Questions and Answers (Q&A), Our Way
Q. Can you give me
advice to help me help my spouse through this? Thank you for the useful
information you've given my spouse about CFS/FM and our
circumstances. It's taking a toll on us because things have really been crazy and stressful and we're
now really stressing...thus the CFS is worse. I know things will work
out and I have complete and utter faith, but other than telling my
spouse that and being there, I feel a little helpless. As someone who
knows what it's like to experience what having CFS/similar condition
feels like, do you have any suggestions for me to help my spouse cope?
Insightful, Conversational, Encouraging,
Long, and from Experience
A. We're glad you wrote. What trying circumstances for you and your family right now... on top of all that was there before!
Your letter is beautiful. It is full of love and support and maturity.
Sometimes it is very difficult to know how intense the feeling of
helplessness is. Most people can't identify how feeling helpless can
dramatically affect relationships and behavior. So your noticing it and
asking for help with it is really amazing. You are not trying to fix
everything, a good sign. While you two have much to cope with ahead, it
strikes me that you have good strength, attitude, faith, and humor....
so you will cope well. Be flexible, too, because big things like this
often lead to surprise twists in the plot of life... and those can work
out great.... if we are not too attached to what life "should" look
Realize in any moment, your spouse is probably already doing all he/she
can... with the CFS and all the rest that is going on, everything is a
huge effort and already overwhelming. And little things can
overwhelm us more to the point of shut down for awhile. Your spouse is
probably playing stuff over and over in his or her head about what he/she wishes
he/she could do if he/she were up to it... then forgetting it, then
remembering, then beating him or herself up over it. So, if your spouse doesn't get to
something, you have choices: decide it was important and see if you
have to do it or get others to help help, decided it can wait, decide
it isn't important, make it as safe as possible for him to try again
without fear of screwing up yet another thing.
Being sick, espcially with CFS which is so unpredictable moment to
moment, often takes one's confidence away. Take notice if communication
about chores or lack of being able to do them around the house is
undermining or bolstering your spouse's confidence. Make it okay that
some things don't get done - show you understand it isn't personal.
Realize you are being given an opportunity to show acceptance and that you value
a person beyond what they do - for a living, around the house.
Find gentle ways of
communicating and being together. Watch TV if it is all the one with
CFS can do. That may be the only thing that gets you both through
this part. It is possible to be too stressed for other stuff. We once
had someone in the group want to place a classified ad in the paper for
a TV watching friend who liked the same shows! Help distract your spouse
once the calls to lawyers, doctor appointments, or other critical
things done. Be okay with simpler meals, or however you have to go
with the flow. People with CFS, often do very well with attitude and
intelligence (thank goodness), looking more capable than we really are
at the moment, but are stuffing so much old and new stress that our
bodies are panicking and crying out for help with weird symptoms. Show
your spouse love, acceptance, and safety (what anyone wants, really) and
help him or her give him or herself those things while cultivating those for
yourself. Easy, right? HA! Practice, practice, practice.
Go easy on yourself, too, especially now. You
need support, too... this is a lot of change and a more than a little
Just because you are the 'healthier' one, doesn't mean you won't get
overwhelmed, too. Get help from friends, a counselor, the group. Get
outside help around the house if you can. You use our tips to save
From all the stress can come new blessings.... eventually. While
you use the energy of worry to help cope with the difficulty in the
moment, maybe allow yourself to hope and look for the favor buried in all of
this. Cultivate patience. It will serve you both well.
For more, see our Resources section for Carers and Care Givers.