His name is John; hers is Yvonne. He is 76 and she is 74. They dated all through high school. Then they broke up and married other people, had kids and grandkids, and all was well.
Then John’s wife got cancer – ovarian or cervical – either way, doesn’t matter. He took care of her, always believing he could do more. Then she died.
John got on with his life. He was sad, but dealing.
One day, John’s son looked up Yvonne and found out she lived only 30 minutes away. She was married to someone and had kids and grandkids and even a great-grandkid.
Some time later, John’s son showed him the obituaries. Yvonne’s husband had passed. Cancer. John went to pay his respects. After all, he and Yvonne had once dated. They talked a bit and promised to keep in touch.
John and Yvonne were married two years later.
They have been married about six years now.
Two years ago, Yvonne was diagnosed with cancer, cervical or ovarian – doesn’t matter. It was the same cancer that killed John’s first wife.
John said NO!
He wanted to fight the cancer. He wouldn’t let cancer take his wife again.
John goes to every doctor appointment. He keeps track of every medication and dosage and when and how she is supposed to take it. He sat with her while she went through chemo. He shaved her head – and his – when she started to lose her hair. He isn’t letting her go without a fight.
They don’t know what the future holds, or if the cancer has spread.
Cancer sucks…but it also made them stronger.
Cancer brought them together.
I’ve been with my husband for eight years – married for five of them. We have a beautiful four-year old son, three dogs, and a cat. For the most part, we are a happy family.
My husband has been diagnosed with ADHD, borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder and, most recently, major depressive disorder.
He has been treated with different medications for all of those things. The latest diagnosis we are treating is his major depressive disorder…
…but there’s something else there, aside from the depression.
There is rage– an all-consuming rage.
As long as I’ve known my husband, he’s had these episodes.He loses control, and snaps on everyone and everything in his path. He’s broken windows, phones, end tables, lamps – the list is never ending.
When these episodes happen, the man I married isn’t there.
He’s gone, and something else takes over. He’s told me on numerous occasions that he doesn’t remember what occurs during these episodes.
He can remember the episode, but he doesn’t remember his words or actions. He told his psychiatrist that he almost blacks out when he gets to that point in his rage.
She gave him some more medication, and basically said, “See you in a month.”
He feels worthless, and that makes him angry. He isn’t a talker, but when he does talk I can hear the anguish in his voice.
He says nothing happened to make him the way he is. Nothing terrible – nothing worthy of the rage inside him.
He doesn’t want to be this way, he doesn’t want to be anxious and hopeless and angry and sad.
But he doesn’t know how to stop.
It used to happen when he couldn’t find any weed. Then someone would come through with some, he’d smoke it, and the world would right itself.
But more recently, it’s been for no reason I can understand. A month ago, he put a loaded shotgun in his mouth, and he told me, “Good-bye.”
That ended with a police escort to the local hospital.
He spent three days there, changing his medication and talking to someone for ten minutes a day. He attended group sessions, and when he came home, he was ready to be better.
It was a week before he had another episode.
And since then these episodes have been happening every 3-5 days. Some are more serious than others. The last time, he threatened to kill himself.
Unfortunately, that isn’t anything new, except that, this time, he also threatened his mother and I.
We’re going to try therapy, but right now, it feels like he’s a ticking time-bomb, set to go off at any second. From the outside, I know it doesn’t look like he’s trying but he is, he really is.
So this is where I need help, The Band:
Do I stay, or do I go?
Do I walk away from my husband because he’s sick? Or do I stay, even if it’s to the detriment of my sanity, and my child’s well-being?
I don’t know what to do and I have no support network.
My son’s father was never in the picture, and my mother is a recovering addict – currently incarcerated. My godmother, the woman who raised me, is dead. I have a brother, but he has no job, and no home.
My best friend was witness to the gun incident, and has mostly given up on me. She told me that I’m codependent, and making terrible choices for my child. She thinks I should leave my husband, like she did. But her husband was an alcoholic – mine isn’t.
My in-laws have been terrific. Any time we need somewhere safe, their home is always open. But they are elderly – one of them is in a wheelchair. I feel I can’t burden them with this. I feel I am making them choose between their son, or their grandson and I.
Where can I go? What should I do? Please, The Band, help me. I feel so alone. I’ve prayed to every god I can think of, and I still feel so lost.
There is no handbook for when you marry someone with mental illness.
Recently, someone came back into my life.
This person was my whole entire world for three years. This was My Person, the love of my life.
They loved me.
All my flaws.
My Person made me feel whole.
My Person calmed the negativity I had in my life.
My Person held me when I needed to cry. They listened when I needed to yell. This person sat behind me and picked head lice out of my hair for 8 hours when I cried because no one else in my life would help me. My Person was so beyond good for me.
Then, slowly I started letting the negative creep back in, I let the people that were supposed to care talk me into believing them instead of this amazing person I had in my life.
You see, I always knew I was a failure.
I always knew I would never amount to anything.
My Person believed in me and my worth and well… I really don’t know.
