’re around than if you’re not, so that’s many years of living with pain, and sharing life with your family.
I’m old enough to have many dead friends, some of whom died painfully. Some reached the point where pain was too much and it was a relief to go, but one secret that doctors know, and people who care for dying patients, is that dying people often show us how to live. They discover their priorities and share their courage.
It’s painful to work with them but also enriching, and so it has been with my friends. I think of them often when I need to remember what’s more important than pain.
Help out your family by writing a statement. “I know it gets depressing when I seem to get weaker and hurt more, no matter how much good love and care you give me. But I want you to know that my time with you is precious and that I’m proud of how strong you’ve been and what a good job you’re doing. It’s normal to get discouraged, overwhelmed, and angry. It’s also normal to give up and bicker and get away from this burden. But we haven’t done that in this family. In this family, we hang together and try to help one another and I’m proud of you.”
My husband and I were having problems for a long time (we both acknowledged this), but then, as things were coming to a head, he suffered a severe stroke. From that point, the status of our marriage seemed unimportant; he was my husband and he needed my help. For over a year, I stayed with him through physical therapy, rehab, just several grueling months of watching him learn how to speak and walk again. He’s still not 100%, but he’s no longer dependent on me or anyone else…which is why I want to talk to him again about getting a divorce. I’m not sure whether I’m just worried about being perceived as a monster (I know, who cares what other people think), but whether I really am being a monster, even though we were talking about divorcing before his stroke ever happened. I know he’s in an impaired state now, but just because he has to suffer a burden for the rest of his life, doesn’t mean I have to suffer our marriage. My goal is to go back to the things the way they were before the stroke, and go forward from there.
To my mind, living up to your marriage vows is important. That said, living up to your vows isn’t just a matter of keeping your promises, because there’s too much you don’t control about what happens to a partnership after it’s formed.
Your wish for your marriage is that you support one another through thick and thin, but reality may make mutual support impossible and turn the marriage into a severe burden for one or both of you. This happens frequently if your partner has an addiction or a problem with other out-of-control behavior. It also happens when it turns out that you just can’t get along.
Despite your best intentions, your marriage goal is not to support one another unconditionally, but to do your best to create a good partnership and manage it constructively if it’s not.
In deciding whether or not to stay with your husband, accept that, of all the factors involved with your next move, your feelings are not what’s most important. Someone may be a pain in the ass to live with, but you and your kids, if you have them, may be better off with the marriage as is, regardless.
Yes, you may be able to provide better care than he could get elsewhere, but, if you really can’t get along together, being trapped in a close relationship by his disability will be hell for both of you. Accept the reality of your bad chemistry before considering alternatives.
It’s unlikely that your decision will make anyone feel good because that’s not possible. Your goal is not to make a decision that feels good, but to assess the good and bad that will come about from staying together versus splitting up, and arrive at a decision that makes the best of things.
Don’t focus on what other people would think, or what you would feel, or what could have been. Focus on what makes the most sense for the future.
Write a statement that will help you make your assessment without being overly influenced by anger or guilt. “I’ve done a good job of caring for my partner and I think he’s strong enough to be OK if I decide to leave. Now it’s my job to add up the value of staying versus going. I’ll assume, at this point, that the bad chemistry between us can’t be helped and is nothing but a fact that I must include, without blame, in my decision. I can’t expect my decision to make anyone happy in the short run. But if I’ve tried hard to make our relationship work and to find a good way of dealing with the fact that it doesn’t, I’ll make a good decision.”
More advice from Dr. Lastname