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Posts Tagged ‘husband’

Purple pain

With my teen years firmly set in the ’80s, Prince was firmly set in my musical consciousness. His songs were fun, catchy, danceable and clear indicators of his genius.

But his music and persona have become part of the fabric of my family’s life, as it’s turned out, so his death today comes as a shock.

My husband, who has fantastic taste in a variety of music, and dance skills to match, has a large stack of Prince’s CDs. And in the early days of our acquaintance (in a church congregation at college, surprisingly enough), his lip-sync and dance performance of “When Doves Cry,” complete with eyeliner, purple jacket and white ruffled blouse, for a talent show gave me the notion that he was something special. Maybe that’s why I said yes when he asked me out a month later.

228122_10150184386647400_5199462_nFive years ago, when our oldest was a teen, it was announced that Prince was adding a last-minute concert in Fresno, near us. As soon as tickets were available, I pounced. I bought them for me and my husband and my teen. And we partied like it was 1999 (only it was 2011).

Just last year, when that oldest daughter got married, we knew we had to have a special father-daughter dance at the reception. It would be something that reflected US. We deliberated, brainstormed, and came up with something perfect. And it included Prince, naturally. I thought it was awesome.

The Prince is dead. Long live the Prince.

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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. 

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So I wrote yesterday about how I’ve been overwhelmed by all the huge obligations and responsibilities of mothering four growing girls. I’ve been feeling low on the coping scale for a few weeks, so by the time my birthday hit the other day, I wasn’t steadied by very many more reserves of patience or understanding.

I knew my “special day” would be crazy, so I expected that. What I also knew, after 19 years of experience, is that my husband is nearly completely unable to surprise me with anything, including gifts. I have to tell him ahead of time for any kind of occasion what I would like. Either he goes out and gets it and wraps it for me to unwrap and exclaim, “Oh, that’s great! I love it!” or we sit down to order it online together (he’ll click the “order” button so it’s from him), or we’ll go out shopping together after the fact.

I’ve largely grown accustomed to this setup, and I do appreciate that 1) I am difficult to buy for because my mood is always changing and 2) not everyone is a great gift-giver. I like to think I’m pretty good at selecting presents for others. I mostly really enjoy it, in fact. It’s so fun to always keep my eyes peeled for little ideas that come up in the course of conversations and then seeing something in a store or online that just matches up. It’s then so fun to see how the person reacts to what I found. I really love it. But no, not everyone can do that very well.

So my dear hubby really tried to come up with some fun things for me on my birthday (the other big problem for him at this time of year is that my birthday and Mother’s Day are always very close together: two big occasions to honor me right in a row, or even on the same day). He came up with a couple of ideas, one of which was one we’ve already done a few times, and which I do enjoy, but in this case, I wasn’t really in the mood and wanted something different. The second ended up being ridiculously expensive, therefore, out of the question. The upshot: on my birthday, as I was racing around doing mommy stuff and wearing myself out, I ended up with not a single present to open.

 

This drawing and the new header for the site are actually gifts from my oldest daughter. She’s my amazing, in-house talented artist.

 

It was not a pretty combination. In fact, that snafu ended up being the match that lit the powder keg. I won’t go into detail on my reactions.

What I keep trying to tell my husband is that I really like gifts. I was informed a couple of years ago about the Five Love Languages, and what I really appreciate are Words of Affirmation and Receiving Gifts. Like the website says, gifts are not about getting “stuff” or anything fancy or expensive; it’s about what goes into it. I love just little tokens that say something meaningful, or even semi-meaningful. I want to be thought about and have that thought go into that kind of action. My husband and I have discussed the love languages a few times since our introduction to them, and he knows exactly what I really like. Has he succeeded in learning and applying that knowledge? Not so much. (Let me even quote from the site: “A missed birthday, anniversary, or a hasty, thoughtless gift would be disastrous — so would the absence of everyday gestures.” Ha! See?!)

My mom says that most men are terrible at gift-giving and that I should just accept that my husband, as great as he is in so many ways, will never be able to surprise me or give me good gifts. I wonder if that’s true. If it is, then why would the people behind the love languages encourage couples to do better at speaking their spouses’ languages? It would be a lost cause. I still have hope it’s possible to change or at least improve a little.

I’d like to simply say, no, I’m not selfish or self-centered; I don’t think I have high expectations. I just want a simple but fairly meaningful gift on special occasions and just cute, sweet little tokens to surprise me throughout the rest of the year. I think I’m worth it. In fact, I need those expressions of love and appreciation to feed me, to fill up my tank so I can keep going, keep super-mothering. I simply can’t run on emotionally empty.

What say you? Are gifts important to you or someone you care about?

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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.

My sweet love on our wedding day.

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.

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