Recently my husband wrote a blog about his struggle with his mental health, you can read it here.
I wanted to write my own blog from the other side. I want to explain what it is like to be madly in love with someone who occasionally is too numb to love in return the way you know he does on the good days.
Andrew is probably the most loving and compassionate partner I could ever imagine. There are corners of our relationship, memories and feelings and actions I will always keep to myself but with that being said I will share a bit of a window into his heart.
Before we were dating he was so uplifting and was always there for me no matter what as I went through some personal stuff. I had someone to encourage me to be myself constantly, I had someone singing Disney songs so my apartment didn’t feel empty and I had someone who baked me cookies when I had strep throat and I can honestly say he never wanted anything in return but my friendship and that I was more than happy to give. He writes love notes and brings me blankets when we are going to watch movies and knows how to help calm me down when my anxiety takes over. He adores my family and knows they are his own, he never fails to check if I’ve called home recently just because. He is appreciative of every little thing given to him with thought behind it and never fails to give gifts that are full of love and are carefully considered before being purchased or made. When I have a rough day he makes sure to hold my hand and kiss my forehead and let me nap on a pillow in his lap if needed. These and a million other reasons that make all bad days worth it.
It is no secret that I have anxiety. On the days where he is hitting the lows of his depression and I am hitting anxious levels that are above normal we both struggle. He feels overwhelming guilt that he is the way he is and I feel terrified that we might both get stuck in this level and he might leave me (hello abandonment issues.) If you have never experienced loving someone (whether family, friend or significant other) with any sort of mental health struggle you won’t entirely understand how much self reflection it actually takes. Things like minor couple arguments are on a whole different level and you have to consider each others responses as well as the possibility that another factor is blowing it all out of proportion and really neither of you care about the issue as much as you initially thought. Our relationship is sometimes both of us stuck in a “the sky is falling” mood for two entirely different reasons.
I feel I have to dial it back on his bad days, I spend time considering how I can make things easier but I also have to remind myself that some days I just plain won’t be able to fix anything for him. I think my biggest struggle is feeling like I could have prevented a low point, feeling as though I did something to encourage his lows and like I am to blame when he isn’t immediately happy when he comes home from a rough day at work, for example. I also realize that I push aside my own feelings and struggles when he is at a low which I know neither of us want but it is something I’m working on. It’s sort of a case of me deciding that he feels worse so I have to buck up and be his support system, my feelings aren’t as valid. This is completely ridiculous but sometimes it’s a case of “depression trumps anxiety” in my mind so I consider my feelings to be second rate and I shove them down while I try to put a smile on my husbands face.
This year we were both diagnosed and put on medications, him for depression and me for anxiety, so we have had to face all of it together but also alone occasionally and it’s been a rough road some days. I go through depression spells and he gets anxious a fair bit so we do have an understanding of each others struggles pretty well. I grow with him and because of him constantly. My patience has improved (except for Christmas) and my ability to understand him and his feelings is better everyday. I am proud to be his support system, I am always happy to be the shoulder to cry on and the person he can depend on that he always needed. He is my safe place and my rational thinking and my source of laughter when the road gets bumpy. We can depend on each other whenever we need one another and there is so much sanity in that concept alone.
We are a weird little pairing but we are an excellent team. He is good for me in every way and I like to think I’m pretty good for him too. My biggest struggle honestly has been to allow myself to feel things despite where he is emotionally some days. I struggle watching him on the bad days, his depression affects me too and I would be lying if I said otherwise. Sometimes I feel guilty that I can’t improve his mood or I feel guilty for saying something that affects him negatively somehow, sometimes it is the smallest thing to set either of us off but the guilt is there all the same. I want to be the light in the dark for him always but sometimes my light is just as dull as his. I wish I could always be a comfort but sometimes I am in a tough place that all I need is my head on his chest and a TV binge night to take my focus away from whatever disaster I am making up or focusing on. Sometimes I can’t help him, sometimes I feel too much at a low to be his high and that is the part that is the hardest. I watch the man I love hurt and I can do nothing about it but hurt alongside him.
While I have been learning to love myself and my body I have to come to terms with my anxiety too. I have to love that it’s a part of me even if I don’t love my shitty days where everything sucks. It has taught me a lot about myself and about other people and why I respond the way I do to certain situations. My anxiety is a large part of why I struggle to love myself in the first place, I let anxiety tell me that I don’t look a certain way and that’s NOT okay or my anxiety tells me that I’m not smart or interesting enough. My anxiety tells me that I’m not doing enough for him but my logic tells me that loving him is all I can do some days and often that is enough. I am enough, no matter my mental health or his, I am enough of a woman and a wife and a friend that I should be celebrating myself instead of feeling like I’m not enough of a super hero to cure his depression with a silly joke and a kiss. If I love Andrew on depressed days why can’t I love myself on anxious ones?
Falling in love with Andrew has been the most rewarding and challenging relationship of my life and I will be forever thankful for it. There is no one I would rather do this life with.