Dear Supporters of a Person Who Is Chronically Ill,
Today I want to give up. It happens every once in a while. Chronic pain is a fight you never get breaks from. It is all day every day, and lately for me it has been all night every night. Pain and lack of sleep have left me feeling incredibly discouraged. Sometimes I feel as if being in pain for this long warps my thoughts. All I want is a break from the pain. It is easy to want to give up when you can’t even get a break from pain while sleeping.
Additionally, I don’t feel like I can talk to anyone who usually supports me. I don’t feel like I am allowed to do anything than fight this every second of every day. I don’t feel like I am allowed to feel anything other than hope and inspiration. I don’t feel like I am allowed to be this discouraged.
When you feel like giving up feeling isolated is one of the worst things you can add to the mix. I know I won’t give up. I know that I will push through because I always do. It would be really nice to not feel so alone in this feeling right now.
In the past, as I’ve talked to people around me about these feelings I have noticed a pattern. They listen long enough to get scared, shame me for feeling this way, and change the subject. I understand that is an uncomfortable subject. I really do, but when you respond in this manner the next time I feel this way I won’t feel like they can talk to you. That is where I sit today.
So I am here to tell you what I desperately wish someone would have told me a long time ago: there is nothing wrong with feeling like you want to give up. The important thing is that you don’t give up.
Do not shame us for feeling this way.
So many of us have to fight so hard every day- against pain, loss of friends, loss of social life, and loss of our healthy self. It is okay to feel tired from this battle. When you shame your loved ones for feeling this way you guarantee that they will not talk to you the next time they feel this way. That is the very worst time to feel alone.
You can remain supportive and positive without shaming them for feeling this way. If you do this then your loved one is more likely to seek out you to talk to rather than some terrible alternatives.
Don’t see this feeling as weakness.
Wishing you could give up isn’t a moment of weakness; it is expected when you are fighting an uphill battle against your own body.
A lot of the time we aren’t looking for a solution. We just want support- someone to talk to. You don’t have to know the perfect thing to say. Sometimes you don’t have to say anything at all. Sometimes a hug or shoulder to cry one is the best thing you can do.
Let us feel the full extent of our feelings.
Crying, screaming into a pillow, and cursing out your illness are all things we need to do sometimes. Let us feel all our feelings without judgement.
Get frustrated at the illness, not your loved one.
Dealing with chronic illness can be frustrating to the patient and those around us. You don’t have to be a saint and never get frustrated. Instead, direct the anger at the illness and not the patient. When they come to you frustrated you will be able to support them better and relate more to their struggle. When you tackle the problem together and see it as an obstacle to work through instead of a problem with your loved one you are much better at supporting others.
Because you and your loved one are fighting the same battle (in obviously very different ways), you are often the one best equipped to understand and support. You probably have similar frustrations with your loved one’s illness. Use this to relate and empathize, but do not make their struggles about you.
Seek help when necessary.
It is not your responsibility or your fault your loved one feels this way. You aren’t expected to support us alone. Sometimes you will need help and that is okay.
If these feelings in your loved one are ongoing they might need therapy. Don’t demand they go. Suggest it and tell them how worried you are about them, how much you care about them, and that you want to continue to support them but you can’t do it on your own.