There came a point in my illness journey where my husband was completely overwhelmed with my situation and couldn’t help me make decisions.
It was completely understandable. We had already been through so much – physical AND mental illness, a stream of doctors and therapists, remedies tried and failed, and all of our emotion and heartbreak about it all.
I remember sitting on the couch, teary and trying to explain my current health dilemma. Should I stick it out with this doctor? It didn’t seem to be helping, but maybe I hadn’t given it enough time. Maybe I hadn’t followed his protocol well enough. And if we were done with this doctor, what would we do next? Go back to my acupuncturist? Take a break from pursuing treatment? I was confused and hurting, and I looked up into my husband’s eyes and saw…
Nothing. Or almost nothing. Eyes glazed over. Distant expression. Hollow words.
At first, I was even more hurt and confused. Why wasn’t he engaging with me in this? No sympathy? No help? No comfort? How was I supposed to find my way forward without his perspective and consolation? But he just looked at me and said, “I can’t. I can’t go here with you right now. I’m sorry.”
Well, friends, a few fights and crying jags later, we figured out what was going on. He was even more overwhelmed and exhausted than I was. I think it was harder for him to watch me suffer than for me to go through it. All the pain, all the constant shifting of our lives with my fragile existence, all the disappointing tries to fix it… He didn’t know what to do anymore – how to help or advise – how to see the big picture and process the details. He couldn’t do it.
At first it seemed that if my husband couldn’t do it I was going to have to go it alone. But where did that leave me? Should I be able to do this alone? Should a competent 33-year-old woman be able to go to doctors’ appointments, process information and options, and make decisions about her health alone? Well, friends, I didn’t feel like I could. Doctors still intimidate me, and I’m a slow processor. By myself, I would wind up agreeing to things or letting them be passed over without having time to think them through. I didn’t stand up for myself enough. And I would get so confused!
So we thought we’d try to think of someone who could help me. These were the qualifications: someone who lived close enough and had enough schedule flexibility to go to doctors’ appointments with me, whose judgment we trusted, and who I felt safe with. Pretty tall order. At the time Brett’s dad, Ed, fit those things nicely and he agreed to do it.
Honestly, it turned out to be better than having Brett with me. He was a step removed and not emotionally involved. He cared about me, and I was his first priority. He was kind, but he wasn’t worried about hurting the doctor’s feelings. He would say things like, “We’ve been coming here for 6 months and improved maybe 5 percent. We need a new plan.” And then I could answer all the follow up questions about symptoms and timetables. He became my fellow warrior.
If I had it to do over again, I would use my fellow warrior from the start. Maybe your partner can fill that role for you, but I’ve talked to a lot of people whose closest relationship can’t take it.
We also found that once Brett was released from constant details and decision-making, he was able to emotionally join and support me again. He was able to give that part to God and just walk with me day to day.
My fellow warrior became an integral part of my journey, and my health began to improve. We found the right doctors and naturopaths for me, and we didn’t stick with things that didn’t work. I will forever be grateful to my angel father-in-law for all of the hours of sitting in waiting rooms, long conversations, and logistical help he gave us when I was so fragile.
“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
So find a fellow warrior. Don’t try to do it alone. If it can’t be your spouse, find a friend, an aunt, a grandma in church, or a neighbor. In a pinch, it could even be done long distance with skype and cell phones. For those of you I’ve connected with personally, know I’m praying for you to find the support you need.
Sending God’s grace and peace to you all.