I realise this thread is going to make me sound like an awful person...
Four years ago my husband had pneumonia that has left him with damage to his lungs and a condition called bronchiectasis, which causes the lungs to constantly fill up with gunk. He has to do lung-clearing exercises at least twice a day, which involves coughing to the point of retching, and the rest of the time he coughs every couple of minutes and brings up sputum into tissues or, if he hasn't got a tissue to hand (which is rare) he spits into something.
For the first couple of years he tried to be discreet and would apologise for the noises he makes when he's clearing his lungs. I've always said there's no need to apologise, he's dealing with a horrible disease and I mean that. But he's gradually become more and more relaxed about it and hoicks and spits very publicly. We were in the garden earlier this summer and he spat into a flowerbed while our daughter and her partner were here, and I could see how horrified my daughter was. We're not a family that would ever spit and certainly not in front of other people.
He was offered a very good ill health early retirement package by his company and took it in early 2020. Apart from the coughing he's otherwise incredibly fit. He was a marathon runner before the pneumonia and still runs. He's taken up cycling and does a lot of core strength work as advised by his doctor.
The coughing first started to get to me during lockdown, when we were living together 24/7. I paid for a garden studio so that I could work from home and it gave me a few hours' break each day from all the coughing and throat-clearing. We also ended up in separate bedrooms because he coughs in the night and his lungs get quite wheezy.
Over the last year he's become so relaxed about things that he's taken to leaving gunk-filled tissues all over the house. He'll leave them on the arm of the sofa when he's been watching TV, or by the side of the bath, all over the car (I've learned th hard way to look before putting my hand into one of the door pockets) or even on the kitchen table. I find them in his pockets when I'm emptying them out before putting clothes in the wash. He has a couple of sputum pots by his bed that he's got quite lax at emptying.
We've had a number of conversations about it and I've asked him to be more careful and to clear up after himself, but it's an ongoing problem and it puts me in the position of having to keep nagging, which I don't want to do.
I'm dealing with it as constructively as I can. I don't think he would have any idea of how much it sometimes gets to me. I've never commented on his coughing, never asked him to try and mute it, only ever complained about the spitting and the sputum-filled tissues.
I've tried to take the opportunities for breaks on my own when I can. Last year I spent some time supporting a friend whose mother was dying and this year I volunteered to look after a friend's dogs in her own home. At home, when we're together and it starts to get to me I find reasons to go and work outside or put noise-cancelling earphones on or listen to a podcast or music.
I'm very embarrassed that I'm allowing something like this to get to me. I thought I was bigger and more magnanimous than this and I'm disappointed by how intolerant I turn out to be. He, after all, is the one who's having to cope with coughing all the time. But I find myself dreading our fortnight's holiday in September, when we'll be alone together in hotel rooms and escape will be difficult.
Is anyone else living with someone with a chronic condition such as this? Does it affect you? Do you have any suggestions for ways of coping?
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