Can We Really Understand?

Part of the problem with living with a mentally ill person is you can’t really understand what they are going through. It mostly doesn’t make sense and seems ridiculous. For example, we went to a restaurant. He told me (back when he was actually sharing with me) he felt everyone was looking at him and watching him. In reality nobody was looking at him.  I couldn’t really understand WHY he felt like everyone was watching him. I couldn’t understand his paranoia.

What the mentally ill person doesn’t understand is that the “normal” person HAS experienced depression. They HAVE not wanted to go to work. They HAVE dreaded going out in public. The difference, and what is so easily misunderstood, is the “normal” person has the will power to get up and do it anyway. When someone says something equivalent to “walk it off” or “just do it” they are saying “I’ve been there”, “I’ve managed”, “you can too”. It’s not discounting what you are going through, it’s encouragement. Really. The mentally ill don’t understand how having the will to do anything can be of any help. The “normal” person does not understand how someone cannot have the will to do what needs to be done.

Medicine and society have done much to acknowledge depression as a real problem. They and we are willing to accept that some people just cannot function. At the same time we are building a society of people dependent on (legal) drugs for their happiness or sanity or to achieve balance. A friend once called it “A better living through chemistry”. Thankfully, for most people, the medications they take help them participate. I feel we will be able to get closer to understanding what the mentally ill are going through and get better at helping them.

It’s too late for us. It’s time to move on.

It’s difficult when you care about someone who doesn’t appear to care about or for themselves. You have to motivate them, do things for them, and be patient and understanding when they’ve spent the day sleeping on the couch while you worked. You need to make sure they are taking their medication. And, for me, have to sit by and watch them destroy all of their relationships. I tried to help and encourage rebuilding, but that just made it worse. So I let him ignore his friends. These people did care about him; he didn’t want any part of it. I didn’t know what to say to our friends. Why is he doing it? Well he feels slighted apparently. That the slight never happened (we even talked about it) he felt like everyone was out to get him. Eventually, this destroyed our relationship.

Now I can’t really blame him for everything, but I felt alone. He stopped talking to me. We did the marriage therapy. He would hold onto everything that was bothering him for our sessions. They were great, they were productive, but they were the only time he would really talk to me. Personally, I resented that in order to communicate with my husband I needed a third party present. The changes we agreed on were soon forgotten. Therapy was a complete failure.

I don’t know what he has been feeling since I asked for the divorce. I do know that he increased his therapy sessions and is being watched because he is or was suicidal. I encouraged him to get as much help as possible. It’s not going to come from me. Not anymore.

How do you deal with this? You know something needs to change but also that he could possibly kill himself either directly or by neglect if you leave him. If something does happen, does that make it my fault? God, how would I handle that? I honestly don’t know. There would be anger but would there be sadness too?  Would I feel guilty? I really thought about this for a long time. I felt like his mother or his caretaker, not his wife.

During this time, I didn’t talk to anyone. I don’t share, after all. M was certainly sensing something and was trying to be more productive and attentive. But I wanted to be near him less and less. I realized that I couldn’t see myself growing old with him, that I didn’t want to grow old with him. Eventually I was feeling like I was the only one doing things around the house. So I’m thinking if I’m the only one doing things then dammit I should be the only one living here!

Then one night I admitted to myself that my marriage was over and cried myself to sleep. It still took me a month before asking for a divorce. I’d had enough. I cannot continue to live like this.

Three months have gone by since I asked him to move out. Every day I’m more confident that I’m doing the right thing, no matter the cost. I think this is the right thing for him as well though he may not admit it. He’s taking care of things himself and appears to be overall happier and healthier. It seems I was doing too much for him and contributing to the problem and not really helping him.

And through all this my anger has dissipated. I’m happier. I’m returning to my optimistic self. I’m re-discovering who I really am. Soon I will have to examine why I married him to begin with. I can honestly say I’m not looking forward to that because I know I’m going to face some demons I’d rather ignore.

And for a little fun:

I’m OK. And getting better.

~Audra

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