Guest Blog: In Sickness & in Health: Chronic Illness In Relationships
written by Shannon Sullivan
Navigating life with Fibromyalgia can be challenging. Personally for myself, I had to re-learn many things about my body and mind. I had to change my meal plan, sleep schedule, and aspects of my personal life. I was very into intense fitness and dance which now causes more harm than good. I am also pursuing a career in theatre and art which now gets a bit narrowed down due to flares and limits in movement. When you get diagnosed at the ripe age of 22, right when you think you have your plans for the future laid out, you get left in a spot of confusion and frustration. That being said, accepting all of this while being in a relationship is a journey of its own.
I had been dating my partner, Alexander, for a little over 10 months before I was diagnosed. Leading up to the diagnosis, I had already been experiencing some symptoms, which did cause us frustration as we did not know why I was in continual pain. It affected the time we had together as there were some days where I felt I couldn't enjoy being with him because all that my brain could process was the pain that I felt. This left us feeling drained and like we hadn't actually spent time together. Honestly there were days when I didn't want to see him because I was so worried about not being able to give him the attention he deserved. I would often become frustrated and angry with the situation, leading to disagreements and conflict.
Once I finally got diagnosed, we both felt relieved for a while. We understood why I was feeling the way I did, and this made challenging days easier. However, this brought up a whole different issue; burden syndrome. I had always loved to help others and be there for them, but now I realized that I was the one who needed help. I became self-conscious about how Alex perceived me, I didn’t want him to look at me as weak or needy. I didn’t want to be a burden. I began to reject help even when I truly needed it. Having to give up some independence made me feel strange.
Fortunately, Alex welcomed my situation with open arms. I am very blessed to have a significant other who is this accepting and willing to learn about what is going on. That being said, we are not perfect. We disagree and struggle with challenging situations. There will be days where I am in deep pain (both physical or emotional), and the energy between us feels tense. Learning to communicate the best we can will always be one of our best tools.
You are not a burden for needing help!
Hi! I’m Shannon. I’m 22 years old residing in New England, USA. I am recently diagnosed (May, 2019) and am still learning the ropes of Fibromyalgia. I love to perform, direct, and work in costuming. I am also passionate about human services and making people smile. If you want to know more about me, or just ask me a question or two, you can find me on Instagram @shannon.b.sullivan or @chronically.rad. Thank friends!