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DH chronic pain - impact on family

(17 Posts)
HungerKunstler Sun 21-Dec-14 16:52:40

My DH has been in chronic pain, some kind of facial neuralgia, for the past 5 months since having dental work back in July. Since then he has been obsessing about the pain in his face non-stop. He has seen multiple dentists and now is seeing a chiropractor but the pain has not resolved and he is now getting depressed at the prospect of this pain lasting forever.

My problem is that I don't know how to support him in this. I was 6 months pregnant when all this started and we now have a newborn (and an older DC who is 3) so my energy levels are low as it is. Also, I feel as though our family life has revolved around him for the past 3 years. We moved abroad for his job, a major career and earnings boost, 3 years ago. That involved me giving up my career until I could get a visa to work here. I have spent the last 3 years as an SAHM as a result. I haven't really enjoyed it and was planning to return to work in 2015 now that we have our DC2 and I have a green card.

DH's job was high stress when we moved here initially and I was by myself a lot of the time while he worked long hours and traveled on business. Our weekends always revolved around whether he had work to do, whether he had had a stressful week and I always felt like I had to give him a lot of support as he was under so much pressure and was the breadwinner. Then his job eased off but he had to complete his PhD as he had broken it off to take up the job offer and only had a certain timeframe to complete it within. So for about 6 months I again felt like a solo parent, never getting a break even at the weekends and in the evenings, so he could work on his PhD.

It looked like things were finally starting to stabilize this summer and we could have a normal family life - and then these health problems start. Again he talks all evening incessantly about himself and his pain and what could be causing it. I get the daily pain update. For example yesterday we took DS to the local Christmas market and met friends there and all the way there and in the car on the way back, DH was brooding and silent, barely speaking to me. He did try with DS once we got there and took him on rides and I could see he was trying to be happy for DS's sake but it's like he has a black cloud hanging over him. It is exhausting. Especially now we have a newborn. I have taken care of her single-handedly since she was born, pretty much, partly because she is EBF so there isn't much DH can do but I do all the night feeds and waking myself so I'm really bloody tired.

He claims I'm not supportive of him and 'don't give a shit' about his pain but it is really a straw that broke the camel's back for me. I've supported him though thick and thin for the last three years and feel like our lives have revolved around his needs all the time. Now I want to go back to work and get my own life back and he pulls me back in with this chronic pain and constant medical appointments and stress. Initially I was suspicious of his health issues and worried that this was some subconscious way for him to maintain focus on himself but now I don't doubt that the pain is real anymore. He is genuinely suffering from health issues - but my problem is that I just don't feel I can support him anymore because I'm tired, I have a newborn, I've supported him for years and I want to get my own life back.

Am I selfish? Or just tired? He gets really angry and depressed sometimes about the pain he's in and seems to constantly need to offload onto me and talk endlessly about the situation and I find it hard to deal with the emotional upheaval it puts us through. He says he has to hold it together to go to work every day and do his job so home is the only place he can talk about the pain he's in. The problem is that I just don't have energy to listen right now.

I feel so sorry for our 3-year old DS because I've been taken up with our DD since she was born and so he really lacks attention. He is just playing on his own in his room now while I feed / settle DD. DH is asleep in the spare room - I asked him to get up with DS and get him breakfast but he just got him a bowl of cereal and then left him on his own and went back to bed sad

HungerKunstler Sun 21-Dec-14 16:57:14

Not actually sure if Relationships is the right place for this - maybe I should have put it in Health but the main problem I have is the impact DH's health issues are having on our family relationships and my marriage so thought Relationships might be more helpful...

Thanks for reading if you got this far - it's a long post!

HansieLove Sun 21-Dec-14 17:02:39

How about giving him twenty minutes a day to complain? And that's it! I would also tell him that you have supported him in his wants and needs for three years, and let him dwell on that for awhile.

I would think the nerve pain could be allieved by radiofrequency nerve ablation. Worth checking into.

TenMinutesEarly Sun 21-Dec-14 17:03:45

I think you need to put yourself in his shoes. Chronic pain must be exhausting and miserable. You have to decode whether you can be there for him or not.

MrsPepperMintonCandyCane Sun 21-Dec-14 17:04:33

I think your DH could do with someone else to discuss the pain with. I see you are abroad but my DH (UK) is under a pain management clinic and they have psychologists to support with the mental aspect of chronic pain. I sympathise with you. It's exhausting trying to support. Although he is in chronic pain I do think he could help a little more but it's not easy to tackle. You need a partner and feel like a carer often.

This page has help for the sufferer and might help you.

Mostlyjustaluker Sun 21-Dec-14 17:07:20

This sounds very difficult hunger. I think you have two problems, your DH being selfish and wanting the family to revolve around him and his current health problem.

Are you based in America? He need to speak to his doctor and be referred to a pain specialist to see if they can do anything. I think you also need couples counselling if you are to deal with all these back issues. All depends on what you want to happen?

HungerKunstler Sun 21-Dec-14 17:14:40

It's hard to say Mostly - I suppose I just want us to have a normal family life and not one where there is some constant problem that DH needs support with. I want our DS to feel like he has parents who care about him, not just a harried mother who is trying to care for a newborn and fitting him in as she can.

