Hello, I’m Sarah and I’m Michelle’s wife. I hope to take a moment and share the side of depression even fewer really see. I want to talk about watching the one you’d give your life for suffer and struggle and the powerless, hopeless position you feel trapped in.
Watching Michelle struggle with her depression has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’d cut off my right arm to make it stop. Now those who know me know I’m almost finished with med school with the dream of becoming a trauma surgeon. So giving up an arm would mean me giving up on my own dreams. It would mean throwing away everything I’ve personally worked so hard for. And I’d do it right now if it would make it stop.
I know she feels isolated and honestly I know that feeling too. I don’t want to betray her trust and my closeness but I desperately want her to get help. I worry for her about the stigma that would become attached if others knew.
Every moment she suffers and my heart breaks. I so desperately want to run up and hug her; only to have her recoil from my touch. She recoils from my touch, her loving wife. That hurts and yet I have to remind myself it’s her pain that recoils, she’s that broken. It’s a shallow help though because it still hurts deep inside.
All these years, the cutting, the pain, the nightmares. I’ve prayed for it to end alone in my bed as I lay crying myself to sleep. Helpless, yeah I’ve felt that for so long. I can’t stop it, I can’t make her get help. Yeah I know helpless. With all the love I can muster I start each day. I’ve been powerless to stop her pain and I wonder is today the day I lose her forever to this pain?
As a spouse we may not suffer the depression but we suffer the pain, helplessness and hopelessness. I don’t know which position is worse to be perfectly honest. Every morning I get up and put on my game face. I tell myself smile, Michelle needs that smile. Yet inside my heart is breaking because I know the pain I’m walking into.
I tell myself positive, be positive Michelle needs that. I know I’ve asked myself how much longer can I take it before I break? I’ve seen a psychiatrist in secret (confession to Michelle even) for the past decade. Not just the past year. Yeah you all just learned it at the same time as my lovely wife.
It’s been a struggle for sure. There were days I didn’t know if I could do it. There were days I knew for sure I’ll never get through the day and yet one day at a time I got through. Honestly I don’t know how most of the time. Credit God, credit science, credit strength of will, but in the end I have no explanation.
Do you; dear reader have any clue what it is like to know your spouse is hurting so badly. I know Michelle hated herself, every inch of herself. She feels the scars are reminders of her failure, no Kita, they are reminders how badly you used to hurt and perhaps still do. But they aren’t failures because you never gave up.
I know she hates me kissing her face. After it was disfigured from her rape she would flinch when I kissed her. I didn’t care she needed to know her face isn’t what I feel in love with. Does it hurt that she flinches? A little, but I understand why she does.
Everything she has experienced I have too. Differently but I have. From the loneliness, the pain, the isolation, the desperation, the emptiness, the helplessness and being powerless I’ve felt it all. It’s different for me because I feel these things for different reasons.
Loneliness, knowing it’s a secret the world can’t know. Feeling it’s her and I against the world. Feeling like no one understands just what I’m going through. My loneliness was great and greater still when you add I’d also only get as much of her as she was capable of giving me each day.
Pain, seeing her struggle truly broke my heart. I could do absolutely nothing to stop her pain and nightmares. I’ve cried myself to sleep because I hurt too and can’t explain it. (Another confession to the world and Michelle)
Isolation, Knowing you can’t just get help for them. I’ve struggled feeling alone many nights and many days. I can’t just make her get help, I can’t betray her trust because then who does she have? No one is the answer by the way. I really truly at times felt trapped.
Desperation, yeah that feeling that you’re running out of time to help. Not knowing how to help without making her feel betrayed. Every day I asked myself is today the day that cutting takes her or the nightmares become so much she’d try and end them herself.
Emptiness, just knowing you poured out every ounce of love you had today and knowing tomorrow will require even more than today. Just feeling I’ve given everything I can and it’s not enough. That is emptiness, true emptiness.
I’ve already discussed the helplessness and being powerless.
So anyway here we are today. It’s a great milestone for my wife. Eleven months without a single cut. I’m proud of her, so very proud. It’s been a hard road this past year. But she is a fighter and I will gladly go down swinging as long as she is by my side. As long as she fights, I fight for her.
I know I have to put on my game face, cheer, laugh and love. Inside I’m still empty because I left it all on the field yesterday and the days before that too. Somewhere there is a reserve and to date it hasn’t run dry.
Spouses of the mentally ill probably know this feeling well. Knowing you gave everything today. You left nothing out and put everything on the line. And unlike football you don’t get a week to recover. No tomorrow you get back up and put everything out there again and again.
I do it for love and will do it forever. I honestly don’t know how or where the strength comes from but it comes. Today lover is a big day. I’ll have my game face on, I’ll never show my weakness. I believe in you and I’m still here. All these years I’ve been true and I hope you see that.
Is it hard? You bet. Walking with someone so broken they hate themselves and you see so much beautiful about them. Sometimes I wish I could make her see herself through my eyes. Before they fixed her face I never saw the scars, I saw her incredible heart and the most beautiful woman to ever live.
More importantly now that I’ve told you all this I hope you take one lesson from this. When you hurt, I hurt. When you struggle, I struggle. When you cry, I cry. When you rejoice, I rejoice. When you feel empty, I’ve poured my all into you. When you are lonely, look I’m there and we can be lonely together.
I guess what I am whispering needs to be yelled, “YOU ARE NEVER ALONE!”
I would love to hear from other spouses.
What’s your biggest struggle loving your spouse through mental illness?
Does it feel like you’ve lost part of them to the disease as I often feel?
One last thing. I see in her eyes the innocence returning. The picture included shows her eyes sparkling on a recent trip to go snow skiing here in Hawaii. I love those eyes and seeing the darkness lifted does give me strength and hope. So it’s not all bad and I’ve had celebrations of my own when I see those eyes light up just for me.