Months ago, I wrote a post about my complicated love life. Since the beginning of my relationship, there have been more naysayers and self-proclaimed “realists” than cheerleaders or supporters. Although it’s been hard hearing people doubt the longevity of my relationship with my husband-to-be, I’ve never had any doubts myself. (As they say, when you know, you know!) The biggest hurdle we’ve had to deal with as a couple is remaining a team while separated by 4,000+ miles and that pesky ocean. Long distance relationships are not for the faint of heart. Nevertheless, we’ve made it this far and plan to close the gap as soon as the visa paperwork clears. Whenever that may be…
I have faced many obstacles in my short life. I’ve made plans and sat back and watched them crumble before my eyes. But I believe my perseverance (and possibly stubbornness) keeps me moving forward toward my goals. With that said, these last few months have been some of the hardest I’ve ever faced, and they have certainly tested my strength.
My fiancé, James, recently lost his job that he loved so much, which had been the main reason for our decision for me to move to London to join him. It happened unexpectedly and suddenly, and not only put him face-to-face with unemployment for the first time in his adult life, but it also single-handedly halted the entire visa application process. You see, he sort of needs an income to prove he can sponsor me for the visa. Saying, “hey, we’re married!” isn’t actually enough, apparently. Part of me feels like I shouldn’t blame the company he worked for because outsourcing James’ job seemed to be the best option in their eyes. But at the same time, I feel like the timing and completely out-of-left-field nature of the situation makes me also feel like we were personally, maliciously attacked. Logically, I know it’s “just business,” but this seemingly small incident threw all of our plans back up in the air. Back to square one, we say. There was an end in sight to the long distance as soon as we said our I dos, and then the rug got ripped out from under us. Can you imagine how it feels knowing that after we have our wedding, we still won’t know when we can live with each other or where that will be? That’s not a typical stress in a normal relationship! Most couples can just pick up and move without thinking twice. But we can’t… until we have the paperwork that says we can – legally.
On top of that unpleasant surprise, there’s a larger, more worrisome issue on our hands. James broke his foot when he was in military college years ago. After a misdiagnosis by the UK’s healthcare system, James’ foot condition worsened. He was constantly breaking the same foot or feeling excruciating pain even if the bone wasn’t broken. I’ve watched him suddenly buckle over in severe pain, tears welling up in his eyes, unable to speak for no understandable reason. He has logged more hours at the hospital in the last year than you probably have in your entire life. And I’ve never been able to be there in person for him. Nearly half of our relationship, James has been on crutches or wearing a cast, unable to move around like an average human being. He used to be a marathon runner, and now he has to stop and take breaks when the pain gets to be too intense. Specialists have examined his foot so many times we’ve lost count, and I’m sure all of the area doctors know his case by heart simply due to the amount of times he’s had to call and leave messages asking for a different kind of pain medicine because whatever they gave him this time wasn’t helping. He’s ingested so many terrifyingly strong pain medications and narcotics that I worry about the state of his organs and the tolerance his body has built up. After countless MRIs and X-rays, doctors believe he has Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) and Allodynia. He’s had several surgeries, including one a few months ago to kill a nerve in his foot to stop all feeling whatsoever. We pushed for the surgery because he wasn’t responding to pain management medications, and also because I really wanted to dance with my husband at our wedding in February. The surgery worked and he was walking around normally and we allowed ourselves to celebrate and get excited to dance at our wedding… And then the chronic, crippling pain was back within a month or two and our hearts were broken. That phone call with James was probably the worst, most painful conversation I’ve ever had in my life. The doctor had told James he could run again in as little as three years, and now the boot is back on and the crutches are always at the ready. We thought we saw the light at the end of the tunnel. We were excited! And yet again, we were let down. Now, doctors see that two bones in James’ foot have fused together and need to be surgically separated. Until then, he will repeatedly break his foot because of the added pressure the fused bones place on his foot. However, his hypersensitivity and CRPS make it too risky to pursue this surgery until doctors can figure out a way to manage the pain. And although most Americans don’t understand this because we don’t have healthcare like the UK does, the wait time for James to see someone at the pain management clinic is, AT THE EARLIEST, 3 months from now (thanks, universal healthcare). So not only do I have to helplessly sit here in America while my other half is in agonizing pain every single day (physically and emotionally), I also have to stomach the notion that James may never find relief – or worse – it may worsen or spread to other parts of his body. I do the best that I can to be supportive and positive because scary health situations like this are best combatted by a strong, optimistic team. But it takes nearly all my strength not to break down myself, and I’m not the one dealing with the physical pain. I selfishly had this image of James and I dancing with big goofy grins on our faces to our song in 10 weeks, and now I’m trying to figure out a way to dress up his crutches to match the venue decor.
While there’s nothing we can do at this moment except stay positive and hopeful, it’s still hard to deal with. Even though James no longer holds the job that kept him in London away from me, he still has to stay in London now in order to remain with the doctors who have been working closely with him. Why doesn’t he come to America, you say? It’s been discussed, but American healthcare is astronomically expensive, which is an obstacle we simply can’t get around financially. And even if we could, it takes a minimum of a year for a non-US citizen to have their visa application accepted in order for James to remain here with me.
It has been an incredibly tough year for James and me. We have faced so much adversity, and sometimes it feels like it’ll never end. But I have to keep the faith because James deserves the best in this world, and if I can’t fix these problems, I can at least give him my best.
I chose to write this post because I think it’s important for everyone to remember that we are all fighting our own battles even if others can’t see them. We should not judge or criticize others for things we do not understand, and we should always hope for the best for people no matter what. I know our situation could be much worse, but for now, this feels earth-shattering. So please be kind to one another and help each other out. Even if it’s just listening when someone needs to vent or offering a hug to help someone de-stress – almost any little thing can help. Trust me, I can attest to that! James will be pain-free some day soon and we’ll get to live in the same place because that’s the only future either of us will accept. We’ll get there because we want to. In the meantime, we’ve got the power of positivity on our side and an absolute unwillingness to give up. And one day, at our vow renewal, James and I will dance without reservation!
When the world starts falling apart around you, all you can do is start picking up the pieces and putting them back in an order you can understand. And that’s what we’re trying to do.
To infinity and beyond!