It is definitely a case of him getting more support outside of the family I think, MrsPepper. A pain management specialist sounds like a good solution. The problem here in the US is that their first response is to prescribe drugs, often things like Vicodin that can be addictive so I'm wary of that option. I've suggested he go and see our family doctor to get anti-depressants so he can at least get through things in the short-term until he finds better medical support for his condition. He keeps saying he will but never makes the appointment. I think he is scared of going on ADs.

I think a counselor could help too but I'm not sure where we would find the time to go and see one! I was seeing a counselor earlier this year to help me sort out some issues I had relating to returning to work but I ended up talking to her mostly about my family situation because it was stressing me out so much. I think I might go back to see her in the New Year. Not sure how I'll get the time though with DS and DD to take care of. I might ask her if she'll let me take baby DD with me to the sessions.

livegoldrings Sun 21-Dec-14 17:26:20

I think you have to get some better medical help for him right away and that is before anything else. Its no good going on AD rather than painkillers, they are both drugs. The key is to get the lowest dose of drugs of the type that helps most. Then dont give up on the complementary therapies like physio or chiropractic another one might be hypnosis. I think a support group either rl or online might be more helpful than counselling. Its helpful to talk to other sufferers and they often have helpful advice about treatment.

simontowers2 Sun 21-Dec-14 17:28:26

The problem here in the US is that their first response is to prescribe drugs, often things like Vicodin that can be addictive so I'm wary of that option.

If the alternative is being on chronic pain i think i'd go for the drugs option personally. You have to be realistic.

Charliegirl21 Sun 21-Dec-14 17:30:49

Is he off sick from work with this condition or is he still going to work?

TheFriar Sun 21-Dec-14 17:38:19

Two things

- having a newborn is exhausting and you can't be faulted to say you can't do more than looking after a newborn and a 3yo.
- bring in chronic pain is horrible, really really horrible. It will take over your life, it will make you depressed and you will feel like that's the only thing that exists because well ..., it's just there 'in your face' all the time and you can't just ignored it.

You need support there. For you with dealing with the house/children (maybe a cleaner???) so you have more head space for him.
For him to have some handle on his pain. Clearly that's what he has been doing for the last 6 months, but unsuccessfully. That must have being extremely hard for him. Hopes that the pain will go away just to realise it still hasn't sad
But he will to acknowledge the effect on him emotionally too. That's why a pain specialist is a good idea (to deal with the pain and the emotional hardship coming from it).
And medication can be good too when things are hard like this. Would you really tell someone with depression that they shouldn't take ADs because they might get addicted to it? Or not to take codeine as a pain killer for the reason?

TheFriar Sun 21-Dec-14 17:40:24

I'm more confused about the fact you didn't believe he was in pain to start with tbh.

That for me is a sign that things aren't good to start with and I would be quite worried about that, even though I don't think this is a time when you will successfully tackle it tbh.

TheFriar Sun 21-Dec-14 17:42:50

And YY to complementary therapies too.
Acupuncture is really good for pain, incl on the face and depending in the style of acupuncture, he will get one hour with a practitioner there to listen to him going on about his pain.
That in itself can be a godsent!

MrsPepperMintonCandyCane Sun 21-Dec-14 18:21:08

Hunger I can understand him not wanting to take ADs. I felt the same but I did take them because I was in danger of affecting family life. This is something he might have to do to make things better for you all. I hope you can get your support back too. It's vital.

HungerKunstler Sun 21-Dec-14 18:59:05

I've nothing against Vicodin or any other pain relief if it works but my worry is that the doctors here just prescribe pain relief and then wash their hands of it, doing nothing to resolve the fundamental cause of the pain. A pain specialist sounds like a much better long-term approach but I'm not sure if he could be referred for that here. We'll need to speak to our family doctor and see what she says.

Confused - yes he has been going to work throughout and in a high pressure job although he had a month off on paternity leave and has taken sick days here and there to go to the dentist and have surgery etc. I think that's why he is cracking up now. He has been holding it together for the last few months and is now despairing of the pain ever going away.

Friar - Saying I didn't believe him was maybe a bit exaggerated on my behalf. I suppose what I meant was that I struggled to take it seriously because he has form for hypochondria and 'manflu' situations where he will just have a regular cold but say he is dying, has flu, can't cope and then in 24 hours will be up and about feeling fine while I've had to soldier on taking care of DC etc by myself, convinced he was really ill with flu. So I was skeptical when he first started claiming to be in real pain.

Thanks for all your responses and suggestions so far. It really helps to have a neutral place to discuss this online. It's hard to burden people with this kind of thing in real life.

simontowers2 Sun 21-Dec-14 19:09:03

OP he does sound a bit selfish, pain aside that is. But i read some time ago about a young man who killed himself suffering the same condition as it went on for several years and he had had enough. The guy was a model as well and seemingly had everything going for him. Food for thought i guess.

Stripyhoglets Sun 21-Dec-14 20:19:19

Some drugs are good for nerve pain and not addictive. I take amyltriptiline which you get dependant on, but it's not addictive like opiates, you don't need to keep taking more to get the effect, but you do need to wean yourself on and off again. It's also an anti- depressant and I think helped with my mood, but could have just been less pain made me more cheerful. I also think some element of talking therapy sounds like it would help him, so he doesn't only have you to talk to. It must be difficult for you as a family but he needs to not only rely on you to help him with this now.

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