Diseases and disorders like Lupus, Fibromyalgia, Lyme, and Chronic Fatigue syndrome are now very common and all three of these share similar symptoms that are not visible to the eye. These are all chronic invisible illnesses that share symptoms that are not visible, yet continue to exist throughout the patients life. Since your partner’s symptoms are not visible it can often be easy to forget that they are sick. If your spouse suffers from invisible chronic illnesses here are a few tips to help you provide them with the support they need.
- Develop a code to help you know exactly how she is feeling. It’s too easy for the sick person to respond with “I’m Fine” when you ask how they are. This is a habitual defense mechanism they use all day when dealing with others who may not even know they are ill. Work together to find a new way to phrase the question so that you can get a clear understanding of how she really feels. Many find that using the pain scale is helpful. “On a scale of 1 to 10 how are your symptoms today?” followed by “Which symptoms are giving you the most trouble?”
- Help but don’t hinder. Your partner wants to be able to do all the things they would do before they were sick, but they can’t. Some days they can do more than they can on others. So, how do you give them the help they need without stepping on their toes? Simply ask them. What can I do for you today? If you come home to a mess don’t attack, just offer to pick up the slack, or simply accept the mess and give them a hug.
- Just Listen. Don’t allow yourself to get upset at your inability to fix their illness. Simply listen to them when they complain about their illness, or their doctors. Remind them that there is hope but don’t push. Never be the one to say that things won’t get better. They often feel that way enough on their own. Having you say it may be what takes their hope away.
- Encourage them to be productive. They may not be able to do the things they could before, but they still need to feel productive and valuable. Find ways to reassure your partner that they are adding something in your household, in your relationship, and in the world. While they may not have the energy to work a regular job anymore, perhaps they can still volunteer an hour a week helping others, or they can find a way to be supportive online by sharing their story.
Chronic invisible illnesses destroys many lives. However, by being a strong supportive partner to your spouse and reminding them that you are there for them, that they are still valuable, and that you care you can provide them with hope for the future to help them stay strong.