How Wallowing in My Chronic Illness Made Me a Bad Partner
Listen, let’s be real for a second, OK? We wallow. Sometimes with chronic illness, we can be so swept up and caught up in what’s happening – symptoms, treatments, doctors, specialists, surgeries, hospitals, diets – that we get overwhelmed and we get sad. And when the sad doesn’t pass, sometimes we don’t work as hard as we should to get past those sad, hopeless feelings and we wallow. It’s harmless most of the time; hell, I’d argue it’s necessary once in a while.
But sometimes you get so busy wallowing that when you do look up, you realize it’s been four or five months and you’ve completely neglected your partner, your family, your friends, the house and everything else.
That’s not fair.
A lot was happening, and it felt like it was happening to me – I felt helpless. It felt like my world caved in. I had to face the reality that the nerve pain was never going away and I was going to have to live with it forever.
Unfortunately, I decided not to deal with it, and instead, shut my partner out, built a wall around myself and wallowed.
It wasn’t fair that, while I was busy wallowing, my partner was left trying to pick up the pieces. It wasn’t fair that while I was busy feeling so sorry for myself that I was becoming negligent in my own healthcare, my body’s needs, my hygiene, that my partner was left to clean up all the messes I made. He was putting his own needs aside to help me while all I did was wallow and get angrier about being sick. I get so angry in fact, that it’s hard to be around me most days – I won’t lie.
When you don’t actively try to take care of yourself, it hurts the people who love you the most. If you don’t communicate and ask for help, it hurts the people you love. Living in denial, becoming negligent of your own healthcare or well-being, not allowing yourself to feel the grief you need to feel – it builds up over time. Communication starts to break down. You start hiding how you’re feeling and walling people off, leaving them scrambling to figure out why – all while struggling to trust you because you’re not talking. You and I know we need to retreat sometimes to lick our wounds and get back at it, but there has to be a distinction.
The bottom line is: my partner was giving 100 percent and I had checked out.
I stopped talking to him, I stopped communicating, I started making decisions that would impact us both, on my own. And even if it wasn’t intentional, I still did it. I own it.
I let myself become a shitty partner, and that’s not OK.
We deserve support and unconditional love, but our partners can’t become doormats. They are not dumping grounds to bury our shit – they’re people who we fell in love with and who fell in love with us, illness and all. When you have a partner who is willing to make as many sacrifices as mine has, you need to be their support too. There’s no handbook on how to love someone who has a disease that will never go away. Your partner may need to grieve, feel angry and scared, just as much as you do. When you shut your partner out, you’re essentially saying that their needs are not as important as yours. When you don’t remind your partner to take breaks or validate their feelings, you invalidate their importance to you. We drain their life of sunlight when we are endlessly self-pitying and pessimistic.
We have to be honest with ourselves when we become a toxic partner and we have to be committed to fixing it.
You have to be willing to put in the work to maintain your health the best you can. You have to actually try. Your feelings are not less valid, and you’re allowed to feel them; you can’t live in the sad though. There’s no life to be had there, no way for love to flourish and grow, no place for personal connections or gratitude.
Life can’t grow where there is no sunlight.
We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.