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Reply to "Caring for an Obese Spouse"

Thanks so much for sharing your experiences with your husband, Julianna. CHF is something that most people don't think about as being so debilitating, because it's not like a classic heart attack. My husband was first diagnosed with it at age 26 when he nearly died from it. He also had a major stroke when he was in the hospital at that time. He's 53 now and for a long time I thought, "He won't see 45." Then "He won't see 50", so I count every day a blessing.

Because his heart is so bad, he has to spend about 3/4 of his day in bed. Of course, that aggravates his weight problem, so it's a vicious circle. He is able to walk for short distances and can go to the post office or grocery store, but he's usually wiped out when he gets home. If he spends too much time (more than an hour or so), then he may spend two or three days in bed recovering. His muscle strength is negligible and his left side is weaker than the right due to the stroke he had back in 1983 (I think it was that year).

It's sad because he was a strong, energetic man when we met in college. He worked in a warehouse doing manual labor, then came home and worked out with weights. After college, he got a job as a computer operator at a major electronics company and stayed with them until his forced retirement in 2000. Right up until the late 1990's, just before his illness really began, he worked in the yard, loved to travel with me and our daughter, did a lot of walking, etc.

He's a completely different person today. His illness changed him mentally as well as physically. I really think losing his job was the thing that got to him. Essentially, he lost his manhood. He was no longer able to work and support his family but had to depend on what I bring in and what he gets from Social Security. He lost his physique and energy. He lost his sexual desire and even the ability to have sex, which contributed to the end of our marital relations. His depression is so deep and profound that he essentially just gave up.

I've tried to get him into therapy. Our daughter has tried to get him into therapy. Our doctor has tried. He simply won't even consider it. I think he's too afraid to find out what he'd see staring back at him if he DID look into that mirror. It's easier to pretend that he has no problems and everything is just fine.

Meanwhile, after pretty much collapsing myself about a year and a half ago, and going through counseling myself in order to save my own sanity, I DID reach the point where I realized that I had to start taking care of myself and get back to a life outside of the closed world of caregiving for him and my mother. I've learned to detach (at least much better than I used to) and am planning on getting back to traveling and have some much desired trips coming up in the next couple of years (the good Lord willin' and the creek don't rise, as they say).

Best wishes to you, Julianna. Hugs to you!!
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