Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Good News About Chronic Illness and Bad Marriage

my reason for staying alive
Being in a bad marriage sucks for anybody. There are so many questions like, If I stay, will it get better? 

How will it affect our children if I stay? If I go? Can I afford to go?

Try being in a bad marriage when you're sick. Ponder the same questions. But also, be a daily burden on someone else who doesn't seem to love you.

See how much you love life.

Yet, for various reasons, we often stay in our bad marriages precisely because we are chronically ill.

Bad marriage + chronic illness = ?

I don't know what your reasons are, but I stayed because of my kids. My illness involved hospital stays that lasted into weeks, multiple emergency trips to the ER, going home only to be bedridden for more weeks, missing special occasions because I couldn't stop puking, chronic pain, weaning off addictive pain killers, and more endless examples of what we go through when we are sick.

I knew that I could not take care of my children if I left my husband and I would not leave my children.

I googled "trapped in bad marriage chronic illness" and "how to survive a bad marriage." I coped as best I could. There were moments when I told my oldest daughter, "Please, don't complain to me about your stepdad." I was at my lowest and unable to cope with things over which I had no control. "We will move when I am better," I promised.

But getting better took forever.

Modern medicine can only do so much for a person. True healing comes through natural medicine. Either you have a lot of money and get lucky finding a naturopath or nutritionist who gets you on the correct path right away, or you're like me and you research obsessively trying different things as you go, risking life and organs as you suffer through one healing crisis after another. Either way, healing takes time.

There were moments when I wanted to die. For 2.5 years, I battled one health setback after another; heartbroken, jaded, struggling. It wasn't until I was almost well enough to leave my husband that I realized my depression was from my marriage, not my illness.

In those final months of my marriage, when I lay in bed sick, I analyzed my feelings. I asked myself "Do I want to die because I hate my life with this illness or because I hate feeling like a burden?" And the answer in my heart was clear. I hated feeling like a burden. Everything about my life was wonderful except my marriage. Of course I didn't enjoy being sick, but I knew I could work within my limitations to find happiness.

Around that time, I read an article on the net about how the probability of someone with a chronic illness committing suicide would rise depending on how supported and valued they felt by the other people in their life. People who feel loved and supported do not want to die.

The hospital was my
second home for a time.
My husband took care of the kids, compensated for my limitations, provided for our family and often told me to take it easy and not to "worry about it." But he also let me know how hard my illness was on him...frequently. And when he didn't say it directly, I would hear it in the tone of his voice or see it in the way he rolled his eyes. I was a burden.

He would tell me I was not a burden. But he would also say things like "Could you at least..." and "Too bad we can't <insert activity here> as a family." My health issues prevented me from participating in a lot of activities.

Some of what made it such a bad marriage wasn't because of what my husband did, but what he didn't do. He didn't speak words of love. He didn't touch me with love. Very rarely, he would reach out and place a hand on my leg, or rub my back for a few seconds. Very rarely, he would say, "Come here and give me a hug." Those moments were so rare that when they happened I was shocked at how starved for love I was.

Eventually, I wondered if other people who are sick but not suicidal get that kind of love and care regularly. I wondered if my healing was challenged because I was being ignored, dismissed, and treated as a burden in my marriage.

When I complained about the state of our marriage, my husband would say, "Your illness has been hard on us. Things will be better when you're well." Everything bad in our life was blamed on me or the fact that I was sick.

My husband would list all the things he had to do (and put up with) because of my illness and ask me why that wasn't good enough for me. He would tell me that I was focusing on the negative. Sometimes I believed him.

Despite suffering from severe arthritis, I moved into a bedroom downstairs so I wouldn't wake him at night with the sound of me coughing or pouring out painkillers on the bedside table. I slept a lot better after that.

I dreaded him coming home from work every day. The moment he walked into the house, I could feel my life energy drain out of me. My walls went up. I attempted to hide my arthritic pain, stifle my coughing. Do not let the enemy see your weakness.

Eventually, I knew that it would never get better. I would leave him. I just needed to feel a little better. 

I was going on 7 months without hospitalization, using high quality supplements and diet to manage my symptoms when I couldn't take it anymore. I came up with a selfcare plan and I left my husband.

The Good News

new lease on life
Even before I moved out, I began to feel more energy and joy than I'd felt in a long time. Knowing that my freedom was imminent had an immediate and dramatic impact on my health. Once I was moved into my own place, another jump in my health occurred. I experienced peace, contentment, and joy knowing I would never have to feel like a burden again.

I'm here to tell you that poverty is better than misery. If you are sick and in a bad marriage, the badness is affecting your health much more than you realize. Your kids are not benefiting from having a sick parent. When you feel better, you will be able to spend more quality time with them. When you are living your best life, your children will get to see the real you. You will be able to let your light shine.

By no means am I suddenly "cured" just because I left a bad marriage. I have good days and bad days still. Yet somehow, my bad days are never as bad as they were when I was under the same roof as my husband. Not a single moment has passed where I wished to die since I left my spouse.

Life has not gotten suddenly easier. A family tragedy, rental issues, and other difficulties continue to challenge me. My husband recently said that a part of him thinks I will realize my mistake in "breaking apart our family" and regret ending our marriage.

But I will never regret it. My kids are adjusting just fine. I've created the home I've always wanted to give to them. One that is full of laughter, love, acceptance, and declarations of approval. They don't have to live in a home marred by tension and depression.

Mom is back. And so is the woman inside me. I'd lost her for awhile.

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