When I am writing these posts I tend to stick only to the facts and personal epiphanies about my own self. I don’t like to involve others unless it is some fluff piece about how great my children are. I don’t use names and I work hard to make this blog about me and only me.
I am breaking those rules today.
Sometimes when we look deep inside of ourselves we see truths that dramatically affect the lives of those around us. It doesn’t necessarily mean we can change those truths nor that those truths are so horrific that they need to be eviscerated. It just means that the illusion we carried as children and teenagers of our own indestructibility is in fact a lie. It means that at one time we could honestly and with our whole hearts ignore the world around us in favor of believing our own greatness.
As we get older we are supposed to lose that illusion, shed it like a layer of skin. Some do, and some don’t; we all know both types. We are supposed to gradually and with some kind of net below us learn that who and what we are affects the world around us. It may be an uncomfortable realization but for the majority of us it is part of the process.
I don’t mind learning about myself too much. I like learning about how I will react, what I truly believe in and what I am capable of. Mostly those lessons aren’t all that impressive in the scheme of things but it makes me more interesting in my own mind. It gives me a grounding to work from; much like one plus one was the grounding for those calculus problems we all suffered.
The reason for this learning is simple: if you know what you believe and how you react you can begin finding the trust and the net that will support you in the journey of this cruel life. Mental illness is a disease, unlike cancer, that requires you to be better not from the drugs but from your own lessons. The drugs will fail, the emotions will run riot, the predictability of your life will never be what it was when you were ten. It isn’t possible with a mental illness.
So you have to look at yourself. You have to determine how you are going to react so that you can easily put yourself in those positions that will cease causing incredible damage. You have to understand your own beliefs so that you can avoid those conversations that will create the storm those you love dread. We have to know in order to give to our loved ones the shiny artifice that they can live with.
It is a process. And it is a process that changes from day to day and year to year. Like everything with a mental illness change is the only word that easily describes the majority of what we live with. It gives the necessary hint to those who can’t understand these diseases but try and love us anyway. It gives those surrounding us an excuse to rely on. It gives those we love an easy out in the world we can’t survive in.
There are times that process is so easy as to make it seem arbitrary. And there are times this process is so hard to come to terms with that our own darkness is required to shelter our heart. There isn’t a manual or some sort of accurate prediction to what we are going to deal with next; like the disease itself there is change and there is unpredictability.
Prior to my getting married and having children I didn’t learn about much of this process. I didn’t have a need to delve into the workings of a brain that betrayed me over and over and I didn’t have the necessary skills to look beyond the skin to what was really happening. I am not sure if this is a normal course for those of us that get the news we will never be the person we once thought we were going to be, or if the illusions were so beautiful as to seem logical.
What I do know is that there came a time when I began digging. I began searching for the answers to the questions only I could hear, and I began trying to find the path that would let me be more than what I am. I don’t think that anyone in this journey is necessarily successful; there is simply too much of the change we excuse for every day to be able to hold onto a definitive answer and let it define us.
If I had started this journey before I was married I would have read the statistics about marriage, children and mental illness. Most people either ignore the idea that a vast majority of marriages between those with mental illnesses and others are doomed before they began, and others maybe out of fear or even the lack of realistic data ignore this sign. I can tell you there are those that will swear with their whole college degree that marriages involving mental illness can’t survive, and others who will swear on that damaged Bible that it can.
I can’t predict time nor could I have known that when I walked down that aisle so many years ago I would find myself writing a blog, an online diary about my life. There would have been no way to prepare a young girl, dreaming of that white gown and the attention of hundreds that marriage and mental illness can’t coexist. I would have rolled my eyes and probably stuck my tongue out at you. And then if that wasn’t enough I would have jumped into a discourse of the greatness of the man I was going to marry and how I had a different disease.
I still have no idea of the truth of that blanket statement. But I have come to a realization about my marriage.
My marriage has been skating the edge of trouble for about eighteen months. I believe with my whole heart that both of us would have quit this if it wasn’t for the children. I believe with my whole heart that we didn’t lack communication, compromise, or even God. We tried the offices with counselors to talk to, we have tried guilt, hurt, excuses and apologies.
But I think that our marriage never stood a chance because of me. My husband is not a think outside the box guy most of the time. He likes things done in a certain way and he likes to find the cheapest and easiest way to get it done. He likes quick fixes and tends to forget about the world around him unless there is a problem. Nothing really wrong with any of that. Until you throw someone who isn’t easy into the mix.
It must be amazingly annoying to not know who you are going to meet at the door each night. It must be frustrating to get a call at work that your wife can’t handle the children and you are needed at home. It must be amazingly demoralizing to have a woman whom you love that is more interested in surviving her own disease than you.
If we are all honest, that would be difficult for anyone. I like to find my darkness and lay in it for hours, and I need to be alone to stop the world from being so loud as to hurt me. I have to walk away, sometimes run away, just for that momentary self-deception that I am free. I have to deal with the knowledge that tomorrow I may not live past noon and not because I have a wish to die, but because something deep inside of me will tell me to do it.
Even if we take all this away, a marriage with someone who is mentally ill, also requires medication. It requires therapy, doctors, hospitals. It requires safe guards and side effects. A marriage with someone who is mentally ill takes an amazing amount of side effects.
For me, these medications have giving me a complete lack of sexual desire. Not just for my husband but for every male and female in my life. It isn’t as important to me as surviving. It isn’t as important to me as giving all my energy to my children so that at least they have a chance of a healthy life. It has never been important to me because it has never been a part of me; if you can’t feel something then it won’t exist for you. While others know what intimacy and trust are like, I don’t. That truth has long passed me.
I have come to realize that a lot of marriage can be destroyed by this side effect. I have come to realize that intimacy and trust is as important as talking about the mundane and sharing the chores. I have come to realize that most people, those whose basic human desires are not wiped out by the pills taken, need intimacy and trust. And it is possible there once was a day I needed it to.
I actually experienced physical desire for about two weeks awhile back. It was the most insane ride I have been on yet. I had no control and I would embarrassingly feel emotions that I had no concept how to handle. Believe me, if you don’t know desire and never had the chance to learn it, when it comes out of the blue life just gets strange.
In this journey of mine I have come to realize that what I have put my husband through the last years isn’t easy and it certainly isn’t fair. Most would say that marriage is like this, but no, it shouldn’t be.
I have destroyed my marriage and in many cases I have destroyed my husband. Maybe it is because of my disease, my inattention, my lack of desire, my lack of trust or simply the insanity of living with someone with a mental illness.
Don’t get me wrong, I want to know what desire feels like for more than a roller coaster ride. I fear that because I have a disease that requires medication with large and devastating side effects, this isn’t something I will ever know. But I never meant to deny such a basic human emotion to another. Problems stem from one or two large reasons – not the thousand we imagine – and if there is no solution to the problem, then there is only agony.
We can sugar coat this world as much as we would like; no one would blame us. But once you start opening those doors and looking into your soul it is possible the world will simply shed the skin off your body. It is possible that you will have to come to terms not only of your own loss but the destruction of those who once loved you so much the rest didn’t matter.