I have no excuses except I was young and dumb and influenced easily by people that should have been supporting me. I longed for THEIR approval and love and if I didn’t have that, why should I deserve anything else.
I left this amazing person with a heavy heart but headed in a direction I was being basically shoved into for many years.
I married, had kids, was verbally and emotionally abused before I finally left.
Even after I left I tried to make it work. I mean, no one else would ever want me.
During this time I searched out My Person.
They’d moved far away to another land.
They seemed happy and from what I could see from my computer screen didn’t want me anymore.
I did reach out, I called, I emailed, I basically stalked this person.
But they had moved on. I was just a memory to them; that was okay. After all, I didn’t deserve them.
Fast forward a few more years.
I still watched My Person from afar. I was friends with their family but still had not contact with My Person.
That was okay. I was happy knowing they were happy.
I met someone, dated for a few years, got married again. And I am finally HAPPY! Well, at least most of the time. My old negative thoughts are all still there but I’m mildly successful at pushing them down.
A couple weeks ago, My Person showed up in my life again like a whirlwind.
They have never been far from my thoughts; I still watched.
But here they were in my inbox and we’ve been talking and it’s like the last twenty years disappeared and I am right back where I was, where we were; My Person and I.
And I am so so so in love. I always was.
And I’m torn: how can I love two people this much? What do I do?
I need this person in my life, they are a part of me has been missing for so long.
It’s like I got my right hand back. I need them to know I love them. Because I do…
…but we can’t be together.
I love where I am now, I love the person I’ve married. I love my home and my job. Right now? There’s half a century and twenty years between us, but I still need them in my life.
I find my mind wandering a lot lately.
The what if’s.
I find myself wanting to wake up in one of those stupid romcoms where everything is different but it just seems right and you don’t want to wake up.
I want to find a damn DeLorean and make different choices.
We are enjoying a day off. It’s Easter weekend. Reflecting Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. He is cutting up vegetables. He cuts himself and is bleeding everywhere.
He can’t even let Jesus Christ take center stage.
He needs all the damn attention!
Why does he think his needs are more important than mine?
Now, I need to help him feel more comfortable.
Constantly complying. I am not a part of the equation. I have been SPEAKING for years, repeating myself constantly. I don’t ask anymore. I don’t ask for things. I don’t ask for affection. I am living in limbo. Boundless. Floating.
I am invisible.
I need to be released from this responsibility that I’ve been carrying for too long.
For the last eight years we’ve drifted apart, each of our roles were extremely different from the others.
I was primary care taker of the baby, he just worked to not be in pain. He was in and out of doctor’s offices, and in bed most of the time he was home.
He was cold to me. He couldn’t help it. I know.
To me, he had it easy: just relax, lay in bed, watch TV, take medicine, have another useless steroid injection.
Umm… when do I get the debilitating disease so I can sit on my ass all fucking day? I feel trapped, imprisoned.
I had grand expectations that he would complete me, complete my life and it would be this grand ball with dances and tea parties. Our roles are still tragically different, neither supporting one another, neither of us need each other. We are in different places, both have different goals.
We are in the same room, breathe the same air but we’re worlds apart.
The lack of trust and respect – it’s killing us. I cannot trust that he’ll be there. That he’s ALL IN. We’ve been having some good months lately… but soon, that chronic pain will take him and paralyze him again.
That anxiety keeps me in the crazy.
And… so here’s the state of our union. I’ve become accustomed to not including him in my day. He’s had so many limitations, so many special needs. He’s never been able to engage, so I forget that he’s there sometimes.
Somewhere between the chronic pain, taking days off for doctor appointments, disappointments, missed opportunities, we disappeared. I stopped trying to make the structure we live in a home. He was too busy or too sick to care. He didn’t want me. I got used to that.
I became hard, and cold. I worked so hard to leave my father’s house only to end up exactly where I started. I try. He tries. We both feel the unbecoming of us though. It was a slow fade to black.
I’ve veered on a divergent path and, if I’m being honest, I don’t care if he follows or goes in the opposite direction.
How the fuck did I get here?!
I didn’t say no when I was victimized as a child. It happened on more than one occasion. He made me feel special and important.
Years later, I realized I was just his prey among many.
My brain started to split. There was the good me and the bad me.
Then I started cutting to feel something. ANYTHING. Then I would only feel anger, resentment, bitterness, shame.
Then I would drink myself to oblivion to be numb again.
And round and round we go….
I watched my father beat up my mother countless times. I was powerless. The only thing I could do was disconnect. Detach from the situation, go off in my imaginary world.
These days, the only real way I can relate to men is if they are anonymous, objectified, and made common.
Maybe if (they or) I become more anonymous, objectified, common, I don’t have to engage. I can pay to play. I can pay to heal in a way. I can acquit myself of the emotional debt.
I would have room for… selfishness.
I am neglected.
