Supporting a spouse with mental illness can really mess with your mind when it comes to relationships, both your marriage and all the other people in your life (it doesn’t have to, I have talked with some who have figured out a system that works, but for me, I didn’t for quite a while and I still wonder sometimes if I have a sustainable system). For a really long time I resented my family. I felt isolated, alone, and confused. I knew they knew that things weren’t good, I had shared some of the suicidal moments (after the fact), I had sort of shared what was going on and what I was feeling, but I felt like they never reached out and I just felt so awkward sharing more,
I didn’t know how to ask for help, I fought every day against the words “please help me” coming out of my mouth because I wasn’t the one struggling with depression, I wasn’t the one with the gates of hell gaping after me, I was just the one watching it all happen. I was the one that was supposed to stand for the person I loved, I was their rock and their support, I was the person who was supposed to have it all together and to be okay, so how could I be asking for help? What help was I supposed to be asking for anyway? I couldn’t ask the people in my life to face hell, it felt like there was only room for one in that hellish doorway, and a part of me feared that if anyone else stood in that place for me, that I would no longer be needed, that my place in his life would be lost. And I also had no idea how to ask for someone to back me up, how to get a support system lined up behind me to help me when hell got too scary for me to handle. And even harder for me was when it wasn’t hell, but it didn’t feel quite right either. When it wasn’t about him walking out the door and me not knowing if he would come back, but when it was just the little things, the lack of connection, me so badly needing a hug (him not in a place to supply it), but not knowing how to ask for it because I didn’t want to scare anyone.
I started hoping that people would just inherently know my need by intuition and inspiration they would just show up in my time of need and bring me exactly what I needed. I grew angry on all the conference talks and ensign articles about someone’s visiting teacher showing up at just the right time of their need so the person felt the love of the Lord. Or someone sending a text or email at just the right moment to intercede in a dark time. And I wondered where was my balm in Gilead, where was the Lord in my moment of need? I spent so much time stocking my fire of indignation that I missed the things that did happen…multiple grocery runs when I didn’t feel good about leaving the house, a card in the mail thanking me for my testimony, a sister doing laundry because we didn’t have a washer or dryer, food that showed up on my doorstep just when I needed it.
Once I decided that good things weren’t happening, I couldn’t see it when they did. I closed my mind to help, because for me it never felt good enough, I had decided it wasn’t what I needed, so it didn’t measure up. I trapped myself in my own lack of support because I decided that I was alone and alone is how I would have to stay. Even now I struggle reaching out, because my need doesn’t feel significant enough. I struggle reaching out because I know exactly what I “need” to feel better (or at least I think I do), but as a dear friend helped me see last week. If I am only loved in the ways I think I should be loved then that is me basically loving myself. We all have our own style of loving others, we all have the thing that works for us, I need to start letting others love me in their style, and learn to accept the love I give myself in my style. I need both pieces to be okay. And I see this for the mind shift it isn’t. I’m not good at asking for help, I feel quite uncomfortable to be honest, but I am tired of making it about other people. If I don’t open my mouth others will never know my need.
I would like to close with two final thoughts. First, what if all those times when there wasn’t an interceding force it was because the Lord was inviting me to learn how to ask for help, what if in order for others to mourn with me I needed to share that I was mourning? And second I learned just how much the adversary uses silence against us. For all those times I chose to keep my mouth shut I was building a wall of silence my family didn’t know how to breach. I’m not laying blame or claiming it. When my heart was breaking and I had no words to describe what was happening I didn’t know how to explain it or share it. But it is important for me to realize now that no one is at fault i did the best I could then and I know I can do better now.