Steve asked: How can I best support my spouse who has endometriosis?
First, let me thank you, Steve, for an excellent question; and secondly, for being so patient with me. Steve is a regular reader. He e-mailed me with this question, and it’s sat my in box collecting virtual dust since. Steve, it’s been my hectic schedule keeping this post at bay, not your question.
I asked if any readers could lend some advice.. So before I get to my answer, Margaret has this to share (Thanks!!):
Steve could get a copy of Dr Andrew Cook’s book : Stop Endometriosis and Pelvic Pain, what every woman and her Doctor need to know …. It has much information on supporting a patient with Endo. Even some comments from our patient’s spouses.
Now, to the heart of the matter…
1) The #1 thing you can do for your spouse/significant other who has endometriosis is just be there. Stand by her side through every cramp and mood swing and hormonal treatment. Don’t trade her in for an unbroken, slightly newer model once the going gets tough; she’s not a used car.If she can’t have children, you as a couple can’t have children. Don’t ever blame her for biological war that’s being waged inside her body; believe me, we get drafted into a battle zone.
After running this blog since 2006 and interviewing women whose lives have been devastated by this disease, there are two groups. One group has supporting partners, the other doesn’t. I have received e-mails and comments, and conducted one-on-one interviews in which women have related how their significant others have left them for a “healthy” girl, or broke up in the pre-op suite(!), or got another woman pregnant and placed the blame on his wife’s endometriosis… and it can go on.
I don’t hear those stories from supportive, present significant others. Instead, women are not afraid to share their symptoms, their pain tolerance, reactions/medication side effects and feelings. For those with chronic conditions, communication in relationship is important; but for women with endometriosis, and the significant others who love and care for them, it is vital.
2) Familiarize yourself with The Joint Commission’s “Speak Up!”™ steps for patient safety and empowerment. Then have your loved one read them. See my post on this subject: “Speak Up!”™http://endochick.wordpress.com/2010/01/14/speak-up/
3) Encourage your significant other to do for her self. Yes, there will be certain times of the month, or after surgery – or even if she’s reacting badly to a medication, when she’ll need to lean on you. But too much of a good thing here can breed resentment. Again, be honest about your feelings and have an open dialogue – even if the situation cannot be changed. And never assume because she relies on you, perhaps more than you normal, that her pain is not. Perhaps a visit to a better doctor is in order because her pain or symptoms may not be adequately controlled.
4) Take care of yourself. Take some time each day for you. Feed your body nutritious food. And keep your stress down. Watch for signs of depression and ill health, and do not ignore them.