It must be hard to love a woman like me. When he first met me at the tender age of 21, I was not the same woman I am today. I had yet to be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression. I was already a mother, but I was a free spirit. I was free of the complications that come with mental illness.
After a traumatic birth, which meant a three-month NICU stay, I was left a shell of the woman I was before. There were days during the NICU when I would sit in our son’s room and sob for hours, and my husband had no idea what to do to help me.
I want him to know that just being there for me was the best thing he could do.
When I was diagnosed with PTSD I was so ashamed. I sat next to my husband, who had been to war, and I felt weak. How could this man, who had seen things I couldn’t even imagine, possibly understand that something as “normal” as giving birth could leave me with a mental illness his battle buddies have. Yet, he never questioned it, and he just held me as I cried.
Loving a person with a mental illness is not for the weak of heart. Some days I am sad, and I can’t tell him why. On those days he tries to give me a few extra kisses, which means more to me than he will ever know. There are days when he can’t do anything right in my eyes, but he knows I still love him. I just can’t get my emotions in check that day. I cancel plans minutes before we leave sometimes because I start to worry about everything that could go wrong. Taking me to the movies is a chore because I am constantly people-watching and looking for exits. When he notices this he usually grabs my hand, kisses my forehead and tells me it will be alright.
At one point I became a scary version of myself. I cried daily and nothing made me happy. Instead of running away or being mad at me, he did the most selfless and amazing thing anyone has ever done for me. He encouraged me to go to therapy. This man that had faced my illness along with me called all over our area to find a therapist for me, then took off of work and drove me there to make sure I actually went in. He saved my life that day as he sat in the car and waited for me to come out. I was so angry when I got back in the car with my mascara running down my face. I felt like a fool crying in front of a stranger during the appointment. He asked for my appointment card so he could drive me to the next one.
How does he do it? How does he love me so much through this mental illness when I struggle to love myself? Loving me is his super power. I know his needs get neglected a lot, and at times I feel I am not the wife he deserves. The house is usually messy, I wear a lot of sweat pants and his dinner often comes from a box. But he never complains. He just holds me tight and continues to make plans for our future like I am the wife he has always wanted. I cannot count the amount of times I have yelled at him to go find the woman he deserves, and he just let me yell. Sometimes yelling is the best medicine for me. He knows it is my depression talking and doesn’t hold it against me. Hopefully one day I will return to the woman who used to dance with him in the grocery store and would never turn down a night out with friends, but until then I am grateful to him for being content with watching Hulu with me in our pajamas on a Saturday night. That may not seem like a grand gesture, but to me it is the grandest. It gives me a feeling of acceptance and a sense of normalcy.
Love is hard. Love with mental illness involved can feel impossible to navigate, but I am blessed to have a partner who never gives up. I am a storm, and he is my peace.