To the Partner Who Doesn't Care About My Illness
I have loved you for a long time, and we have been through so much together, but what I’ve recently learned is this: You could care less about my illness. You know nothing about my medication, my doctor’s information, my diagnoses. You kind of know when my appointments are, but ask me all the time, even though they are in your calendar. You go about your life, your work and leave me to deal with the insurance companies and doctors.
You might be thinking, wow, why be with someone like that?
And what I’ve learned is, that’s exactly why I’m with you. You don’t care about my illness. You know where I keep my emergency information, when to call 911. You know all the important things. But you don’t care. You go through all of this, the “burden” of having a partner with a chronic illness who is always sick, the worry when I don’t text back for a while and you know I’m home alone, the household chores I can’t do, not because you don’t care about my illness, but because you care about me.
You love me. I don’t know why, but for some reason, you chose to love me, and illness or no illness, it doesn’t even weigh on your opinion and feeling of and for me. I am still me; I am unchanged to you. If anything, I am stronger in your eyes. I am a Marvel hero, as you have said.
And here is my confession, for I fall short of a Marvel superhero.
I have neglected you. I have taken you for granted. I have made myself the central focus in our relationship. It seemed only logical, I’m the identified patient right? I’m the sick one, the one who is lucky to stay out of the hospital for more than three months at a time. I’m the one who is on disability and hasn’t worked in two years. I’m the one who stays home all day while you go to work for 40 or more hours a week and then still find the energy to come home and take care of me and the house. It’s me, me and my illness, that dominate our life.
And I take. I take and I take, and then I take some more. Until you are burnt out, and I finally notice something is wrong. And then I might be better about checking in with you and your needs for a while, but then something happens and it’s back to me. And for this, I am truly, deeply sorry.
You never waver. You never falter. You carry on, steady through the storm. Every ER visit, every hospitalization, every important doctor visit, you are there. Without question, without me asking.
It wasn’t until recently that I found my voice. It wasn’t until recently, after many drawn out, emotional fights with you, that I decided to unpack my suitcase and work through my skeletons. It wasn’t until recently that I found an outlet for all of this junk in my head. And now that I have, I have a new perspective. I am not my illness; I am a warrior. You are right. But I haven’t been acting like it.
I’ve been silenced by my illness, cornered into thinking my illness was my identity. But just like I learned when I lost my job two years ago, a job I thought defined me, one singular part of my life does not define me. I have an illness. I am not an illness. I am a partner though, specifically yours. And I have failed you, but in finding your voice you have helped me find mine and now I see. Now I see, and now I can and will be your Captain Marvel.
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