My boyfriend, who is sixteen, has had back pain all his life, but it's gotten seriously worse since I've known him. Some days he seems all right, but there have been instances when we were supposed to do something together--go dancing, go to a play, etc--and he was unable almost to walk without pain. Needless to say, this is frustrating for us both, but I try to be understanding because I know it's not anyone's fault.
Recently (since Sunday) it's been worse than it's ever been. He's been seeing a chiropractor--of whom I am suspicious; he's shown no improvement with this guy, in fact his situation seems to have degraded--but Tuesday he went to his doctor and got prescribed some Vicadin and referred to an orthopedic surgeon. I'm hoping someone will be able to do something for him, but I really don't have much knowledge about the best course of action. I feel like getting exercises from a phyical therapist would help a lot--it did a great deal for my mom when she went through difficulties with her knee/lower back--but he already has exercises given to him by the trainer at the high school, and he doesn't do them. (I get frustrated with him about that--he's understandably miserable about the situation, but it seems he's pouring all his energy into feeling sorry for himself, rather than making himself better.)
I think a large portion of his pains stem from mental stress. We were supposed to test together for black belts in Taekwondo (myself for second dan, him for third) but he had to postpone his test another year due to the pain (it's an extremely demanding test physically; I'm in good shape and still nervous about it). This was a really big disappointment—the test is, like, one of the most important events of our lives. He thinks of himself as an athletic person, a bit of a jock, but he can barely <i>walk</i>—he’s had to drop not only the test, but also lacrosse and running. He’s a fairly easygoing person, but this is enough to make anyone depressed. Also, his dad’s been living away from home for work for the past six-seven months—about the duration of our relationship, actually—and only recently returned home.
I was hoping the return of his father would help his mental state. He doesn’t have a lot of close friends, and I’m the first person I think that he’s really opened up to. We have a very close relationship, and are very supportive of each other, etc—it’s all good there. But it’s always kind of felt like I’m the single “good thing” in his life (he’s said as much), which is a little bit of a burden on me. I have a lot of really good friends who I’ve known for a long time—though I’ve haven’t seen as much of them as I’d like since I started going out with him—and a pretty fulfilling, busy life. (He’s in public school, which is definitely drudgery for him; I’m homeschooled and doing the things I love—frustrating for him, perhaps.) I love him, and I do realize that part of a relationship is being there through sickness and health—as tempting as it might be to say, “fix yourself and be strong and fit and then come back to me,” I have to be there for him. I tend to have that kind of role in a lot of my relationships, since I have a really stable family life, emotional state, etc—I usually am the confidant and the shoulder to cry on, which is an important part of my identity.
Still, all this pain on his part is beginning to wear on me. I’m extremely empathetic, and whenever he’s hurting, I feel terrible. He’s not as fun to be around when he’s in pain, obviously; he tries not to but he tends to close off and become really anti-social. (This has been a disappointment for me: A few weekends ago, my family hosted a graduation party for me, which was a really big event—I was nervous, and hoping he’d be there to back me up and socialize with the friends who hadn’t met him and were perhaps skeptical about my relationship—I’m the first of my friends to have a boyfriend—but he was in so much pain that he lurked upstairs playing poker with my dad and little brother and kept brushing me off when I came up to check on him, saying I needed to socialize with the people I didn’t see as often, not realizing that what I wanted was him by my side helping me with that.) It’s kind of a drag sometimes, and I’m a little sick of being his sole mental support.
I’ve been feeling a little angry towards him ever since the party incident, but I haven’t voiced any of it towards him, simply because he’s so sensitive and it feels cruel to put me being angry with him on top of all the physical pain he’s in. I wanted to confront him about it this weekend, after my black belt test is over, but I’m leaving Monday morning for 10 days, and I think that if I yell at him and then just <i>leave</i> he’ll be really upset (he’s not the type to think about it and implement my suggestions in my absence; he’ll sulk and be depressed instead). Yet I feel as if I confront him after I get back, it’ll be too after-the-fact… and we’ll need that time to kind of get re-acquainted after being apart for a little while (10 days is longer than we’ve been apart since we met; I see him pretty regularly at classes). My best bet is probably to let it pass and see how he’s doing over the summer, without the stress of school and with his dad being back, etc. Maybe everything will be better when I get back. I don’t know.
Advice, anyone? My biggest problem is that I hate feeling helpless, which is what I am when it comes to his back pain. I hate seeing someone I love unhappy, and I wish I could just fix everything. But I can’t, and I hate that.
Posts: 18 | From: New Hampshire | Registered: Apr 2006
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I don't have advice for him. What I do have is something for you.
You can't fix him. You can't force him to fix himself. Allowing yourself to become stressed by it isn't helping you or him, either.
What you can do is tell him how his refusal to do the little things (phyiscal therapy, counseling) is affecting you. But that's all you can do. He needs to heal himself, and you need to realize that for yourself.
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It may also be helpful to look at your expectations and whether they're always realistic.
For example, someone who's in severe pain isn't likely to want to socialize, and being angry at him or confronting him by "yelling" at him about it isn't going to change that.
But it's okay to be disappointed. It's okay to say, "Hey, I wish you'd been feeling better, because I'd have liked you to meet my friends. " It's okay to think that the situation sucks.
as tempting as it might be to say, “fix yourself and be strong and fit and then come back to me,” I have to be there for him.
Something to consider is that with a really severe problem like this, things like exercises may help but it's possible that they won't "fix" the problem altogether. Not everything can be fixed. This may be an ongoing disability for him.
But that also means that you can't "fix" him either, and expecting yourself to isn't helpful to either of you. If you take the pressure of yourself, you may find his pain a bit easier to deal with.
-------------------- "Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it." - the Talmud Posts: 6944 | From: UK | Registered: May 2002
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