Since he turned 45 yesterday, I decided today would be a good day to recognize the superhuman support and love of my husband, Marce. I met him when he was 25, and in a way it doesn’t seem possible we’re in our 40s now, that nearly 20 years have gone by. I’m quite sure when he fell in love with me and decided to propose he had no idea what his married life would have in store for him.
We did have some discussion while we were dating about my mental health. I had returned from my mission, gone through the heartbreak I did with my longtime friend, and been started on lithium after a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. One evening we took a drive to visit my mission president, a man I love a lot and greatly admire, and who was sensitive to my needs. He and his wife sat and chatted with me and Marce; we had only been dating about two weeks at that point, and I didn’t really expect it to get serious. My president asked about how I was doing emotionally, and I told him so far, so good. His dear wife whispered to me, “He is a good young man. Hold on to him!” (She was more right than I could possibly have known that evening.) On the drive back to school, Marce asked me, “What did he mean about taking your medicine?” That gave me the opening to just tell him everything about what I’d experienced and where I was at that point. He listened quietly as he drove, held my hand, and seemed very reassuring and nonjudgmental, which meant a lot to me.
Sometime in the few months after that, I decided to stop taking the lithium because I just didn’t feel I had bipolar (I just didn’t fit the symptoms of the “bipolar I” or the typical disorder, as I think I’ve written about already). The medication could have dangerous side effects, and I needed to have regular blood tests to make sure it wasn’t damaging my liver. I felt since I wasn’t sure about the diagnosis taking a possibly harmful medication didn’t seem like a good idea. Unfortunately, around that same time I got engaged, finished college, and started my new life, and got so busy with a new full-time job and a marriage and new place to live and everything else that I neglected to consider my mental health. If I remember correctly, I didn’t do anything about it immediately (though I know I did find a psychiatrist sometime in that next year). I also started taking birth control medicine, which is chock full of hormones, which I have also learned was probably not a great addition to the cocktail of my personal chemical makeup. Again, unfortunately, I didn’t know any of this at the time.
What my dear groom experienced in the first year of our marriage was a number of occasions of me flying off the handle at nothing. I remember one trip on a day off to an amusement park, where I went ballistic over something someone near us did and shouted at them. I don’t remember the details, and honestly, just thinking about the idea of it anymore and writing it down mortifies me. But it’s what happened. I was a mess. On that occasion and others, Marce would just quietly try to divert my attention and take me away physically. He rarely made any comments or judgments.
The two of us have very different temperaments and backgrounds. My family was very open and didn’t hold back our opinions. We argued and yelled and were loud. His family was a strict Asian family, and the children did not talk back. There was no argument between children and parents, and yelling wasn’t tolerated. On top of those differences, I had a background in speech and some debate and a need to win. Marce played basketball and never debated. I’m sure it mattered to him if he won basketball games, but he just wasn’t (isn’t) a competitive type. Put that together, and you have no arguments, sure, because it takes two to argue. But I’ve certainly hankered for it over the years. If he had been the arguing type, we’d have had some doozies. As it was, I’ve yelled and screamed and done wacky things, and he’s listened in silence with a nearly emotionless face.
I’m not writing any of this because I’m proud of it. Very much the opposite; I’m embarrassed as all get-out. In many ways, my yelling and anger doesn’t fit with what I consider almost my “real” personality. But it’s happened, and it’s impossible to say that it’s __ percent my hormones/brain chemistry and __ percent my personality/upbringing/etc. I’ve already written about how it’s not possible to separate my “true” personality from what’s been caused by my mental disorder. I just am who I am; what I’ve done and experienced makes me who I am now. I hope that all of my flaws (chemical or not) have at least helped to turn me into a better person over the years, rather than cement me into place as a meanie.
It could be accurate to say that Marce may have needed to be more assertive or actually discuss issues with me more rather than just be silent. But that’s an issue for his blog, if he were ever to write one. What’s important and relevant is that over the course of being together for 19 years, he has never yelled at me; he has never left. He has always loved me and been supportive. I don’t think he’s judged me harshly, despite my giving him good reason to do so. He has done that from the very beginning, up until now, when we can at least put some good labels to what we experience together. Because at this point, it’s not just MY mental health issue; it’s OURS. (Although I have said at times when I’ve had the worst moments that he’s lucky he can at least go to work or somewhere else and get away from me for a while, whereas I can’t get away from myself and what’s happening in my head.) We are in this together; we’re a team. What’s his problems are mine and vice versa; what are his strengths could also be mine, and vice versa. I’ve known from fairly early in our dating days that I just felt comfortable, myself, with him, that I didn’t have to pretend to be something or someone I wasn’t. I was at ease; I felt loved. I’ve also known that we complement each other perfectly. We have truly made a great team.
Many other men may have bolted long ago from what I’ve put my husband through. But he is not other men. Sure, he has weaknesses, but he is an unconditionally loving husband who is dedicated to the institution of marriage and to me, personally. He and I believe that our marriage can last forever, and we’re working on it so we can be happy together for eternity. I now have confidence that is truly possible because I have 18 1/2 years of knowing for sure that my husband is committed to that. I am very blessed. His support has made all the difference in what have been some really challenging times. So, happy birthday, my love. I hope that my strengths and commitment to you have shown you how much I love you and appreciate all you’ve been to me.
I’m a book reviewer, editor, and writer with four daughters and tons of projects always keeping me hopping. I blog at Life and Lims and run the book review site Rated Reads.