Empathy

hug

I’m sitting here recovering from a cold with that creepy crawly, achy feeling where you don’t even want to brush your hair or run water over your hands. For the last two days, I’ve perfected the art of sitting nearly motionless,  everything I need within arms’ length:  drink, Kleenex, blanket, and the TV remote that I don’t feel like using. I’m just grateful to live in an age where my family doesn’t depend on me feeding livestock and hauling wood for a fire, regardless of how I feel.

Several family members, including my best friend and husband of 30 years, have fibromyalgia. The best description I’ve heard for what it’s like is the achy feeling we get when we’re sick. FM and its causes are still not fully understood, but sufferers’ pain receptors are permanently overactive. The daily physical movements we all perform are magnified:  for an FM patient, walking one mile is like walking ten. Because it’s invisible and its symptoms are vague, FM is often undiagnosed. Many patients dismiss it as just normal aches and pains, and there is no definitive test for it. All doctors can do is diagnose symptoms and run a gamut of tests to rule out scarier diseases like MS, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis. Only when you finally learn it’s not in your head do you get the really bad news:  there’s little that can be done to help you. You’re sentenced to a lifetime of 24×7, constant pain–have a nice life.

Now when I get sick, it’s an opportunity for me to briefly understand. To understand why my husband doesn’t do as much around the house as he once did or I’d like him to. Why he no longer feels like outings or vacations. Why he sometimes snaps at me for no obvious reason. When I understand, I’m briefly in awe…in awe that he’s retained his sense of humor. In awe that he feels like listening to my problems at the end of the day. In awe that he’s still the best father our kids could have. In awe that such a great guy loves me, even when I don’t understand.

“We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.” –Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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About Kelly J. McCleary

Wife and mother of three, author, financial professional View all posts by Kelly J. McCleary

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