t h e w o r l d o f i n v i s i b l e i l l n e s s


Ever feel like you bit off more than you could chew?

Ever feel like you bit off more than you could chew?

When it’s all too much, you feel crummy, your relationship sucks, it’s time to pare down, slow down, get down and get funky, sorta New Age-y. Like this.

Do the math:  Go granular, deconstruct.  Find the lowest common denominator. For example, I handed my husband folded jeans fresh from the dryer, still warm.  I was so proud, you’d think I’d baked bread or something. Don’t do laundry? Then sit outside, feel the sunshine; John Denver did and it worked out real well for him.  After the initial discomfort of treating yourself better, odds are you breathe deeper and sleep more soundly.

Be a cat:  See yourself, your relationship, the clothes in your closet, from another angle.  Habit can be an enemy when it dulls relationship skills like communication, disallows surprises, and steals joy. (By the way, when was the last time you two did something sheerly for the joy of having fun?)  Try this: whether you have a pet or not, get down on the floor and see your everyday world from their perspective.  Or imagine the lives of people in the car next to yours. Better yet, what do you think people imagine about you? Hope you’re ready to do something decidedly not you; Halloween is a great permission-giving time for both of you.

Follow the Rules of Hole Digging:  In the film, “Holes”, digging was a pointless activity.  It’s sort of like fighting change: you become embroiled in ceaseless and unsuccessful activity.  Like digging holes.  Lurching through life is to stumble and eventually fall (with a disability like MS, I know from that.) Regaining control through changing my behavior is scary. I’d rather fall, even though not falling means a better marriage, an improved outlook, fewer trips to the chiropractor.  Being in control means checking the lay of the land: does it look familiar? lost the way? does that destination even make sense anymore? Follow the First Rule of Hole Digging: Stop Digging!  The Second Rule?  Put the shovel down.

Be astounded:  Ever watch your pet watch his environment?  Pets are always alert, reactive, even to the familiar.  Be warned, though!  A new perspective demands being more present. Be still; heighten your senses and, paradoxically, find yourself relaxing. Several times I’ve taken a mind-rest and fallen asleep at my desk.  One time, I even fell off the chair. That’s not necessarily a bad thing (resting, not falling off a chair.) Rest is also a good antidote for stress; you can’t be angry and relaxed at the same time.

Find Nemo:  All change is about loss.  We have to let go, whether we want to or not; it’s what everything’s about.  “Letting go” and “staying healthy” go together, as Nemo and his dad discovered.  Life lessons, if not everywhere, are plentiful; it’s part of the flow.  For many of us with invisible disabilities, change is profound,bittersweet, and, like some change, unwanted.  Know that the flow is all around you; feel the fear, get out of your own way, and, like Nemo, join the flow anyway.

The smaller pieces of your life are no less a treasure than the whole they combine to make.  Small things can have big rewards.  I’ve been finding pleasure doing things not high on my professional gradient of importance.  Ironing, for example.  There can be satisfaction, even pride, in moving away from what’s complex to what takes a slow hand.  And, if you allow it, a hefty measure of peacefulness.

Kathe Skinner is a psychotherapist and relationship coach, working especially with couples whose togetherness is impacted by invisible illness or disability.  She has struggled this year with major changes in her personal, professional, and family life and is heeding the whisper of change and slowing down.  She and her husband, David, are taught each day about the importance of resting from Petey and Lucy, their cats.

Categories: Effect of invisible (hidden) disability on relationship

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