We recently had a chance to chat with Rock Robbins, husband to Stacey Robbins (of the book You’re Not Crazy and You’re Not Alone) and author of the Married to Hashimoto’s blog and The Guys’ Guide to Hashimoto’s. While his wife was struggling to find a diagnosis and then coping with the physical and emotional impact of Hashimoto’s, Rock was learning how to support her. The journey wasn’t an easy one for either of them, but it’s probably one that many of you will find familiar.
In the early years of Stacey’s health crisis, how did you feel impacted by everything she was experiencing?
Well, in the beginning, we didn’t know what was going on; the early symptoms of stomach issues, subtle weight gain, and skin issues, just by themselves weren’t enough for Stacey and I to think it was anything more than maybe a cold, or skin rash. We weren’t looking for Hashimoto’s because her health was basically fine. But when those symptoms and more started raging, it got our attention – and we starting going through all the doctor’s tests as we were all trying to figure out what was going on.
The impact was basically that something changed in Stacey and we just couldn’t do the things we used to do. We couldn’t go out to restaurants because once she ate, her stomach roiled, and we had to leave. We couldn’t go to movies because the lights and noise were too overstimulating. We couldn’t really go for walks because she was so tired or her joints ached. The selfish part of me felt like I lost my young, healthy wife and life was became a drag. And the noble part of me just wanted her well, happy, and peaceful again.
What is the biggest mistake you made as Stacey struggled with her health?
I’d say there are probably two things tied for first place for where I blew it. 1. I minimized what Stacey was going through health-wise, which along with her doctor saying she was fine (when she wasn’t), made her feel crazy. 2. Not treating my wife like she had a legitimate health issue. It would be easier if she had a broken leg – it’s something I can see, and easily jump in to meet the need. But with Hashimoto’s, she looks “normal” on the outside, so it’s easy to fall back into expecting her to be fine when she’s not.
What was the most important thing you did right during her struggles?
The most important thing I did right was admitting to her that I didn’t understand how serious Hashimoto’s was, and apologizing for when I treated her as if she was fine. That act was THE most important thing in our relationship, because it let her know that I believed her, and was ready help her going forward. She had many people around her giving her a hard time for not performing like she used to, so when I “got it”, our relationship became a safe place in the middle of all that.
What advice would you give to husbands and partners who are trying to support someone who is still searching for a diagnosis or who has been recently diagnosed?
My advice to men going through this would be – treat your woman like this is a real health issue, and do what you can to support her peace, and her understanding what’s going on. She’s going to need your perspective and support as you both sort through what the best treatment plan is for her. There’s going to be a lot of information coming your way, and you’re likely not going to understand it all. That’s okay, just work through one thing at a time together.
Eventually, the pieces of her health puzzle will come together, and you’ll both see the bigger picture. Finally, be ready to go long, because it could be marathon, and not a sprint, to the goal of her feeling whole again.
How have you and Stacey navigated telling your story? It’s taking a very private journey as a couple and making it public – has it made you stronger as a couple?
Well, for wife, it’s very easy for her to share, because that’s how she processes – out loud and in the online community of other women going through the same things. For me, I’m more of an introvert, so sharing is not my first instinct. But when I started reading the hardships other couples had gone through, and saw so many making the same mistakes we made, I knew that I had to jump in too. My wife and I had no one to guide us back in the beginning. And while there are many resources for women, there really aren’t any for guys or couples grappling with how this affects their relationships. So, the whole process of sharing our story has brought us closer, and helps keep me plugged into the reality of her situation.
Your family’s journey is still ongoing. How do you cope when there are setbacks in Stacey’s health?
Great question, because we recently found out Stacey’s thyroid levels got too low, and it was like we went through the whole process over again. Now, I’m much more supportive and ready to step in and help her with her food, meds, and support.
And finally, what’s the number one thing you hope readers will get out of your book?
The number one thing I hope they get is – hope. Because it is possible to get your lives back in order again. I’m so thankful to be able to share that hope with others going through this. There are so many more resources, and options now. So, yes, life can get better, and even go back to normal. It may not be the same as it was before, but there can be health, peace, fun, and wholeness for both of you. Hang in there – you’re not alone.
Want to hear more of Rock’s story?
We are thrilled to announce that Rock Robbins will be with us November 30th @ 7:00pm ET for our next Meetup. Please invite your spouse, partner, and family members as Rock will be sharing with us how he navigates being “Married with Hashimoto’s” on a daily basis.
Please note that this Meetup takes the form of a 30 minute discussion followed by a Q&A where you will have the opportunity to ask Rock your questions. The RSVP details can be found here and all you have to do to participate is call in. We can’t wait to learn with you!