To the Woman Who Said It's 'Wrong' for My Partner/Caregiver to Live With Me
To the woman who said “You know what you’re doing is wrong…”
We like to think that what’s “right” and “wrong” is obvious, but it’s really not. I believe it depends on your values, your religion and your life experiences and situations. What I am doing is wrong to you, and by my religion it’s “wrong” to my own family, but it’s necessary. Does that justify it? I’m not sure, but I don’t think it’s anybody’s place to tell me that what I’m doing is right or wrong.
I don’t remember how our conversation started. You were really nice, and you listened and provided great advice that is still stuck in my mind this night, weeks after we talked. We spent about 15 minutes together, and you changed the way I saw some things, but the last sentence you spoke to me has just not sat well.
We were talking about how we need to let people love us for who we are, with or without makeup, and not hide things. You asked about my significant other, and I told you our situation. I explained many things, one of them being that he lived with me so that I could afford to pay rent, because I can’t afford to pay all the bills on my own. I left out the detail that he also is my caregiver. I don’t like to parade my illness around. I don’t share it unless absolutely necessary. It tends to cause people to either think I’m dramatic and faking, or to feel sorry for me and be awkward. So I didn’t tell you, because we had just met and there was no reason for me to try to explain everything to you. I was working, after all, so I couldn’t take an hour to tell you my illness’s story.
When you first realized we lived together you didn’t say anything. I didn’t know it bothered you. But when you left, you made sure I knew I was doing something “wrong” in the eyes of your religion. Living together is frowned upon for many reasons, but it is the only way I am able to have a semi-independent life away from home and stay safe.
There are days when I come home from work and cannot function. I literally take my meds, get a shower and sleep for 10 hours straight. This means my dogs need to be taken care of, as does everything else around the house. He makes my lunch for me, he walks the dogs and feeds them, he cleans up, and he makes sure I’m still breathing every now and then when he comes by the room. There are days when I am too sick to even shower myself, so he does that for me. There are days when I can’t get out of bed because I worked too hard, so he takes care of everything and gets me what I need. There are times when I can’t open my medicine bottles, so he gets them out for me. There are times when I can’t drive myself places (to doctors, the ER/urgent care, my parents), so he does that for me, too.
I could live with my parents, but as most young adults do, I need my own space, and moving in with them when I got sick means I would have had to change schools and leave my life behind. Instead, my SO moved in with me. It was a mutual choice. He didn’t do it knowing he would be my caregiver, but that’s what it became. So I guess you’re right, what I did was at first “wrong,” but it has become my lifeline that I would not have survived the last year without.
So maybe there are other options for what I could do instead of this “wrong” act of living with my SO of three years. Maybe I could hire a caregiver (though, realistically, my family and I cannot afford a 24/7 live-in caregiver). Maybe I should move in with my parents and give up my life. Maybe I could get a roommate other than my SO — except when you’re chronically sick, you have to be very careful about the people you let around your medicines, and I wouldn’t trust just anybody to take care of my dogs, nor would I expect them to make my lunch for me and cater to my needs when I’m sick because that’s not what roommates do.
I’m honestly OK with this “wrong” choice. I know you didn’t mean anything by it other than to try to get me to do the “right” thing, but you didn’t know the entirety of my situation, and you unknowingly judged me. You were not rude, you were very kind and compassionate, but I wish you wouldn’t judge (intentionally or not) based only on your religion. I don’t believe it’s that black and white. There’s so much more than what you know from a 15-minute conversation with me and it is frustrating to either have to pretend like I’m fine and I’m just doing something “wrong,” or to try to justify to you why I’ve made this choice. But even explaining it may not help. Unless you’re in my shoes you can’t know what I deal with, and I shouldn’t have to justify every choice I make to strangers.