Changing things up a little again this week, I’m talking with a Spoonie Caregiver – Weldon Patterson. Weldon is the husband of my friend Beverly Patterson, who was also my very first Fibro Warrior interviewee. Weldon is 52 years old and lives in Madison, AL. Prior to moving to Alabama he lived in Texas for over 40 years, split almost evenly between the Dallas / Fort Worth Metroplex and the Panhandle.
How did you and Beverly meet?
We met through a dating agency! I joined the agency about 6 months before Bev, and went to the office between Christmas and New Year’s to look through the ladies’ profiles one last time and call it quits. Bev had joined earlier in the week. I found her profile that day. And, as they say, the rest is history…
How long have you been together?
Our first date was in January 1996, and we married in February 1997 – 1/11 and 2/22 respectively. (I have a “thing” for numbers.)
Was she already sick at the time? (if so for how long)
Yes, Bev was officially diagnosed in 1992. In retrospect, she’s probably had it longer.
What was your first impression of her illness?
I had never heard of Fibro. It was completely new and foreign to me. Bev has always been a trouper with regards to managing her illness. Given that and my naivety, it didn’t really affect us much in the early years, at least from my perspective.
How has her illness impacted your relationship?
I’m much more in tune with changes in the weather :). Quite honestly it has impacted all aspects of our relationship, particularly as it has worsened. Examples include our daily routine, social events, friendships with others, romance. The first and last days of vacations, I usually want to get on the road early, but we rarely leave when I want to. That’s definitely created misunderstandings and stress between us. There is an overall disappointment of not feeling free to be as spontaneous as I would like. Experience has taught me though, when Bev is more comfortable she has more fun, which means we have more fun. Ultimately that’s the purpose anyway – for us to spend time and enjoy being together.
Has it affected you more in recent years?
Bev is in more pain more often now. She has to be more choosey about what she does, which in turn affects what we do. She isn’t able to do as much around the house, and we don’t get together with other people as often.
How do you help Bev cope with her illness?
The biggest step we took was making the decision for Bev to stay at home full time. She’s also learned to ask for help when she needs it, e.g. unloading heavy items from the car or carrying items upstairs.
Have / Did you ever considered walking away because of her illness?
No. We’re committed to walking together through it.
What is the thing about her illness that most frustrates you?
I would have to say never knowing how Bev is going to feel from day to day. Will she feel like doing anything? How badly will she pay for it if she does? Is today actually a good day, or is she in pain but doesn’t necessarily want to talk about it?
Are you involved in a care-giver support group?
I am not involved in an ongoing support group per se, although I have participated in a couple of sessions. I think it can be a tremendous plus. It’s helpful to know you’re not alone, understand better what you’re likely facing in the future, find out what resources are available, etc. I would highly recommend it, particularly for someone who is new to being a fibro care-giver.
What one piece of advice would you give to someone whose partner was dealing with chronic illness?
Truly being partners is key. The one dealing with chronic illness needs a safe place to be real, and the one supporting also needs a safe place to be real. There’s an old proverb which says “A joy shared is doubled; a sorrow shared is cut in half.” Share the joys AND sorrows.
Weldon and Bev have recently started a blog, sharing their adventures with life and Fibro at Pattways.com. Be sure to click through and check it out.
This post is part of my weekly Fibro Warrior interview feature. Each week I interview a different Fibro Warrior. I believe that our caregivers are warriors, too, and that it’s important to share their stories, as well. If you are a Fibro Warrior and would like to share your story, please contact me.