My husband sustained a C 6/7 spinal cord injury. I am exhausted at the end of the day only to wake up at night to assist with turning him . Now he wants sex as well ! I just need to sleep through one night . Am I being selfish and unreasonable?

If it is any consolation your plight is shared by many. The situation is known as a “what about me syndrome” and often brings feelings of helplessness, irritation, frustration, anger and, later, guilt. If allowed to continue it can lead to a total breakdown of a healthy relationship.

How does it happen then? – When your husband’s accident occurred you had to relay messages about the accident, his condition and his prognosis to everyone. The attention was on your husband and his recovery while you toiled away in the background. Your relationship and routine were thrown into disarray by vigils at the ICU and life at the rehab centre. Your husband could not assist with the day-to-day things of married life. You had to address insurance claims and questions from his employers regarding his career, sick leave and more.

At the rehab you were coming to terms with your husband’s disability and you will soon have realised that he was going to require assistance. It appears that you took on the helping/ caring role - and herein lies a major problem. Unless you are Superwoman this can become the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

What then can you do about it? Physical and mental exhaustion may have left you feeling rejected, resentful and helpless, which in itself would cause you to feel guilty and look for fault within yourself. This is normal - given the situation - but self-defeating and counter-productive. Try to reestablish your old daily routines - to regain a sense of self-control - but do it by taking control of your thoughts. Thinking evokes emotion which is followed by action. If your actions do not produce satisfactory results, you need to adjust your thoughts in order to feel different emotions, which should cause you to act differently.

Care giving can be time consuming and laborious. Reduce your workload by employing a care giver. A domestic worker can often be trained to perform these duties. This could free you up during the day to resume your regular routines and to adjust to the lifestyle you now have.

You also need to take some ME TIME. Read a book, go for a massage or spend quality time with friends. You and your husband will soon discover that you can enjoy most of your before injury activities albeit in an adapted way. Look for new adventures too that suit the present situation. As far as resumption of your intimate relationship, the topic was fully covered by me in the March/April 2010 issue of this magazine. I wish you strength and courage on your journey of discovery.

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