So, tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. There are definitely divided opinions on the holiday. Some despise it because they are forced to watch all the star-crossed lovers get all lovey-dovey. I know because I was one of those people at one point in time. Then there are those who, for whatever reason, like to vandalize it for everybody else by talking about St. Valentine and how Valentine’s Day is actually celebrating a very brutal death of a patron saint. Some lovers ignore the holiday entirely and don’t waste their time with it, while others go all out and shower their significant other with candies, cards, teddy bears and gifts and what-have-you.
In the spirit of the holiday, I decided to write about what life is like when it comes to loving someone with a chronic illness. Lets face it. It’s not always easy. It takes a lot of patience and self-control. Sometimes you just want to scream at that person. A lot of times, when someone is in the throes of the disease, a relationship can seem very one-sided. Sometimes it can feel like the sick one isn’t pulling their weights… it’s ok to feel like that sometimes. Chronic illness is hard for everyone involved. I know I didn’t make it easy on poor Dave.
Dave is my husband. And he’s AWESOME. He has loved me at my very worst… I like to blame the Prednisone… but I’m pretty sure that it only helped. In the end, I’m the one who blew up and acted all crazy. For example… There was that time I was in bed, ready to drift off to sleep. Dave was in a cuddly mood and snuggled up next to me. I rolled over, gave him a mean look and said, “I am not in any mood for cuddles. It’s hot in here. Leave me alone.” Affronted, Dave kindly backed away and rolled over to face the wall. Suddenly, and without warning, I felt insulted. “How dare you turn away from me!?” I said as tears started streaming down my face. “Do you not love me anymore?!” Irrational? Yep. Moody? Absolutely.
There was another time when we got into a horrible fight and I screamed at him and told him I was leaving. I took my rings off, left them on the counter, packed up all my things and threw them into the car along with my cat and I drove three blocks away and parked in an empty parking lot to scream and cry my eyes out. I slowly realized that I had no idea why I was so angry. Ashamedly, and humbly, I came to my senses and drove back home. I know it hurt Dave, but I’m pretty sure the cat came out more traumatized than either of us were.
Another time, we were driving to work and got into another argument (over who knows what!) and suddenly I blew up and punched him in the chest and told him to pull over or I was going to jump out of the car. Eventually we sorted things out… but I gotta tell ya… when you’re on Prednisone, you do some pretty crazy things. It’s a vicious thing, people. It will turn your normally mellow and sweet spouse into a complete psychopath.
When you love someone with a chronic illness, you often have to make sacrifices. There was that time that Dave and I stayed home for Christmas. I was hospitalized a week before Christmas and we couldn’t go see our families like we usually do. It was a small, and cozy Christmas, but it was difficult for both of us. It wasn’t just Christmas. My illness caused us to miss several social gatherings.
Dave also had to sacrifice his diet for me. I went on a gluten-free kick for over a year trying to get symptom relief. I had some pretty big failures as far as that goes… not to mention the expenses associated with a gluten-free diet. It wasn’t just gluten I cut out. According to the diet I was following, I had dozens of food intolerances. Some of those were chicken, cinnamon, and egg whites. It was difficult. Not to mention very un-fun.
Poor Dave also spent many sick, sleepless nights with me when I was puking and pooping my guts out. It’s not easy having to watch the person you love so deeply go through so much pain… but he stuck with me and loved me anyway.
You’re often forced to fight for the one you love because of their chronic illness. Dave has yelled at doctors for their apparent incompetence. He tore into several pharmacists because my medications were not ready when they needed to be. Another time, Dave had to keep his cool while watching another doctor slowly open my abscess wound (ruining my “beautiful” incision) to drain it. Then, Dave lovingly dressed that wound for me for several weeks as I couldn’t bring myself to look at a huge gaping hole in my abdomen.
All in all, Dave has done a lot for me. It’s not easy living with someone who is sick all the time… but there are those very few and far between who stick with us through it all. I think one of the most memorable moments was that time Dave drove three hours out of his way in the middle of the night on bad tires because we thought I might need the ER. Dave has been amazing. We were only dating when I was diagnosed, but he married me anyway. And he has been there with me through it all. He’s fought for me and with me. He’s cried with me. He’s prayed with me and he’s celebrated with me.
To all you caregivers out there who love someone with a chronic illness: I know we give you a hard time. Living with a chronic illness doesn’t just affect the patient. It affects all their loved ones. It takes a toll on people. I often feel as though you guys don’t get enough credit. I guess I’m writing this to say THANK YOU on behalf of IBD’ers everywhere. We may not always appreciate you in the moment, but I can’t tell you how much you mean to us. Without you, I am convinced that we would be much worse off than we already are. Thank you for all you do and all you sacrifice. Happy Valentine’s Day.