I might have mentioned in passing that both my wife and I suffer from mental illness, and many of our diagnoses are similar: borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders (while we both suffer from generalized anxiety disorder, I have PTSD as well). I wanted to give you an idea of what it’s like being a spouse of someone who suffers from mental illness.
First off, proper introductions. I’ve never mentioned my wife’s name in this blog, because I could make do with the occasional mentions of her as “my wife” up until this point. But since the limelight is on her this time, I asked permission to use her name, which she gave.
Everyone, meet Stacy.
In some ways, she’s got it better than I do, in that she can function and hold down a job, whereas I’m on disability currently until my condition improves. However, she’s currently unmedicated and not seeing a therapist, which means she’s basically on her own to fight illnesses that are frankly not that much better than mine. I do the best I can to be a support mechanism for her, but there are days that all I can do is just love her unconditionally.
For example, this morning she described herself as feeling “off.” She couldn’t really go into further detail, just that she was in a lot of pain. Knowing she didn’t feel well, I made her a bowl of cereal for breakfast before heading back into the kitchen to make my own breakfast.
From the living room, there came a telltale sniff.
I came back out of the kitchen and saw her crying. I asked her what was going on and she managed to get out “you didn’t have to do that for me” and kept crying. I knelt on one knee next to her on the couch and just held her close. I told her that I knew she didn’t feel up to doing much, and that I wanted to be nice to her, and she reiterated, a little more tentatively, that I didn’t have to make her breakfast. I just held her some more and reassured her that I love her and that I was happy to make her life easier.
When she has a bad time of things, she tends to have the same M.O. – her brain tells her that everyone’s mad or, worse, disappointed in her, that she has to do everything for everyone in order to keep them happy, and that if she in any way fails to be perfectly attentive to their needs, that person will just simply go away.
Even – sometimes especially – if that person is me.
She has nightmares a lot, and often they deal with me being angry at her. This, to me, is proof that her subconscious is terrified of losing me, though we’ve never discussed this in detail with any therapist.
When she’s going through a rough spot, my attempts to help her sometimes work and sometimes don’t – in fact, they can even make it worse. But I don’t stop telling her I love her and that she’s worthy of that love no matter what.
It’s not easy sometimes, as I imagine that it’s not easy for her to deal with me when I’m at my worst. The difference with our individual irrationalities is that mine tells me to push everyone away and hers tells her they’re leaving of their own accord.
At times like that, the best thing for me to do is love her harder than ever, just like she does with me.
That’s the easiest thing to do, though. I love her more than there are stars, and will do so until they go out.