My husband had a stroke, but I hate feeling like his caregiver | Ask Philippa

The question My husband had a mild stroke a few months ago. He’s a scientist in his sixties and used to solving everything with his mind.but he had to work hard physically to regain his walk. He went from a wheelchair in the hospital to a walker at home and now uses a cane. But he is frustrated by the slowness of his progress because he wants to think about how to get out of it and not regain his health.

I feel like I pestered him to do his exercises and I feel more like his mother than his wife these days. I sometimes get angry and resentful, because he doesn’t share anything emotionally with me (he’s never been good at it before, so I don’t know why I would expect that now) and I feel very distant from him.

I tried to talk to him about expressing his feelings, but he’s just not interested. Then I feel guilty for having bad feelings towards him, because he is the one suffering. It’s been an exhausting time for both of us. It seems that he will fully recover, but it takes time.

Philippa’s response When I have a client in psychotherapy, one of the first things I want to know is if their dominant—preferred—way of coping is either thought, feeling, or action. I imagine these three ways of being as doors and I need to know which are open, which are closed and which are locked. Some of us, like your husband, like to think we’ll get out of trouble. Others need to explore their feelings first. Maybe it’s you.

Your husband gives the impression that his door to thinking is open, his door to doing is closed, and his door to feeling is locked. If I did therapy with him, I would go through the open door, that of thought. Through this door, I was trying to reach the door of doing and it is only by taking this path that I would begin to approach the locked door, that of feelings. If I was doing therapy with you, the door to your feelings is open and I would go through it to access the other doors.

What I would do if I were you would be to ask him – for you, because it would reassure you – if he would accept the visit of a physiotherapist specialized in stroke care, to come and help him with his exercises. . The physio could explain in scientific terms why exercises are important (perhaps they help rebuild neural pathways), and then they could switch to their “doing” mode via their preferred thinking mindset.

Regarding your own behavior, when you ask him to do anything, don’t say, “You should…” but rather, “I wish…I would feel happier/better if…” Remember not that there is no “should”.

Isn’t it strange how illogical our feelings can seem? He had a stroke and you are the one feeling and expressing what you call “bad feelings”. Just because he couldn’t help himself doesn’t mean you’re not mad that he had a stroke, and also mad that he has a different way of coping than the yours. Feelings are like that.

To make you feel better, you want him to be more like you. To react more like you. I think he’s probably got enough on his plate and he can only face himself for now – let alone take the leap and approach his life and recovery as you would. would. Remember that you are different and it was probably those differences that attracted you to each other in the first place. Often we want or admire something in another person who is underdeveloped within ourselves and then when a crisis occurs we get upset because they are no longer like us.

When life’s troubles come along – like serious illness or other disasters – it’s normal to become less flexible and even more set in our favorite habits. It’s as if we go into emergency mode and become more rigid. He was the one who had the stroke but somehow it happened to both of you so it seems like you both are a bit more in your normal mindset and you be less able to see each other’s situation. point of view or way of thinking, feeling and doing.

Before the stroke, he was never very willing to share his feelings, but everything he did seems to be enough for you. Now it seems that is not enough. Is it also possible that the stroke has altered his personality? You will have to be patient. When a person is sick, we are often tempted to give him advice and tell him what to do. Often the unconscious reason for this is that we may think that if only they did what we said we wouldn’t have to feel so much for them, to feel their helplessness, vulnerability, pain and frustration. Also remember that for some people, receiving advice can feel like being put off. So, inadvertently, you can push his feelings away from you.

Your role has changed from a wife to a caregiver closer to the mother. Before his stroke, you will have felt more relaxed and therefore more flexible. See if you can feel your way to your more relaxed body.

If you have a question, send a short email to askphilippa@observer.co.uk

My husband had a stroke, but I hate feeling like his caregiver | Ask Philippa

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