May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Originally, I was going to give a few “how to’s” related to loving someone with mental illness, but today I realized that there is no certain path.
My husband has battled depression since he was 14 years old and recently had to be hospitalized for suicidal ideation. I’d known for a while that he was really struggling and knew that he was thinking about suicide. It was a hard place to be because there was really nothing I could do until he was ready to say it aloud to me and agree to treatment. I kept a close eye on him and prayed for him constantly.
He had a really tough day at work one Monday, and that was when the dam broke, and we were able to have the hard conversation about what he was actually feeling and thinking. He’s been in treatment since that following Tuesday.
It has been an interesting road to recovery. I keep telling him to take it one day at a time and that there is absolutely no shame in his diagnosis or anything he is feeling. Those aren’t just words; I truly mean that. Today, I realized that I wasn’t telling myself the same.
Today, I broke. I shattered into little bits and pieces. I cried and screamed until I was sick. I wanted to grab my keys and leave. But then I thought what about my girls being at home. If I take them, he’ll be home alone. What if I’ve made him too upset and he hurts himself? I felt shame today for being angry and weak. Do I have the room to feel?
For the last few months, I’ve been so careful not to be angry or sad. I didn’t feel like there was any room for it. And if I was, who would I talk to about it? Would anyone truly understand what it is like to watch your spouse be in such pain? To see them fighting to get back to themselves and fail when that day is just too painful? Would they understand that when he hurts I hurt, but I am afraid to say it, as not to worry him?
What I have ultimately learned is that there is no neat path. I could give you a few “how to’s,” but they very well may not work. The best thing I can tell you is to remember the song to their heart so that when they have forgotten the words, you can sing it back to them. Also, find ONE person that truly understands and will listen and support you. Even if that person is a therapist.
My husband created this tool as an easy way to get help when struggling with depression:
It’s a tool that can be used in any home, office, or friend circle. Three simple words to say or write that will serve as a catalyst to avert crisis. Feel free to share. You never know who might be struggling today and don’t have the words to ask for help.