people pleasing

It's time for another cathartic post about dealing with chronic illness, so either bear with me or wait for the next good recipe or yoga post. :)

I've recently been getting a lot of great support and inspiration from other bloggers, caretakers and fighters out there dealing with chronic disease and I love reading their posts and relating to what their going through. I don't judge them, I don't pity them, I just understand them and it feels good. I hope to spread that solace through our experience as well.

Between the two of us, my husband and I both deal with our fair share of stress, just like everyone else. It's always something. This month, it's been major house repairs, a hit-and-run car accident (resulting in some rushed lessons on driving a stick!), a broken tractor, storm damage, termites, a new job with long hours...etc. But on top of a daily struggle with health, regular life is enough to cause a nervous breakdown sometimes. Normal challenges seem overwhelming when we're already maxed out. Along with actively reducing and confronting stress, the support of friends and family is imperative for anyone in our position. Even if loved ones don't understand, even if we don't want to talk about it all the time, it's nice to know that they're there for us...that they have our backs.

A lot of times, the hardest part is dealing with the loved ones that don't really have our backs and probably never will. It's hard to not have a concrete diagnosis, a cure-all pill or a progress report. How do we circumvent the subject of Dave's health? Is it appropriate to distance ourselves from these people? And how do we differentiate between the "how-are-you-because-I-feel-like-I-should-ask" and the "I-want-to-know-how-you-are-because-I-care?" There's a fine line between just trying to appear normal vs. walking on eggshells. Only in relationships where there is mutual release of expectations and judgement are we truly free. 

We don't expect unwavering unconditional love and support from everyone, but we do deserve a little leniency when it comes to social etiquette.  Holidays and large family gatherings are the worst. We practically dread them because we are expected to both be there, act a certain way, eat certain foods and at least appear happy so as not to offend anyone. 'Why didn't Dave come to the family dinner?' 'Why was Dave acting reclusive at a family dinner?' 'What's wrong with Dave?' 'Why is he on that restrictive diet?' Assumptions are made and feelings are hurt, over and over again in relation to Dave's condition. 

We don't get mad or upset when events don't go as planned or people don't understand, we just get tired. We are tired of trying so hard, tired of failing in their eyes or making the wrong decisions and we just don't have the energy to keep explaining ourselves. As we pull closer together trying to shield ourselves from the onslaught of extra unnecessary stress, we end up pulling further away from certain situations and certain people and we've decided that for now, that's okay. Though little has changed in the past 5 years, it's easy for people to forget that the constant struggle hasn't gone away yet. For us, we're just trying to survive and do what's best for us each day. If that means pissing certain people off and saving some of our sanity for each other and our obligations, then so be it. 

We now choose to spend time with people who lift us up, make us feel happy and safe or relieve our stress. Avoiding the opposite is a necessary part of the healing process right now. Years ago, dodging any loved ones would not have been an option to me, but for the sake of Dave's health and our marriage, we just can't please everyone. We know that some people cannot offer the kind of love and support that we need, and in the same way, we might upset them by not playing the part of the vibrant, happy couple they want. But we are only human and we can't help but build a few walls to protect ourselves right now. My biggest and most passionate hope is that these walls and Dave's illness are both only temporary. Someday soon, it will feel great to conquer them.