I was eating dinner the other day, picking at my bland millet and disgusting chicken breast (getting acclimated to eating meat regularly is the hardest part of the Candida Diet for me, I was used to getting my protein from plant sources) when in comes my husband. My beautiful husband, with his smooth skin and athletic good looks, like the kind of guy you see on the Abercrombie shopping bags. We’re an ill-matched looking pair right now; let me tell you – Mr. Handsome and Ms. Rashy Little Red Lobster.
Fixing me with a serious look, I could tell immediately that something was on his mind. After almost 10 years of being together, I know his ways so well that I could tell this exact look meant he was about to say something very serious, yet something that I wouldn’t want to hear.
He opens, “I’ve been having some stupid thoughts lately…” What are they, I probe. “I don’t know”, he says, which is My-Husband-Speak for saying that he knows all too well but doesn’t want to come right out and say them. My mind immediately, yet surprisingly calmly jumps to the worst-case scenario. He’s leaving me! He found another woman…one who’s beautiful all the time and not afflicted with eczema.
Through careful conversation and encouraging him that I want to hear what’s on his mind, no matter how bad or hurtful it might be, the truth comes out:
The winter is getting him down. It’s very depressing. I talk about moving south to a warmer climate all the time and he doesn’t want to hold me back. Maybe I should just do that if I want to, without him. Our routine has become stale. Get up, go to work, come home, and spend the weekends just getting by from surviving the hectic work-week. Every day is the same. We need a radical change. The most radical change he can think of is separation. That’s right, going our separate ways. Not that he wants to do that, but he thinks about it sometimes. We have all these separate neuroses and we’re so closely linked that they are rubbing off on each other. If we parted, he would always love me and be my best friend, and we could talk whenever we wanted, but life is a funny thing. It’s not like he’s found another woman, but maybe we’re ill-suited together. Please don’t hate me for saying these things, he says.
By this time I have grabbed the nearest Kleenex and filled a good half-dozen of them with anguished tears and sniffles. In a twisted way, it feels good to cry and be sad. I’ve felt numb for so long that I actually welcome these despondent emotions. But even though I kind of suspected he was going to say something like this, hearing it in the open still hurts terribly. I understand, I say. I know you had to be thinking these things. You’ve become secretive when you’re on the phone and I KNOW you’re talking to your [male] friend about us and our relationship or maybe lack thereof. I can’t stand that you’re married to someone with a seemingly uncontrollable disease that’s taken over her whole life and stealing all her confidence. I hate that we haven’t had any intimate contact in months because of my very un-sexy eczema having me in a constant funk. You’re too good to let my chronic condition drag you down. I hate that you might want to split, because I love you more than anything in the world – I would give everything for you and die for you in an instant – but if you feel you have to go, I understand.
We sit there for a while, tears falling silently (by this time even he is getting misty-eyed), as I let that sink in and ponder the magnitude of what’s just been said. “Wait a minute honey. Where would we go – live back with our parents??” I ask. We start chuckling through tears a bit, realizing just how ludicrous it would be to split up. As we talked more later that night and again the next day, I grasped further the concept that we truly are so tied together that we experience almost everything jointly, the good and the bad. They really did mean “in sickness and in health” when we recited our marriage vows; not just staying together with the person during those times, but deeply feeling their own pain, ambivalence, or joy. When he had his own demons with devastating anxiety, sleepless nights, and panic attacks, I stood by, feeling helpless and depressed myself. Now that I’m battling the demon of eczema with no seeming light at the end of the tunnel, he’s feeling the same way.
Are my husband and I really going to split up –I pray that we never would. The conversation between us wasn’t meant to be a reality, but to bring these issues out in the open with the hopes that hearing and acknowledging them will help us on our path to healing. I’m a strong enough person independently that it wouldn’t frighten me to be without a partner, but I don’t want to have to face the world with just myself and my own introverted, eczema-riddled neuroses.
I can’t help but think that we would never have had this conversation without my eczema, though. I’ve tried not to buy into its selfish ways, like a needy child demanding “Look at me! Itch me! Pay attention to me!” I’m not writing this post for sympathy, or relationship advice, or even attention. This post isn’t even unique to eczema – it could be written from the perspective of someone with ANY chronic illness or condition – lupus, depression, cancer, fibromyalgia, etc. I just wanted to get it out there that eczema and other chronic conditions can not only hurt your body, your psyche, your confidence, but the relationships with the very people that you need by your side to help you get through them.