Information about non epileptic seizures and Non Epileptic Attack Disorder.

Relationships and NEAD

By on 9 September 2015 in General

John Donne wrote that ‘no man is an island’. Each of us needs to love and be loved. In fairytales, true love overcomes all but in real life things tend to be a lot different. When one partner develops a chronic illness such as NEAD, it can throw the relationship dynamic completely out of kilter and lead to all kinds of problems. By working together and being kind to each other, the problems can be overcome.

Talk to each other.

This may seem obvious but a chronic illness can get in the way. If you are the one with NEAD, you may feel guilty especially if the doctor giving you the diagnosis handled it badly and left you feeling you were just ‘making it up’. The seizures will leave you feeling exhausted and drained so you may prefer to hide away. You may not feel up to making an effort with your appearance (or even just getting dressed). If you are the partner of someone with NEAD, you may feel angry that they are having to deal with something so hard; you may feel scared about the future or worried about the effect on the family or you may even believe that your partner is attention seeking or lazy. By sitting down quietly together and talking through your feelings and worries, you will each have a better understanding of the other and will be more able to deal with the changes that NEAD has brought into your lives. Pick the right moment when both of you are feeling comfortable and take turns to really listen to each other without interruptions. If you are struggling to do this, it may help to see a relationship counsellor or coach.

Work together.

It doesn’t matter whether you have been together five months or fifty years, up until now you have worked as a team and that’s what you should continue to do. The dynamics may have to shift slightly but you are still a team. Find out as much as you can about NEAD and what your particular triggers are so that you both understand what you are facing. Where possible, both partners should go along to any doctor’s appointments and both should take along a list of any questions they have. If you are the one with NEAD, focus on the things you CAN do, not the things you can’t. You may not be able to drive to the supermarket, but you can do the grocery shopping online. Look at your traditional role in the couple and see which parts you can still do, which parts you can alter so that its easier for you to do and which parts you genuinely can no longer do. Change can be difficult but working as a team will make a huge difference.

See things from your partner’s perspective.

If you are the one with NEAD, take some time to really think about what your partner is going through. When you have a seizure, you are generally not really aware of what is going on but your partner has to watch you going through it, powerless to help. He/she may be worried and scared. Remember also that your partner will most likely be having to shoulder a much bigger share of the day to day responsibilities. There may be financial worries if you are no longer able to work or there may be concerns about children or other family members. When you are the one that is sick, it can be very easy to fall into an attitude of ‘poor me’ and forget that you are not the only one affected.

If you are the partner, think how you would feel if it was you having the seizures. Be understanding of your loved one’s memory loss, pain, confusion and worry. Don’t try pushing them to do more than they can comfortably manage but equally don’t wrap them in cotton wool. Be supportive and encouraging.

In both cases, the key thing is to be kind and loving to each other. It’s the little things that count so each think of ways that you can make the other feel special.

Give each other space.

There will be times when one or other of you will just want to be left alone and that’s ok. If you are the one with NEAD and rely on your partner to take you everywhere or look after you, then think about getting friends and family to take a turn so that he/she can go out and enjoy themselves without having to worry about you. If you are the partner, don’t try and have that important conversation about the mortgage or whatever when your partner is going through a bad spell. However, make sure that he/she doesn’t become too isolated. Fear of having a seizure in public can lead to people with NEAD becoming virtually housebound. Equally, make sure that you look after yourself too…go and watch that football match with your mates, go shopping with your friends, have some ‘me time’. If you are finding things hard, talk to someone. Don’t let there be too much space though. Make the effort to do things together. Go on a date even if its to the sofa with a bowl of popcorn watching a film!

Be intimate.

Stress is a major factor in NEAD and one of life’s great stress busters is sex. Just because one of you is ill, it doesn’t mean the sex has to stop. You may be concerned that having sex will cause seizures but if done in a loving way, it won’t. If you are the one with NEAD, you may feel unattractive and unloveable but make the effort and you may be surprised. It’s not just about sex though, kisses and cuddles and other loving gestures are just as important. Each one of you make an effort to show the other how much you love them.
Remember why you fell in love.

Love is a journey that we take together. It requires hard work and sacrifice. Being diagnosed with NEAD is a big challenge to face but that doesn’t change who you are at heart. You are still the same people you were when you first met. Be kind to each other, do the little things that show your love, work together as a team and you will get through the challenge together and come out of it stronger than ever.

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