On Living With Anguish

It’s hard to write anything when the one you love is suffering a potentially terminal disease, where every day sees a deterioration from the hearty, vigorous, person you’d anticipated spending the rest of your days with, to someone scared, pain-ridden, sunken-eyed, and with barely sufficient energy to leave their bed in the morning and make it to the armchair in the living room.

I’ve tried to write how I feel, but always it’s ended up in the ‘delete’ folder. Maybe it’s just that I don’t want to depress anyone? No, that’s not it. God knows, any serious perusal of my past posts on the state of the world would rapidly up the call ratings to Suicides Anonymous. I thinks it’s more to do with an innate fear of exposing my inner self to the outside world. Inadequacy, a sense of not being able to cope, of seeming pathetic, that guilty feeling that the old British ‘stiff upper lip’ in the face of adversity is perhaps not up to the job.

Yet I’ve always despised that ‘British Empire’ way of thinking. It is, after all, a load of bollocks. You know the sort of thing: it’s okay for women to blub, but if a man sheds a tear he’s a wimp. Okay, I’ll hold my hand high and admit, if that’s the case, I’ve been the king of wimps of late. I’ve cried until my head hurt. I’ve gone to bed and cried myself to sleep. I’ve woken up crying. I’ve laid awake in the early hours listening to her moving about in her bedroom because the pain and nausea prevents her sleeping, and I’ve cried.

I cry because I see and hear her suffering, and she’s not even begun any chemotherapy. That comes later. She says she doesn’t mind the dying, but she cannot bear the suffering. Sometimes, I find myself wishing she would die, just so her suffering would stop. I find myself asking, “How could I wish that? I love her.” I’m filled with guilt, but really I know I only wish it because I do love her so much.

Sixteen years is not the longest marriage ever, but in all that time we’ve never been apart. We did everything, shared everything, suffered everything, together. And that, perhaps, for me is the hardest part of all. I can’t share her suffering. Sure, I can hold her hand, I can offer words of support, I can hold the bowl when she’s nauseous or cook the meals she’s too sick to eat, but her pain and anguish is hers alone. To that I am no more than a spectator, sidelined, frustrated, unable to do anything to ease her physical suffering.

She goes to bed early now. That’s why I’m writing this. It’s quiet upstairs. I hope the opiates the doctor prescribed have helped her to sleep. So now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll just allow myself the luxury of a few more anguished tears.

5 Replies to “On Living With Anguish”

  1. Oh how I cried reading these words, reminders of all the helpless anguish we suffer when beloveds are on their final journey or facing incessant suffering.

    My heart breaks for you, RJ, I hope putting your words down helped you somewhat in diluting the grief and helplessness. I have a dear friend currently dying and I popped this off to him this morning and he found it was just what he needed and sat in front of the window and read it again and again. Even for those of us standing by I do believe it helps, just a little.
    “I feel the circles grow smaller, and old age is a ceremony of losses, which is on the whole preferable to dying at forty-seven or fifty-two. When I lament and darken over my diminishments, I accomplish nothing. It’s better to sit at the window all day, pleased to watch birds, barns, and flowers.” Donald Hall.

    Big hugs, my dear old blog buddy.


  2. WWW ~ thank you so much for your kind words and thoughts. It did help to write down just how I was feeling, and your quote was wonderful. Thank you so much. You’ve always been a dear, dear, friend.

  3. I’m so sorry. I’ve enjoyed reading your words since I was 19ish (13 years ago) and you called me out on something silly I said on my own blog. I’m sorry you all are experiencing this now.

  4. I’ve been dreading reading a post like this here, RJ – hoping against hope that it would be different. It isn’t, and it was a vain hope. Hug……

    I can relate to your anguish, and to all of your described feelings, from my own experiences with my 30+ year significant other, in the UK – before he died, and before I met Anyjazz on the internet.
    There’s nothing I can write that will make your anguish go away, even for a minute – or a nano-second, or help Mrs RJ one iota in her hours of need. I can keep reading though, and feeling, and hoping – for better days for both of you… in time.

    Do keep writing, as you’ve said it does help, as a kind of outlet valve. You really do need one of those, or you’ll make yourself unwell and be unable to support Mrs RJ as much as she’ll need.
    I found that writing, and corresponding on the net was my own valuable outlet, and have often thought, and said, that I couldn’t have got through those dark days without that outlet, and friends on the net, old and new.

  5. Jonathan ~ it’s very good to hear from you! I thought I’d lost you as a reader many moons ago. Thank you so much for your kind words. I don’t remember what ‘I called you out on’, but I was probably a bit more bolshy in those days. I’m really glad you still read Sparrow Chat.

    Twilight ~thank you so much. Life can suck sometimes, but I guess we need to remember that it showers us with good times, too. And with good friends, both on and off the internet.

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