It’s Not You, It’s Me

I am so fortunate to have a wonderful husband. A hard-worker, dedicated father, and kind friend, he fulfills all the roles that are important to me. He then goes above and beyond in being supportive of my rheumatoid arthritis needs, taking the burden of childcare or household chores off of me when I’m in a flare and sometimes serving as my caregiver. Many people have shared stories of partners and spouses who are not understanding and supportive of their RA needs, sometimes even to the extreme of leading to divorce. I know how lucky I am, and I am grateful for my husband on a daily basis (even on those days when I want to wring his neck for some quarrel we might have). However, there’s always an influx of guilt that intermingles with the gratitude.

I know it’s not my fault that I have rheumatoid arthritis, but that doesn’t lessen how much I hate the impacts of the disease. RA is like a rock thrown into a pool of still water, with the heart of the splash representing the impact of the stone on my life, and the circles that ripple out showing the impact of RA on the lives of my loved ones. My disease activity frequently disturbs the calm surface of our home life. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been unable to tend to the kids, complete a household chore, or finish cooking dinner (or even get it started) because of increased joint pain. Without complaint and with loving grace, my husband picks up my slack. Sometimes he is even the one to tell me to go lie down when I am still trying to struggle through a task. When I cannot complete my share of the work and my husband adds it to his load, I am simultaneously flooded with love for him and hate for RA. My appreciation for my husband doesn’t prevent me from wishing I could accomplish the tasks I’d set out to do.

I recognize that every person comes with baggage. Spouses may bring a history of childhood trauma, large amounts of debt, drug or alcohol dependencies, or a litany of other issues into a marriage. No one goes through this world unscathed by something difficult. While my brain can acknowledge this, in addition to recognizing the many strengths that I bring to our life together, my heart still aches at the occasional feeling that I’m a burden. Even though it’s beyond my control, I still hate the times when I’m lying in bed at 6:00pm and hear the sounds of my husband finishing dinner and serving the kids while tending to their squabbles. He and I both work hard at our jobs, and if I had my way we would tackle the family tasks together every evening. Yet, RA prevents that, and I continue to struggle with guilt that I can’t always make the contributions that I want to make. Even though my brain knows that I’m doing the very best I can, my heart still aches when RA keeps me from being the wife I want to be.

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