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In Sickness and in Health

When you vow “in sickness and in health,” are you really prepared for what it could mean? I think most of us imagine nights spent bedside in a hospital next to our spouse, an accident, or maybe even patiently caring for one another in old age. But what if in sickness and in health isn’t just one of the valleys of your relationship, but something that is lived with forever? What if it doesn’t get better?

 

Most people guess the hardest things about chronic illness and living with disability are the “big” things: the doctor visits, the financial uncertainties, the not knowing what each day will bring. But in my experience, it’s the “small” things that are difficult and lonely navigating.

 

It was three falls ago. I was driving my husband to work when I mentioned how I loved the season and how beautiful the leaves were that year. My husband answered “yeah” before he got quiet. I could tell something was on his mind.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“I can’t see the colors anymore. I can’t tell that the leaves are changing colors anymore.”

 

I don’t remember what I said after that, or if I said anything. I will never forget how heavy his words washed over me. The sadness that set in. The realization that once again, it’s the little things that hurt so much and so few understand. I was in the final stretch of becoming a therapist, yet nothing I learned in graduate school or premarital counseling prepared me for this.

 

It can be lonely trying to find support when disability and chronic illness are uncomfortable to some.  Frustrating to be martyred for loving your spouse when you’re trying to tell somebody you’re hurting. Shaming when you’re expected to “handle it well,” whatever that means.

 

You deserve support and a safe place to experience all of your emotions. Thankfully, in today’s age, we have access to others in our shoes through the internet. Try searching the particular issue you are living with on social media - often times there are online support groups dedicated to various illnesses and disabilities that can be a great source of comfort and camaraderie. Search to see if there are local advocacy groups in your area. National Federation for the Blind Arkansas, Deaf United Organization, and The Arc for the River Valley are a few of the organizations that serve us here in the River Valley.

 

Finally, maybe it’s time to try individual or couples’ counseling to help you figure out what living with something chronic means. I don’t pretend to have all of the answers. I don’t have all of the solutions. What I can promise you is you are safe to experience all of your emotions and questions in my office. This is a journey near and dear to my heart, and I promise to not be afraid to walk it alongside you.



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