Feeling Like a Big Burden?

Even the most self-assured wife can feel like a burden from time to time.  It’s par for the course when you live with chronic illness.

You believe you’re a burden because you need extra help around the house or with the kids.

You believe you’re a burden because you need to vent your sadness, anger and frustration over rarely feeling good.

You believe you’re a burden because there’s not enough money left over after you’ve paid your doctor bills, medications and treatment co-pays.

These beliefs take their toll on your self-confidence after a while.  Unfortunately, many of us accept these beliefs far too easily and live our lives as if they’re true.

How you act when you believe you’re a burden

Do you recognize any of the following characteristics?

  • You apologize constantly about everything
  • You minimize your symptoms or pain
  • You stop talking about how you really feel e.g. sad, fearful, anxious
  • You go small and quiet your voice
  • You get angry fast and lash out frequently
  • You feel unworthy

Anyone can feel like a burden on a particularly bad day but if you’re consistently living from a place of shame or guilt, it’s time to start addressing this issue in your life.

Who told you you’re a burden?

This is a really important question.  Why?  Because often we infer things based on our fears or our past.

Has your husband ever called you a burden or are you implying you’re a burden whenever he voices any frustration related to your illness?

If your husband has actually called you a burden, then you have my deepest sympathy.  Those are devastating words to hear from your life partner.  When you stood before the altar on your wedding day, you promised to love each other in sickness and in health, for better or for worse.  I can only hope the two of you seek help from a professional counselor in order to gain some perspective and find some workable solutions.

Many of us fall into the hyper-sensitive camp.  We take things too personally and immediately feel guilty over being sick in the first place.  From there, it’s a short skip and then hop over to the “I am a burden” camp.

Many of you are living out old messages from your past.  They’re like tapes that play again and again.   Maybe you were made to feel like a burden in childhood or someone actually said those very words to you?   These messages become ingrained and we take them along into adulthood.

It’s time to delete those old messages and tapes.

Deleting old messages and tapes

I was standing in the kitchen opening my mail several years ago, when my husband Jeff breezed in the door from work.  He planted a kiss on my cheek and started toward our bedroom to change his clothes.

I casually called out that we had just received a $350 bill for my recent dental work.  He turned his head as he walked, smiled and replied, “Boy, you’re expensive!”  And with that one sentence, he disappeared into our bedroom.

He might as well have punched me in the stomach.  I went from calm to rage in a matter of seconds.  I could feel the heat and blood flow to my face.  Fury overtook my body.

Before I could take a step and unleash on him, I realized how out of control I was.  Even in my rage, I knew my reaction was over the top.

I took a few deep breaths and asked myself two questions:

-         What is happening?

-         Whose voice did I just hear?

The answers came immediately.  One, I was being triggered big time.  Two, it was my father’s voice and it took me back to childhood.  My parents had divorced when I was nine years old and money was a constant struggle.  There were many phone calls from my father complaining about having to pay child support.  When his pleas fell on deaf ears from my mom, he would often talk to me and my sister about his money woes.  The message I received as a child was “I am a financial burden”.

Standing there in my kitchen, I was able to unhook myself from that lie for the first time in my life.  My husband is not my father.  They couldn’t be any different.  Jeff doesn’t care about a $350 dental bill.  He had simply made a joke and there was nothing more to it.  The anger left my body as quickly as it had come.  That day was a real victory for me.

These days, I don’t consider myself a burden even though I no longer work outside the house and my illness requires more than its fair share of accommodations.

High maintenance maybe but definitely not a burden.

Marriage is about give and take.  Some seasons consist of more taking and other seasons of more giving.  It’s not about keeping track but working together as partners to make life workable for both of you.

What lies about being a burden do you need to let go of?  Please leave a comment!

3 Responses to Feeling Like a Big Burden?
  1. Happy
    September 9, 2012 | 9:54 am

    I came here after googling marriage chronic illness. My husband and I thought when he became my primary carer that he would be the one having the most emotional difficulty, but we’ve been surprised to find that it’s me. I feel guilty. I feel like I’m not enough for him. I have a deep well of insecurity inside me that I wasn’t prepared for. I thought I’d reached the acceptance stage of my illness, but it turns out that accepting care from a loved one is far different than accepting care from paid carers as I had been doing before. One doesn’t feel like a burden when paying someone for their time, but when it’s a spouse… very different.

    Thank you for writing this. I’m not sure exactly how to start dealing with my feelings of insecurity and guilt, but I know it’s my thing to deal with. He can offer advice and support, but I’m the one who has to go inside me and untangle the big old knot of emotions there.

    Cheers,
    Happy

  2. SLF
    November 12, 2013 | 11:25 am

    Thank you. I’ve been struggling with chronic illness and pain for a year now. Although I do work and have good days, there have been a lot of bad days. My husband told me last night that maybe his father could take me to see a back surgeon because he had to work. I was pretty devastated. The message I heard was that I was a burden, and he’d taken off enough time to take me to the doctor. I’m now planning to take myself to the back surgeon’s office, and feeling very alone. But I don’t know if the problem is me hearing the wrong message because I am hypersensitive, or my husband because he spoke before he thought. When he realized I was crushed by his words, he apologized. Chronic illness is so difficult on a marriage.

    • Helena
      November 15, 2013 | 2:15 pm

      Yes indeed, chronic illness can be difficult on a marriage. Like you, I can easily get crushed by words so my growth area is working on my hypersensitivity. I have a very kind and patient husband but like everyone else, he too has a breaking point. I believe it’s important to allow our spouse to be human too even if it stings sometimes. Thanks for your comment!

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