Last week I was listening to one of my patients describe their condition in a deeply emotional and revealing way. He honestly caught me off guard.
He said, that he woke up one day, and felt like a blob. Like a being without joints, without tendons, ligaments or structure. He could not walk or move. He did not feel human anymore.
He was describing Part I of Franz Kafka’s seminal work, The Metamorphosis. For those who have not read this novella, The Metamorphosis is the story of Gregor, a travelling salesman, who wakes one morning to discover that he has transformed into an insect-like being. There is no rhyme or reason for his transformation. It did not happen because he was a bad person or because of something he did. It simply just happened. The story deals with his attempts to adjust to his new physical state and his attempts to cling onto his humanity. It also deals with the transforming relationships he has with various members of his family. First how some show empathy but then quickly this empathy transforms into a sense burden and then repulsion.
When you think about it, it’s kind of depressing, especially for those who suffer from chronic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. In certain cases, it’s a reflection of reality. One wakes up one day and learns that their body will not let them to do what they used to do. In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, you didn’t do anything to cause it. It just happened. It’s not like you were smoking 3 packs of cigarettes a day for 20 years and then you get diagnosed with emphysema. That’s called playing with fire. With RA, it just happens.
So now you find yourself not being able to do what you used to do: do your job, support your family, play with your kids. It’s not because of a lack of will, your body simply won’t let you… not that you should give up:) Now you become a burden to your family. Your relationships change.
Unlike Kafka, I personally refuse to believe that these relationships will inevitably sour. Healthy relationships with your loved ones can you grow healthier physically, emotionally, and psychologically.
The following are 8 tips to help metamorphose relationships into healthy and supportive ones. Please share with family and friends!
Learn as much as you can about your loved ones disease
Knowledge is power. It’s easier to have empathy when you have a sense of what’s going on and also what to expect.
But don’t assume you know everything. You don’t.
No one likes a know-it all. Don’t assume that you know what your loved one is going through or how they feel. You can’t learn that in a textbook or from an article. Be supportive.
Be a good listener
Sometimes people simply need vent. Listen for cues.
Life is going to change whether you like it or not. There’s going to be good days and there’s going to be bad days. Being rigid about your expectations is not going to get you anywhere. Be flexible.
Don’t be overprotective
Find balance. Although you want to help your loved one as much as you can, you also don’t want to strip them of their independence and by being overprotective.
Be open about your emotions and thoughts. A healthy relationship is one free of passive aggressiveness.
Join a support group
There are many support groups out there. Let me tell you, I’ve been there. Not for RA though. All of a sudden the person you love and depend on, gets diagnosed with this terrible disease. And EVERYTHING changes. There’s nothing worse than the deep sense of loneliness that comes along. Support groups can help overcome the isolation. Find a support group near you!
Whatever life throws at us, we will deal with it together. I promise not to scream at you because I’m having a bad day. I promise not to blame you for the money problems we have now. I love you, I will support, and advocate for you no matter what conditions. This is unconditional love.
I hope this has been helpful. Please leave any comments below. I’m interested in hearing your thoughts and experiences.