Saturday, January 5, 2008

Seven Medical Myths & Seven Myths About Couples & Illness

7 medical myths. How many did you believe to be true? (I would swear that at least 3 are)

  • People should drink at least eight glasses of water a day
  • We use only 10% of our brains
  • Hair and fingernails continue to grow after death
  • Shaving hair causes it to grow back faster, darker, or coarser
  • Reading in dim light ruins your eyesight
  • Eating turkey makes people especially drowsy
  • Mobile phones create considerable electromagnetic interference in hospitals.
For the research behind this, check out Medical Myths on BMJ. I originally saw this list on Dr. Val's excellent web site.

Here are 7 myths about couples & illness:
  • Love is all you need (sorry, not true John Lennon)
  • It's better to keep busy and not dwell on the illness (sometimes yes and sometimes no. Partners need to cue each other when they need distraction and when they need to talk about illness)
  • Talking about suicide only makes the possibility of doing it stronger (if your partner alludes to suicide and you ignore it, those self destructive feelings won't go away; they'll only go underground)
  • It's better to face the harsh truth rather than sustain fading hope (no one has the inside track on truth or hope)
  • If you cater to your ill partner's needs, you'll be fostering an unhealthy dependency (the dance of couples and illness is about perpetually seeking a balance between meeting each others' needs and supporting each others' strengths and autonomy)
  • Illness trumps intimacy. If one of you is sick and in discomfort, sex drops off the list (intimacy does not de facto equal intercourse. You and your partner need to talk about what is comfortable and what is not)
  • If your partner is sick it's your obligation, your vow, to stay by his/her side, no matter what (this is a very painful issue, and there is no one size fits all answer. Some couples stay together through illness and find new dimensions of loving; some couples stay together and make each other sicker, or at least miserable; some couples who separate find that the physical distance permits greater emotional closeness).


therapydoc said...

So true. The medical myths are the really silly ones, though. You can almost see why people would believe the relational stuff.

Yes, My Name Is Really Brooklynn said...

Having stuck by my partner's side in illness, I have to say the biggest myth was love. Yes, I love him very much and that certainly helps but the biggest thing that kept me from going crazy was having my own escape that was just for me. The irony is now he is taking care of me through my chronic pain.

ohiluvnut said...

"in sickness and in health"... was in the process of initiating divorce because of an affair I was having with new love when wife is dx with terminal (2 yrs +/-) brain cancer...moral dilemma!! Although we distrust each other, have no passion, and each knows the other would be gone if not for the disease, we are together, out of obiligation and, because we, she needs me. More than likely we are making each other sicker...A year has passed and I find myself just waiting for some relief...but none is in immediate sight but her cognitive skills are diminishing due to full brain radiation ever so subtly and it will continue to do so until she will need constant caretaking...not sure I am up to the job...feeling crappy for even thinking this way...It must be time to go, right? Can this all go away so we can just start again as friends...

Barbara Kivowitz said...

Brooklynn - sorry to hear about your chronic pain. I hope you find a combination of treatments that helps. And I couldn't agree with you more that the caretaker needs to stay connected to the world beyond the partner's illness. Escapes are essential.

Ohiluvnut -- I sympathize with your situation. There are so many painful, conflicting elements in the "couple and illness" experience. Resentment, burn-out, obligations, guilt, attachment, and on and on. Having supports and "escapes" for yourself, perhaps even a trusted counselor, may be helpful. There is no right way to move through this situation. We just stumble along with loads too heavy to carry. I wish you strength and clarity as you find your path.