I recently travelled to Australia to be in a new relationship and after five months we bought a house in an area we liked and started to get to know the local community and what shops to go to get whatever we needed. We registered for the local doctors surgery and notified all the official places of our new address. Within a month of our being in the new house, my partner was admitted to hospital.
Back in the UK when someone was ill, we would set up a rota of supporters to bring meals and visit in hospital, but my partner said he didn’t want that, he didn’t want sympathy, so I took on the role. I exhausted myself in the process – fetching and carrying things to the hospital, spending long hours there keeping him company. I knew I should have ignored his instructions and asked for support for myself if not for him.
He came home and was recovering well over the next few weeks but had an infection and that escalated into a high temperature and an ambulance was called to take him back to hospital. He had sepsis and an infection, which the doctors finally diagnosed as pneumonia. This time I asked for more support and some friends took in meals to supplement his diet. I learned to carry less to and fro but still felt exhausted.
He recovered well from that but a few weeks later he had another pneumothorax so it was back to hospital. This time more aware of what was exhausting me, I spent less time at the hospital, had friends take meals in and visit, and was more careful not to take on the emotions and issues of anybody I saw at the hospital, and not to take on responsibility or sympathy for my partner or his dog, just doing what needed to be done with no emotional pandering.
Once he was home I felt anxious about his choices and was concerned that he wasn’t able to look after himself properly. Somehow I didn’t trust him and tried to control the situation, especially as he had been in hospital three times in three months and each time was the result of his over-doing things, trying to please or trying to prove he could do something.
He expressed to me that he was fed up with being treated like an invalid and I realised that my caring was in fact being over-done and I was imposing.
I couldn’t not care so how could I care without over-caring?
Supporting someone does not mean controlling, I needed to let go of control – everyone is responsible for their own choices and can learn from the consequences. By telling him what I felt he should do I was not allowing him freedom to choose and what is more he wasn’t learning the lessons for himself. I realised that it was far more loving to let him take care of his own body, to make his own decisions and to support him in whatever way felt appropriate but always to let him lead.
There may be choices he makes that I disagree with, but it is always his call. I can express how I feel but I need to have absolutely no attachment to whether he listens or not. I also need to have no attachment to keeping him alive.
People drink alcohol as a way to commit slow suicide, some people smoke. My partner did both for many years but stopped getting drunk twenty-seven years ago and stopped smoking eight years ago, so he has already made some great decisions for his health.
He took responsibility forty years ago for building a 46-foot yacht and sailing around the world in it with his wife and two small children. He sailed into unknown waters and had to take responsibility for everyone’s health often with no doctor available. He researched food and natural ways to support his health and now uses both western medicine and naturopathic supplements to help himself.
Recently diagnosed with lung cancer and too sick for doctors to consider radiation treatment or chemotherapy, he is using a ketogenic diet to keep the cancer at bay. A ketogenic diet supports your body’s energy without glucose and cancers feed on glucose, so it’s a healthy way to starve a cancer without killing healthy cells as happens with chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
So, here am I with an uncertain future, not knowing what the prognosis is, supporting a man who is doing whatever he thinks is best to support himself and I’m trying not to lose myself in the process.
Knowing that a healthy mind also supports our physical health, I am turning my efforts towards making sure I am always loving towards him rather than the over bearing constant caring and critical checking up on him.
I am there beside him come what may, and being lovingly supportive as much as I can. In order to be loving with him I know that I have to be loving with myself, so that means getting a good night’s sleep, getting support from friends if I need it, eating nourishing foods and making sure I honour what I feel and express whatever is there to be expressed.
I am learning to be less reactive and to always respond with love, which means being truthful, not pandering, not trying to please. I’m not perfect at it by any means, it is a huge learning for me, especially the letting go of control and attachment to outcomes. I’m also learning to be less critical of myself and to appreciate the lessons that are being presented to me every day.
How long we have together in the future is uncertain but it is a relationship I shall always treasure because it is helping me to evolve. We are constantly reflecting and learning from each other and no matter what life presents, we are both committed to deepening our love.
Published with my partner’s permission
Carmel R., Personal Development Coach and Counsellor from the UK currently on a long term visit to Australia.