Interviewing My Partner
I have ankylosing spondylitis (AS) and fibromyalgia. Both conditions cause light sensitivity and pain in my eyes. However, AS is an autoimmune disease that causes systemic inflammation, including in the eyes. This inflammation can cause uveitis and chronic dry eye (CDE). Last year, I learned that I have CDE, likely caused by AS.
Since these are all chronic conditions, a lot of my time and energy goes into managing them. My loved ones see how much work I put in every day to care for my health, so I decided to ask my partner his thoughts about CDE and our relationship.
Dry eye's effect on our relationship
Anna: How does my dry eye affect our relationship?
Partner: It affects us everyday. Especially early on in our relationship when you used to say your eyes felt tired but you weren't sleepy. That was before the diagnosis, but it made a lot of sense once we found out.
Anna: How did you feel when I told you that I have chronic dry eye?
Partner: I felt okay; it helped explain some of the symptoms you told me. It also made me feel better that you weren't diabetic, because it explained some of the fatigue.
Trying different treatments
Anna: How do you feel about me trying different treatments and procedures for my health?
Partner: I feel good about it. It's all about finding what's right for the individual, so try everything that you and your doctors think will work. I have full faith in you, and I trust your judgement. Even though from time to time you need a little nudge.
The emotional toll
Anna: How do you think dry eye has affected me emotionally?
Partner: I think having a diagnosis that explains symptoms that weren't a part of AS and fibromyalgia made you feel relieved. Because having a diagnosis is better than not knowing, and having a treatment plan reassures you that it can be managed.
My other conditions
Anna: Sometimes the dry eye can be overshadowed by my other conditions. How much do you know about dry eye? Is there anything you wish you knew more about?
Partner: I know a little; most of my research focuses on AS and fibromyalgia. I have a list of studies I want to read pertaining to chronic dry eyes, but haven't got around to it yet.
Anna: What is it like for you to see me living with AS, fibromyalgia, and chronic dry eye?
Partner: It's difficult to see you in pain, but I'm glad there's a diagnosis and hopefully treatment.
What I learned
My partner has always been very understanding and supportive about my health issues and how I manage them. Interviewing him helped me better understand how my conditions affect our relationship and how it impacts him. For instance, I had no idea that he did so much research about my illnesses. It made me feel truly loved and cared for to have him want to better understand my health and struggles.
It also made me see my CDE and general health from another perspective. It has made me realize that maybe I don’t discuss my dry eye symptoms enough, since it is not as apparent as my other conditions. This has made me realize that I need to make it a bigger part of my disability advocacy since CDE affects my everyday life, just as AS and fibromyalgia do.
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