20 years ago, I met a man who was placed in my path for a reason. I have never doubted that, and apparently, neither has he. But there have times when I have wondered if he really knew what he was signing up for by falling in love with me.
As we began to plan our lives together, the doctors began calling. No lie, it was New Year’s Eve when the first call came. The calls continued with test results, treatments, and an unsteady future for my health right up until the day of our wedding.
Once things began to calm down in my body, we would go through the “eye of the storm” years that were fantastic because I would be okay for long periods of time. I was teaching, then had our children back to back, and became a stay-at-home mom. But, as it was necessary to get back to work at some point in the future in order to help with our bills, I slowly started heading back to the career I was trained for.
The storm hit again, and my body decided that falling apart was better than teaching, so my hip seized up, my shoulder starting freezing up, and my spine hurt from the base of my neck down to the last vertebrae. My skin was actually tingling and no one could touch me as the lightest touch felt like a slap.
I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s autoimmune disease that apparently had flared fibromyalgia. My husband came home to find me not moving one day and in pain…just crying body-wracking sobs that would not stop. The series of steps he did next was exactly what I needed in order to heal.
Here’s what you should do if your partner suffers from chronic pain.
1. Gather up your partner and just be there.
This was the first thing that basically told me he didn’t know how to help, and wasn’t going to try to offer some words of ridiculous understanding…because he physically could not feel my pain and had no basis of comparison for anything like this.
2. Your partner’s breaking point is usually not visible.
We get really good at saying “I’m fine.” The only way to really know we are not fine is to look at our eyes…closely. Bone deep pain is hard to hide…it is.
So say things like can I draw you a nice bath with Epsom salts to soak in? Or here is this turmeric milk before bed; I read that it is anti-inflammatory. While you might not understand, it says that you are trying to. And that means so much to us.
3. Notice that chronic pain is always there…but at different levels.
Today it might be a 5 on a scale of 1-10, so you go outside on a walk or even better a hike, because you think everything is fine. Tomorrow is going to be an 8 or a 10 day.
Just take some precautions especially if you plan any trips or family vacations. The first “big” trip we went on was last year…and it was to a theme park my daughter had wanted to go to for a long time. So I was damned sure I was not giving up each day. Prior to that, my pain would not have allowed anything of the sort. We did smaller trips to cabins and I enjoyed them actually just as much, but I wanted to be there for this trip. It was important to me.
4. Don’t encourage your partner to do nothing all day as that actually does not help.
While this seems like it would make pain better…it actually increases pain especially in fibromyalgia. However, if you are talking about rheumatoid arthritis, I would encourage you to be careful as you navigate your flare-up.
As I began to get better at managing my pain through 3 years of study and research into natural pain management techniques, I learned about yoga for pain and arthritis. I knew what synovial fluid was doing and why I needed to be more active on days I really would rather do nothing…and I learned to drag myself to yoga on those days.
But inflammation is a tricky thing, so make sure you know what type of pain your partner actually has and whether it’s chronic and long term, or what people refer to as “flare ups” due to inflammation in the joints. This can help you understand how to be encouraging.
5. Be aware that the pain is not something your partner wants and is a common enemy just like any other disease would be…only this one is not talked about as much.
Make dinner. Bring her flowers. Do the laundry. Clean the house. And just listen to her. Sometimes just holding on tight is enough to get the point across that although you don’t know what to do, you are there. You are doing the best you can.
And above all else, do not let your partner feel guilty about the things that might be out of reach right now for her to accomplish…because one day, and one day soon, she will find a way to keep the balance between pain and activity at a place where she starts to feel like her old self again.
She might even decide to take a 200 hour Vinyasa Yoga Teacher Training just to help others like her! Remember, anything is possible and together you can get through this.