So excited to introduce you to another guest while I’m still trying to recover from surgery! I met Samantha through the wonderful world of Twitter & blogging and am so happy to have her here at A New Kind of Normal! As a spouse of spoonie who deals with chronic pain, she offers a wonderful perspective on being a caregiver and how to care for someone you love who deals with chronic pain and/or illness and also how we can provide support for caregivers who need it just as much as the one who is sick does! This is a great follow-up to Cheryl’s post on pain & relationships from a spoonie’s perspective I hope you enjoy! Be sure to visit her blog & say hello!
Immediately after hearing that first gasp of air, that first cry, I searched through the haze to find my husband. I could see it in his eyes – the uncertainty, the nerves. Every new dad probably has the same look on his face but this was something more.
I held my breath as the nurse handed little man to him for the first time. His eyes lite up with love, understanding and happiness. But pain was also hiding in his brown depths if you knew where to look.
My husband Kris has Torticollis, a muscle disorder in his neck that limits his range of motion and his ability to carry and hold things or stand for long periods of time. The muscle, the Levator Scapulae, is responsible for allowing you to turn your head. When there are muscle spasms a loss in range of motion and stiffness of the neck can occur. Basically, Kris’ Levator Scapulae is constantly spasmodic; therefore, it is tight.
I didn’t know how much pain my husband was in on a daily basis until we had our son. He was good at hiding it from me even though he was medically discharged from the military after his injury was aggravated. When little man was born, I started noticing his frustration. Kris wanted so desperately to rock our son and hold him while he slept but his chronic pain limited his ability. My heart was and still is aching for him.
Our son has brought us closer and allowed me to be more understanding when Kris has his bad days. Here are five ways you can be more empathetic if your loved one has chronic pain:
- Don’t assume: that old saying rings true! Assuming what your spouse can and cannot do because of their chronic pain is hurtful and unproductive. I would find myself constantly telling Kris to be careful or not to do something. I know I was annoying him on a daily basis. He is a grown man and knows his limits; he doesn’t need me bossing him around. Of course, my concern comes from a loving place; however, being supportive and letting your loved one live as normal life as possible is key.
- Work as a team: I know that it hurts Kris to rock our little man to sleep so I step back and let him get bonding time during playtime, feedings and changes. If there are several things to do around the house, I always try to do the things that I know are painful for Kris. That way, we are splitting responsibilities but he is still taking care of himself.
- Give emotional support: On Kris’ bad days, I know he feels really low. I think that being there as someone for him to talk too really helps. Sometimes people with chronic pain undoubtedly suffer from effects other than the pain, which may even include depression. Make sure to talk to someone before YOUR frustration turns into depression or anxiety.
- Communicate & Remember: I used to find myself getting upset or frustrated when I felt like I needed more help. Like I mentioned above, Kris is really good at hiding his pain so sometimes I would wonder why he was just sitting there on the recliner, not wanting to play or get out and do something. As soon as I realized he was having a bad day or was having a day of high pain level, I instantly felt my anger melt away.
- Above all, love: I know when Kris’ injury was aggravated; it was a big blow to him. He loved the Army and having to retire was really hard on him. Sometimes simple tasks are no longer simple. Self-esteem can also be an issue on bad days. Remember to show and verbalize your love and give encouragement.
Do any of your loved ones have chronic pain? How do you help them deal with it? What can be done to support YOU as a caregiver?
Samantha is the author of Life As Wife. She has a degree in Print Journalism and Political Science. Engaged in high school and married in college, Life As Wife follows Samantha’s nontraditional journey and documents her job as a writer, wife and new mom.