In some of my most challenging hours, I’ve told my husband I feel it’s unfair to him he’s had to deal with me and my mental health issues. (This cuts both ways, though, since I’ve also told him during similar moments that if he thinks it’s hard to deal with me — which he’s never said but which I assume he must think, since that’s how I roll [and we know what they say about assuming] — that it’s even more difficult to be me and to deal with me because I have to be with myself 24/7. Wouldn’t it be nice if I could just leave the room or the house and leave myself behind sometimes? Sigh.)
Sure, we’d talked about my issues before we married. Sure, he seemed to be OK with them. But honestly, how much experience did he really have with them? Even I hadn’t had a whole lot of experience with them — at 23, looking back, at least, I was just in the early years. Yes, I’d had some bad episodes, but in part I think I felt they were behind me because they came after some really big challenges, including a major heartbreak and beyond-disappointing treatment by the best friend I thought I’d marry. I really had no idea just how much a part of me those episodes would become, that they’d keep visiting, keep creeping down on me from the darkened attic in which I’d locked them away. But as in those gothic tales I love, the crazy wives in the attic never stay away permanently. Mine screams and yells and sometimes escapes, even setting fire to my life on occasion. No, I might lock her up again, but I can hear her every so often up there, pacing the floorboards and sometimes even moaning.
Nope, if I had no idea what I was in for, there is no way my husband did. And my heart aches for him because of that. At those times of difficulty, when I’m overtaken by darkness and crying hopeless, bitter sobs, I wish he could have a wife who’s not incapacitated for hours or a few days at a time. I just feel bad for him. He’s a great guy. He’s a great husband and has been unflaggingly supportive. I know he’s felt utterly helpless, unable to do anything for me, but he’s there, always hovering and ready to do whatever he can. I always appreciate that. Lesser mortals would have packed up and left long ago, I feel.
But it makes me realize that none of us ever has any idea what life will hold. We can make the best plans, predicated on our best educated guesses and experience, and we can move forward with certain expectations. But life always has surprises up its sleeve. At this stage of my life, I know that spouses can be unfaithful; they can leave; they can change their personalities and life goals entirely; they can even die far too young. Despite great education and job training, unemployment can strike for months, even a couple of years. Illness or disability can effectively rob someone of a functioning spouse. Things happen. And not just little things.
I had no idea what hand I’d be dealt in life when I was still growing up in my parents’ home; I still had little idea when I was a young adult. Even now, I’ve got a better idea, but I also am much more aware that plenty can life ahead of me, supposedly halfway through this mortal existence. Yeah, I wish my husband hadn’t gotten handed the mentally-ill me. But he did also get the really amazing me, who’s capable and really useful and fun and cute to boot. I’m not as thin as I’d like, but I look pretty young still and I’m attractive. Not bad, I think! Plus, I cook, I bake, I am a great gift-giver, I’m clever and creative, I pay bills, the list goes on … I’m really handy to have around.
So life has its challenges. It delivers a lot of unpleasant surprises. That’s the case for both me and my husband. But life has also been really good to us in so many ways, and we still have each other. There are yet many good and bad surprises ahead. In some ways, I’m not really eager to find out what they are. Yep, the disturbed wife in the attic will keep re-emerging; I’ll keep locking her up. And all kinds of strange things will emerge from the closets and from behind the bushes outside, even. But I’m just going to keep going and do the best I can to handle whatever comes a-knockin’. ‘Cause that’s life. And since I’ve made it this far, I’ll just try to make it further.