4 Things You Should Know If Your Partner Is Chronically Ill

I am a married woman and mother who lives with chronic illness every day. Four years ago I developed Lyme disease and many co-infections, and a year later I was diagnosed with Hashimotos encephalopathy, a form of autoimmune encephalitis. I also have two other autoimmune conditions.

Here are some tips I want all partners of chronically ill patients to know:

1. It isn’t our fault. We don’t enjoy any of this.

People with chronic illness don’t enjoy extreme fatigue, severe pain, dizziness, nausea, vision problems or migraines – or anything else we experience regularly that makes life difficult. We don’t wake up one day and decide to be sick so we can’t work anymore, though many of us do still work. Inflammation, immune deficiency, stress, infections and genetics are often the underlying factors that trigger chronic illness and autoimmunity.

2. Some of us will deal with psychiatric symptoms or depression, and you’ll have to be ready for that.

Chronic pain and inflammation have been linked to depression, and neuropsychiatric symptoms can develop with many chronic diseases like autoimmune thyroid disease, lupus, Ehler-Danlos syndrome or with late stage infections like Lyme disease. Depression can also set in if we are unable to work, have limited mobility, or lose friendships because of our illness and new restrictions. Having information on local support groups and mental health resources is a good idea. Whatever you do, don’t leave them to deal these symptoms on their own. When my own spouse finally acknowledged my depression, it made me feel a thousand times better inside.

3. Walk with us in our battle and support the changes we have to make to heal.

Some of us will be in wheelchairs. Skydiving or hiking with you may not be an option anymore. We might have to severely restrict our diet, go gluten-free or on a paleo, gut and psychology syndrome diet, or specific carbohydrate diet, in order to manage our symptoms better or if the doctor recommends it. Please be supportive and embrace these changes, whether you schedule do a date night indoors, or eat zucchini noodles with us. Help us find gluten-free bread that doesn’t taste like cardboard. When someone who loves us shares our journey, it helps us feel better about sticking to what we need to do in order to feel our best.

4. Make survival and healing a family effort.

Chronically ill people can feel mistreated or isolated by their families if they are left to fend for themselves, or ignored or belittled by their partner or children. Make the children and others in the home understand that sometimes they’ll have to cook or take on new chores. Be firm that put downs and insults to your partner are unacceptable, and having tolerance and compassion is expected. Model those behaviors so they have a good example to follow.

Again, everybody’s situation and relationship is different. Knowing how to best support your significant other will make their life better and can improve your marriage greatly in the long run.

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Gettyimage by: Grandfailure

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