Talk to me about what you are thinking.

These are the words I said to my spouse this evening.  She was struggling to make sense of my symptoms and the information I had shared from medical journal articles I had read on my commute home.  She had fallen silent, with a concerned and pained look on her face.  “Talk to me,” I said.  “It’s OK.”

And so the worries found their voice:  We can’t do things together like we used to.  We won’t be able to travel.  I stayed quiet, not reminding her that we had just returned from a hiking vacation on which my hiking poles helped me do almost everything we had planned.

How will you get to work?  What if you can’t work?  I nodded, listening.  Listening was important now, not the fact that there are plenty of jobs I would be able to do with my current conditions.

We won’t be able to save enough to retire.  We’ll have to work forever.  Or we’ll be destitute.  I still stayed silent.  I wanted her to speak everything that was on her mind.  She had already acknowledged that she was PMSing, so I knew her hormones were exaggerating her worries beyond her control.  And anyway, these things had crossed my mind, too.

My wife has been incredibly supportive and even-keeled these past months.  She has stepped up to do things around the house when I could not do them and has been loving and kind.  It has not been easy for her to control her anxiety and limit her questioning and ruminating.  But being the spouse of someone who is sick is difficult, and she needs support as much as I do.  Today I was feeling strong and steady, and I was prepared to let her pour it all out.  I am thankful that I could be there for her.

So I stayed still.  I listened.  I nodded.  And we felt better.