When we have a chronic illness, it’s easy and very common to feel that we’re a burden to our partners and our families. We often need them to do many things for us that partners and family members of healthy people don’t need to do. At the same time, there are often things we can’t do with them that they and we wish we could do. So it’s no surprise that many of us feel like we’re a burden to others.
The good news is that there are several things you can do to counteract that feeling. The first is to frequently let others know how much you appreciate all the things they do for you. We can get caught up in our symptoms and pain and forget to do that, but when we remember, it makes a big difference for them because they know that they’re not being taken for granted. From time to time, you can show your partner or spouse that you are especially grateful for their help by getting a little gift or card and hiding it someplace where it will surprise them, like in a sock or lingerie drawer. You can do similar things for others who help you (although you may need to find a different hiding place 🙂 ).
Another thing you can do to counteract feeling like you’re a burden is to make sure you don’t dwell so much on your illness and symptoms that you ignore the other people in your life. Even though you may not be able to participate in all the activities with them that you and they wish you could, your caring, support and encouragement – including support and encouragement for them to balance taking care of you with taking care of themselves – can make a tremendous difference in their lives.
I wrote in this previous post about finding meaning in your life when you have a chronic illness. Doing that may not lessen the physical needs that you depend on others to meet, but can help you feel less emotionally dependent on them, which can also help counteract the feeling of being a burden.
Here’s one final suggestion: It really is a privilege for us as human beings to be able to serve others. Doing so fulfills us like nothing else can. So even though taking care of you and your needs may not be easy for your partner or spouse, family, and friends, they definitely get value from doing it.