How My Significant Other Helps Me Through Holiday Conversations About My Health
“You’re looking better!” That family member you see once or twice a year says in greeting, coming in for a hug where you’re seated in one of the many plush chairs in the living room.
Smiling through the pain, covering the wince you really want to make from either too tight an embrace or whatever odd angle you end up in while hugging them back from a seated position, you laugh softly, giving their back a gentle pat or two to subtly hint it’s time to release, which they do, but stay at arm’s length, looking you up and down with a smile.
“I guess I do,” you say meekly, looking down to the nice clothes you managed to wrangle yourself into somehow, the shoes that don’t pinch as much as the others but still look nice. Bringing your gaze back up to theirs, you hope your eyes aren’t too bloodshot from lack of sleep, that the makeup you decided to put the effort into covers the flush of your cheeks at both the spotlight on you at the moment and the reaction to the room as it suddenly feels 19 degrees warmer. Subtly reaching up to touch your perfectly coiffed hair, you hope it stays that way, if only one thing can go right today.
Looking over their shoulder, you see your significant other across the room, working in the kitchen with other family members, and you can see in their eyes they are listening. They know as well as you do that today was not a particularly good one. The pain it started with, the emotional and physical drain of getting ready, the toll it all took on you making you tired before you even left your home.
“How did that test go?”
You look back to the relative, who is still smiling, their eyes genuinely curious. “Oh, um,” you stumble, looking for the words in the carpet below you, hoping they hid there to get away from the brain fog currently clouding your mind. Do you admit you can’t remember the last test you had done? Do you tell them how tired you are, and try to laugh it off, telling them you’ve slept since then, just not letting on to the fact that it’s probably only been a handful of hours despite the months between now and when you saw them last?
“Last time I saw you you were getting that testing done with the specialist….”
“Oh!” You say as if you remember, that that was the one clue you needed, not telling them it doesn’t help at all as you have seen more specialists than you can count. “Yeah!”
Your significant other appears beside you as if by magic, wiping their hands on a towel, and greets the family member with a warm embrace, their loving slaps on the back making you want to flinch at the thought.
“I think they are talking about the one back in June…”
You appreciate your significant other’s help, you really do, but to be honest, it’s not much help at all. Staring at them blankly, you try to remember exactly what test is being referred to. The brain fog is cloudy, and it doesn’t look like it’ll be clearing any time soon, however, a sudden ray of sunshine illuminates the thing you have been looking for.
“Oh!” You say in excitement, the smile genuine this time. “The one about the vasovagal syncope.”
“The what?” Remembering why you remembered that, you turn to the family member to see the look of confusion on their face.
You blink for a minute, trying to remember the simple explanation. “Fainting.”
“Sometimes when people have a stressor like needles or blood, or a variety of other things, it causes your body to react by fainting. Vasovagal syncope is just the technical term.” Once again your significant other saves the day.
You just nod.
“So you faint?” They look alarmed.
“Well, not really, but I get close.” You feel sheepish.
“It’s often part of a condition called dysautonomia, which is a malfunction of the autonomic nervous system, the thing that makes your body do all the things you don’t think about, like breathing, and heart rate, and while some people faint and have pseudoseizures, others just get really close, like, really dizzy, muffled hearing, fuzzy vision… If they can sit or lean on something in time, it’s often preventable, but still can cause annoying symptoms.”
You can’t help but smile at your significant other, because despite all the problems it has caused between the two of you, all the comorbidities that come along with it, and all the inconveniences it has caused, somewhere along the way, they truly listened.
Looking to the relative you wait a moment before pointing at your significant other with a grin. “What they said.”
With the holidays coming up, I just had the urge to write this, and it was inspired by something my significant other said.
We were arguing after I came home in a grouchy mood after a day full of testing, and once again, chronic illness got in the way.
I broke down crying, explaining in further detail what exactly the tests might show, major and minor things, but they all scared me, nonetheless, and I expressed this to him, finally saying, “I wanted to go to you first thing and say, ‘Hey. How was your day? Mine sucked.’ but I was so tired, once I sat down, I couldn’t get back up, and when you came in here, I was frustrated with my body, and I took it out on you, I’m sorry. I’m just so scared.”
At this point he took a moment, then hugged me gently, rocking me side to side, and said, “I’m sorry. I get so frustrated by your illnesses and how they inconvenience me, I forget there’s a person dealing with them, too. I forget that you have them, and they aren’t just a thing in the way. I’m sorry. It’ll be OK.”
And whenever I talk about testing I have had with my mom (who comes to all my appointments because my brain fog is bad) while my dad is in the room, despite his knowledge about my tests, he asks more in depth questions about them, and the very above situation happens.
I can’t think of words, and he (my significant other) swoops in explaining what I never could.
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