Chronic Fatigue and Family

tn_family.jpgMy viewpoint as a husband and father – I’ve tried to keep it brief!

Chronic illness is a daunting challenge to a marriage relationship and family unit. Some say it can be make or break. In our case, we had a double whammy! Over thirty years ago my wife contracted a particularly aggressive form of rheumatoid arthritis and was told she could be in a wheelchair inside four years. Years later, long after our children had left home, I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome.

My response to my wife’s diagnosis wasn’t surprising, as my upbringing hadn’t fitted me out to deal with illness. In my childhood, any suffering or indeed any expression of emotion within the family, was kept mainly under wraps. My way of dealing with these things was to do something practical to try and hold things together. I put everything into my work, family and helping out where I could within the community. I did most of the shopping, including, for a time, buying my wife’s clothes and became an expert in the intricacies of M & S’s lingerie department. Our children attended the village school and we became involved with the some of the other parents and attended the church. I ferried our children and their friends to the various activities.

My wife made her role of wife and mother her topmost priority and gave her all, often sacrificially, she had high standards. She was a good listener and it was quite usual for me to arrive home to find the pile of ironing still untouched, because she had given several hours to someone in need. I found that difficult, as she was the one needing physical help. But apart from several notable exceptions, there was little of that.

As the rheumatoid activity increased, she became more physically limited and fatigued. It was easy for me to leave for work in the morning and bury myself in my work while she often spent the day lying down. This was the side most people didn’t see. She found the pain and physical limitations were hard to bear and there were frequent outbursts of expression. I found it increasingly painful to watch my wife, my loved one, in so much pain and distress and I felt so horribly helpless. One night when it got so bad I went down on to our beach in the dark and in desperation reached out to God from the depths of my being, imploring Him to help us.

I felt trapped by the illness and restricted, held back. Once, I was asked if I had thought of leaving and I can honestly say that was never ever on the agenda. We married because I loved her and was committed to our marriage. On the other hand I wanted to escape from the illness, I hated what it was doing.

In our search for understanding, we were led over the years along a path of Christian contacts. We learned new marriage communication skills and how to deal with the emotional pain that was bubbling away just below the surface. I also found healing and release from the grief and loss I was experiencing. Our attitudes changed and in particular people were noticing how well my wife was walking and the courageous way she was dealing with her illness.

Then I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome ME/CFS and I had a new battle to contend with. For the first time I was able to understand first hand what fatigue was like and I benefited from my wife’s experience. The effect this had was to draw us closer together than ever before.

So far as our children are concerned, yes, they did miss out on some things, they can hardly remember their mother well. But I believe the experience has enriched them and we are proud of the way they now handle themselves, their marriages and children.

The last two years have been the most difficult for us, our lives being battered by accidents and illnesses. But in it all we have continued to experience wonderful strengthening and enabling to do what seemed impossible. I don’t know what the future holds, but we know God is with us and the best is yet to come!

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5 Comments

Filed under Christian, Christianity, chronic fatigue, disability, family, healing, health, health & wellness, lifestyle, M.E., personal, relationships, seniors, spiritual

5 responses to “Chronic Fatigue and Family

  1. I’m going to ask my husband to read this one. I often tell him that our kids don’t know what it is to have a well mom. He lets me know it is strengthening them in ways we cannot see.

    It’s good to read from those who are further ahead on the path of life – God is sovereign – He does know what He’s doing. When we are weak then He is strong – His grace is sufficient.

    Thanks 😉

  2. wendikelly

    It is interesting to read this from a man’s point of view. Thank you for sharing this. As a woman who has dealt with chronic pain since my 20’s, I am sensitive to the challenges that can come up in a day. I know for my husband it is the inconsistency that can be bewildering. One day I am running around with a lot of energy, cleaning like a mad woman and the next I am laid out flat, bowled over from fatigue. He never knows what he is dealing with.

  3. wayfarerjon

    Your last sentence is familiar! When my wife was wiped out with fatigue, I never ‘knew what I was dealing with!’ Now I do understand. Fatigue provides a tremdous potential learning ground.

  4. catherine

    thank you and so helpful seeing ‘Michelle’ and ‘wendikelly’ responses. My daughter now 9 and still I’m like this (CFS/ME) & sometimes husband is bewildered (spelling?), fed up, though mostly supportive and clinging to the Lord. Little ‘grace notes’ happen and truly we are defiinitely being carried by Him. Have believed and gone for every Christian theory/spiritual/emotional healing (have definitely grown! fortunately) – yet still knocked down by this – but then further surrender & peace happens. I know God wants me well, I just have to relax and trust his timing. Have found ‘unrelenting prayer’ by Bob Sorge & almost conversely ‘God wants you well’ by Andrew Wommack.. plus loads of others (and of course bible!) helpful..

  5. wayfarerjon

    Thank you Catherine. For our own expereince I can identify with your situation.

    I have sometimes felt that hearing or reading all the different approaches to healing from various ministries, although helpful, can be confusing. I believe that CFS/ME comes in a variety of forms along with a whole variety of possible root causes – although I think trauma and loss may be fairly common. I believe we need to try and hear ourselves what God is saying to us in our particular situation. This may be difficult when experiencing fatigue, but maintaining intimacy with Him is essential to following our own healing journey.

    Having said all that, I believe two combined approaches are paramount: 1. acceptance and absolute surrender to God in the illness on the on hand plus 2. Not to take it lying down – we are not victims!

    I am still learning – very much so. It was good to hear from you.

    If you haven’t done so already, you may find my wife’s viewpoint helpful – the latest post on this blog “The Thirty Nine Steps.”

    Blessings

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