I’m the product of parents who didn’t know how to fulfill my emotional needs. I have an eating disorder,
I alternate between believing both that “my parents gave me everything; I had a happy childhood; I don’t have any reason to be this messed up,” and “my parents emotionally neglected me; I had an awful childhood; no wonder I am this messed up.“
I fantasize about being in the hospital because that seems like the ultimate (and only) way that people might finally see me and care about me. Logically, I know that it’s not true, but my emotional brain is convinced that being sick or hurt is the way to get the love, attention, and care that is not present in my daily life.
I am ashamed.
I’m a 22-year old who is still desperately attached to my mangled childhood stuffed animal, Lambie.
I surreptitiously, but uncontrollably, pull out my own hair. I know have trichotillomania (and dermotillomania while we’re at it), but it’s one of my most shameful “secrets.”
I eat spoonful of Nutella straight from the jar, and sometimes that will be the only thing I eat for the majority of the day.
I am depressed.
I am pained getting out of bed in the morning. It’s hard to relate to people who casually say, “Yeah, I didn’t want to get up this morning,” but may not understand the gravity of depression. It hurts to the bone.
I have trouble taking my daily antidepressants because a hidden part of me doesn’t believe I’m worthy of feeling better.
I am obsessed with filling my brain with as much information about mental illness as possible.
And yet, no matter how much I read books, articles, and studies about eating disorders, depression, eating disorders, anxiety, or impulse-control disorders, I struggle to control my own mental health.
I have a hard time with “I’m depressed.” Maybe because I don’t believe that the real me is just buried under mental illness. It’s more like “I’m a person living with depression.” It has taken so much of my personality and soul out of me, but without depression, I am a lively, joyful girl.
I am taking care of myself (or I’m learning to).
I practically begged my parents to see a therapist, nutritionist, and psychiatrist, when I was only 15 years old. It certainly wasn’t easy, especially because we didn’t talk about anything “emotionally charged,” but I knew that it was a step I had to take in order to alleviate my pain.
I reach out to others when I need it most. Even though I isolate, too, I also know that in moments of desperation, I do instinctively ask for help and support from those I trust.
I treat myself to occasional manicures, special purchases (a dress, a pillow, some art supplies), and a lazy Sunday.
As much as my brain tries to trick me into thinking that I am worthless and unlovable, I try to actively do things for myself that remind myself that I deserve care.
I am brave.
I share my story with very few people, but when I do, it is the most rewarding experience. Sharing real experiences and thoughts is how I create deep connections with people.
I moved to Denmark for my first job out of college. I don’t speak the language, I’ve never been away from home for more than four months, and I left my entire support network at home.
I am working full-force in therapy at facing the demons and insecurities I have hidden for years. I am taking charge of my life by learning to be vulnerable, accept my flaws, and love myself in spite of them, and find happiness for the first time in my life.
I breastfed my first child.
She was a freaking PRO at latching-on, and breastfeeding went spectacularly. My recently-born third child is also proving himself to be quite the little breastfeeding champ.
My second child? Not so much. He couldn’t get the hang of latching-on, even with special equipment, like those freaky-looking nipple shields.
The stress of a cross-country move three weeks postpartum, moving in with my in-laws, while my husband had to take an extended job out-of-state (he spent eight months of my son’s first year out-of-state), my supply of breastmilk steadily decreased.
I was too poor to get a decent breast pump, we were in-between insurance, which meant that pumping my breasts to keep up my breastmilk supply was not an option.
Multiple lactation consultants and doctors were seen – no success. We began supplementing with formula, and while he was still a colicky baby, he was a little happier as he wasn’t hungry anymore.
I went on medication for postpartum depression when he was a few months old. That officially brought an end to our breastfeeding journey.
I spent several years working through the guilt of being unable to continue with breastfeeding. Every asthma attack he had triggered that guilt. When he developed speech problems, I worried that his difficulty speaking was related to not bonding through breastfeeding, or because I had postpartum depression.
Fast-forward to this past February as my four-year old climbed into the dentist’s chair for his first visit to the dentist.
As she was checking out his teeth, the dentist asked, “Does he ever have trouble with his speech?”
Startled, I told her, “Not really. He had a little trouble when he first started, but his last evaluation was good.”
While poking around in his mouth, she said, “Oh, good. I see that he’s tongue-tied. Not badly, borderline even, but sometimes makes it hard for children to learn to speak.”
I’m not sure what I said in return, because my mind was already jumping – tongue-tied. His frenulum is short, so his tongue’s movement is restricted. Not only can it cause problems with speech, having a tongue-tie can make breastfeeding and latching on difficult.
And just like that, all those feelings of guilt rushed back.
All the doctors and consultants that we had seen – not one had caught that he’d been tongue-tied. A tongue-tie is easily correctable. The frenulum is clipped and, tada, the tongue can move more freely.
Logically, I know that we’d still have had other hurdles to overcome to be able to breastfeed successfully. I know that he’s a smart, (more-or-less) healthy little boy, who wasn’t negatively impacted by being formula fed. I know that, given all the circumstances, formula was the best option for ALL of us. I know that he and I are no less bonded together because his food came from a silicone nipple instead of my own.
But my heart is less practical.
My heart is grieving that loss; that missed opportunity all over again.