A husband writes anonymously about the struggles around his wife’s sudden onset of mental illness.
In the summer of 2009, my wife and I were making plans for having our first child. We started dating as high school freshmen, and in our ninth year together, and after three years of marriage, we were ready for the next phase of life.
What happened instead is the stuff of nightmares. A lot happened at the same time. She got off birth control; she started a new job; she got stressed out by her new job; she started losing sleep; she started losing interest in food and exercise. And eventually, after a month-long downward spiral, I found myself standing in the waiting room of the psychiatric ward of a hospital, with my wife being admitted for full-blown delusional psychosis. On the way to the hospital she had tried to jump out of the moving vehicle because she didn’t think she was worth helping.
I had anticipated bringing a new life into the world, but instead, I am trying to save one. Six months after hospitalization, she is still very sick. Her official diagnosis is major depression with psychotic features. Her days are varied. Sometimes she is acutely suicidal. Sometimes she is catatonic. Sometimes she is doing just fine. The only consistency is that it’s a challenge, and she falls asleep each night exhausted by her daily fight to stay alive, whether she wants to or not.
My life changed with the onset of my wife’s mental illness. I love her, and have had to grieve her traumatic hospitalization and desire to die. Unfortunately, family members are often overlooked in the treatment of a mentally ill individual. It’s just assumed that since they are healthy, they can handle it. Truth is, it’s really hard to handle it. Amidst the many things I have introduced into my life to help me process this, I’ve started writing. There are many voiceless family members who feel the same loneliness and uncertainty that I feel late at night, after my wife has fallen asleep, and the only company that I have are my racing thoughts. I’ve started pouring my thoughts into a blog, from the profane to the mundane, the tragic to the comedic, so that they don’t keep me up at night.
My wife has said to me on many occasions that I have saved her life, which is something I hold with pride. But her depression prevents her from seeing that she is saving my life too. As much as she needs me, I need her. There are times when family members come and try to “give me a break,” but the truth is that I miss her almost immediately. Sick or not, she is still my wife and my best friend. And I stubbornly insist that there is reason to be optimistic, that we will someday have certainty in our lives again.
As wait for that day, and try do so patiently, I will keep writing and hoping to connect with other families who have helped support their loved ones into health and a new life.
Do you have a story to tell about thriving or struggling through mental illness or other issues related to emotional health? Tell me about it by selecting Real Stories in the contact form for LoveAndLifeToolbox.com.