Another amazing article from Bethany! I’m so grateful for her input to my blog. You can check out all her other posts, alongside tonnes of other amazing guest articles right HERE.
I know a lot of people who need looking after; even some who are completely physically healthy but still need help and support functioning day-to-day. Anything from someone doing the washing up when you just can’t face it or even helping to get you up every morning if that’s the hardest part of your day.
This support can come from friends, family, housemates or your partner. However when the support required becomes basic physical needs – like eating, drinking and washing – the role of carer is introduced into any relationship.
Many people have looked after me but, of all of these, I find that my relationship with my partner has been the most altered. It’s not something that having just moved in together, and as young adults, we expected to happen. However, for a time now I have become entirely reliant on my partner.
Facing The Changes Together
When I was discharged from the hospital, I could barely walk without assistance. Going to get a drink of water from the kitchen was completely impossible. Before that point, I never realized the problems that moving to a flat without a bath could cause me.
Throughout all of this, my partner has been incredible – he’s been my carer. He’s cooked for me, cleaned up after me, helped with every basic need and I couldn’t be more grateful. He hasn’t complained once, and I am completely appreciative for that. Knowing there’s someone with me every day that doesn’t need apologies and is happy to be there, is an incredible help – as hard as that might be to understand.
Our relationship has changed, though. It might not be a bad thing, it might even turn out to be a good thing (I haven’t decided yet), but it has changed drastically and over a very short period of time.
Of the two main changes that I’m struggling with is independence. Like many people, I don’t believe that entirely relying on your partner for all your emotional and social needs is healthy. It’s certainly not something I could ever imagine happening to me.
As I’m unable to go out or speak to people most days – and my only contact with the outside world is through this laptop – meaning I have become emotionally dependent on him for real human interaction.
I am incredibly lucky to have an amazing group of friends who came to visit me in the hospital and support me, but at the end of the day, he was the one person who I saw every day and that constancy was something I came to rely upon very quickly.
As well as all mentioned above, there is physical independence. I’ve already said that when I left hospital, I could barely walk and I’m not exaggerating – I’d have to put almost all of my upper body weight on my partner as my legs moved me forward, just to get into bed.
This meant I completely relied on him for all food and drink, to help me get to the bathroom and to dispense all of my painkillers and medicine. It was incredible for him to do all of this for me, and to still do it on the days when I can’t manage, but it has changed our relationship.
The more reliant I’ve become on him and the less independence I have, the more difficult it’s become for us to retain a ‘normal’ relationship dynamic. We didn’t want it to happen, but it was beyond our control. Finding a way where we can still be who we used to be while also fulfilling these new roles is difficult. Slowly, we’re finding the little things we can do to remind ourselves that we are the same, but it is a slow learning curve.
The other significant change is the physical side of our relationship. I don’t just mean sex either. When you live with someone you don’t expect to always see them at their best; it’s bound to be no make-up on with greasy hair and joggers on for some of the time (or most of the time). However, not being able to look after yourself makes this even more extreme.
Not only do they see you in pain, or – in my delightfully graphic case – throwing up into a bowl for hours, it’s also the physical things they have to do for you. I never expected to have to be helped to the bathroom or be unable to wash my hair. These things make a difference and, for me personally, they have really influenced how I see myself in the relationship and my self-esteem.
Although I feel loved by my partner, it’s difficult to still feel like a viable part of the relationship or, equally, something that he can be attracted by at all. I’m not saying that it is a girlfriend’s mission in life to be attractive to her partner, I don’t want to make that mistake. At the same time, for me personally, my partner’s attraction to me, and vice versa, is one of the things that makes our relationship.
I’d love to say it took a while but I got over that. However, the truth is that it’s something I’m still dealing with. I hope will get easier as my pain gets more bearable or as we find better ways of managing it.
Finding New Appreciation & Love
So far there have been a lot of negatives about being in a relationship with someone who cares for you. It is by no means all bad. Over the last few months, I have felt incredibly supported, more so than I ever have before. I really feel that no matter what happens and how bad I get, I’ll never be in a position where there’s no-one to care for me.
When I wake up in the late morning, even if he’s not there, there’s a hot water bottle and a little pile of medication telling me what to take and when. These are things that I’ve never experienced in a relationship before, but they show love, affection and an incredible regard for my well-being. One that I’m not sure I ever would have experienced from a partner otherwise.
At the same time, he’s made me laugh as- apparently – when I’m on strong painkillers all I want to do is be near him. I’ll tell him I’m thankful, happy and that I love him. It’s made him feel appreciated and needed by me in a way that’s brought us much closer together.
There’s a long way to go, waiting for a diagnosis that may take operations, tests, investigations and months of more pain to find. At the end of the day, with everything else going on, at least I know I won’t be waiting for that diagnosis on my own.