It has been an incredible and rough three-year journey for my spouse as he has dealt with three simultaneous infections born by a tick bite. Months and months of agony, being seen by more than 50 medical professionals, being prescribed more than 160 different drugs, and ongoing fights with a narrow-minded “big pharma”-funded group who deny that his condition could ever exist. Yet with persistent care from a superb general practitioner has brought us to a point that…
…my spouse can say that he has been free of direct symptoms of those infections for six months. That truly is a major milestone.
We are both very happy about that, but at the same time, my beloved spouse is dealing with the damage that those diseased caused. All of his joints have been affected in some way. By reviewing x-rays of his major joints (knees, hips, ankles, elbows, and shoulders), damage to bone tissue, cartilage, ligaments, and bursa is evident. The worst physical damage is to his hips, knees, and left ankle. His mobility is severely restricted. That is: he can’t walk without assistance.
Becoming more disabled — I say that because he has had a previous condition which made his life uncomfortable, but not unbearable — is affecting my spouse’s mental outlook. There are days when he just gives up and says, “that’s the way it is; I will never be better.” He mostly has lost the will to fight or see a future that is better.
Sure, he has his days (or hours in a day) when he is more positive, but regretfully, those hours are rare and fleeting. Part of the issue is that he grew up in an environment where his mother dwelt on the negative and never saw anything good or positive. Ever. She is, unfortunately, an ongoing “debbie downer” in my spouse’s life. Man, it’s tough having a neurotic mother-in-law and a spouse who needs encouragement to feel better.
I offset the spouse’s doom-and-gloom attitude by investing a huge amount of energy in building his spirits. I smile, laugh, and share encouragement whenever possible. I celebrate the “small wins.” I try hard to keep him focused on a future that is better than he is feeling now.
I listen. What I have learned is that my spouse needs to vent his frustration, anger, and feelings. Listening without commenting is very hard for me to do, but when I let him vent the pressure he is feeling without saying anything but acknowledgment words (so he knows I am listening), it makes him feel better.
I know that my positive attitude has prevented my spouse from spiraling into deep despair, but I realize that I have to work on it every day to continue to ward off the demons of depression.
So while antibiotic treatment against organisms that cause illness has stopped and maintenance treatments continue (to prevent relapse), our focus now will be on pain reduction, self-led physical therapy, and regaining strength. Once he has achieved better physical strength, then perhaps we can consider an orthopedic intervention to directly repair the joint damage by prosthetic implants or other methods yet to be determined and discussed.
Yes, a milestone has been reached, but the road to recovery is a long, long, journey, and we’re not anywhere near that — yet.
Life is short: have faith in a positive future.