In terms of mental health, I am lucky enough that I don’t have or haven’t dealt with any major struggles. I don’t have the several diagnoses that are attached to my name on multiple psych hospital outpatient forms like my husband does. I don’t have to treat or care for the challenges happening in my brain every minute of every day. I don’t have to spend hours thinking about or preparing to cope with situations that may or may not happen. Yes, I am lucky enough to not fight the battles my husband does.
Still, I too fight every day. Beside him. In support of him. And those fights can be lonely and exhausting. When we started dating in college, I knew my husband dealt with mental health battles, but to what extent, I had no idea. The battles I did know of were fixable, I thought.
I never dreamed that our life, 10 years later, would consist of hundreds of conversations surrounding his mental well-being, jumping through hoops to get the treatment he needs, dealing with side effects from medication, or the financial burden that so often comes with caring for your mental health.
Another thing I struggled with was the concept of protecting him but allowing other people to support us.
Who do you let in?
How much do you say?
My husband’s story is his to share and I respect that. But I have found that to be a very isolating factor. When someone asks if he is OK, I can answer in 100 different ways. Revealing a little or a lot. They flash through my head all at once.
What if I say too much and betray his trust?
What if I say the wrong thing and people judge?
Do I just say he’s going through a “rough patch”?
At the same time, I want to educate people and convey that they don’t need to be afraid of something they don’t understand. I want to help change the stigma that surrounds mental health. And some days, I just want to yell. Yell that I am suffocating, that I am an exhausted mom and I can’t protect my husband from himself. Usually, I say he is getting the help he needs through his counselor.
That has been a hurdle I am proud to have cleared. I am not ashamed that we both see counselors. When I first started seeing a counselor, I would never have shared that information with anyone. I didn’t want them to think I couldn’t handle life. Now I am proud to say I seek help and share the very real benefits I get from it. I encourage people to do the same and talk about it without apprehension, without stumbling over the words worrying what their reaction might be.
It is through counseling, that I have made peace with the fact that I cannot fix my husband nor would I want to. If I could take away his pain and trauma, would I? Of course. In a heartbeat. Bearing witness to his struggles on a daily basis has been one of the hardest parts of my life. But he has taught me compassion, grace, patience, and what it really means to be there for someone. Those are gifts that I wouldn’t trade for anything. The passion I now have for mental health might not exist without him. For those things, I am thankful.
Along the way, I’ve found a few people I feel safe with. People I can trust and have conversations about how I’m really doing with. I’ve also realized there are boundaries to be set that are mine alone to determine. I do not have to cave or mold the conditions and terms to fit someone’s curiosity or judgment of what I choose to share or not.
I am the author AND publisher of my story.
People need other people. You are not weak for wanting or needing support. If you’re seeking professional help, we encourage you to use TWLOHA’s FIND HELP Tool. If you reside outside of the US, please browse our growing International Resources database. You can also text TWLOHA to 741741 to be connected for free, 24/7 to a trained Crisis Text Line counselor. If it’s encouragement or a listening ear that you need, email our team at [email protected].