There are so many people whom I love that are living with mental illness. I have always respected them, but never took the time to fully understand what they lived with on a daily basis. That changed when it began to impact my life and my children’s lives directly.
Early on in our relationship, I brushed off the signs that told me that he was an unhealthy individual. Looking back, it was clear that he suffered with anxiety and depression. Being the type of person I am, I took on the responsibility to “help” him cope with these feelings. Being so young, I was unaware and very naïve about what it all meant. Very quickly, it became my responsibility to always be on the look out for things that would trigger him and when he was triggered it was up to me to soothe him. I honestly thought that was what relationships were all about, I truly believed I was supporting him. Me, helping him through these times was how he coped and for years, I did it completely unaware of how I was enabling him to not take responsibility for his own life, emotions or trauma he had endured before me. I began to live and behave in a way so he would feel safer. Overtime, it began to drain me as it was untreated. Day after day, year after year it seemed to be getting worse. There were times that he would become angry with me if I didn’t do a good job of settling him, he would blame me for all of his triggers. It became my fault and all my responsibility. It was exhausting. After years of this, I began to realize the impact it was having on my physical and emotional well being. At that point I tried to explain that I was willing to support him, but he needed to take the steps to look after his own mental health. I couldn’t be the only one.
The day that he would decide to work really hard to get the help and change his life never came. He needed professional help, and he went a couple of times. If he felt better for a moment or two, he would be cured and that was the end of the treatment. The times he attended therapy, it seemed to make him more toxic when it came to his narcissism. He is very smart and would use what he learned to turn on me and fix me. I knew things would never change and I began to distance myself from his emotions, I was exhausted and I couldn’t handle it. My physical health was suffering, huge. I was being tested for all sorts of neurological disorders, I couldn’t sleep and I was in constant physical pain. With me becoming more and more distant, he felt as though he was losing control. Less control over the situation and over me in general, this made him spiral into a very dark place. At this point he began to threaten suicide.
The first time this happened, I became very scared. I took it seriously, I begged him to go for help. Ultimately, I vowed to continue to work harder to help him handle his triggers. I couldn’t bear the thought of him hurting himself. After all, he had me convinced that it was my fault that he felt that way, if I could be a better person and love him more then things would be better. I wanted to believe that things would be better, so I once again took on the never ending job of trying to work harder to be what he needed. That settled him, that was what he wanted and needed. It wasn’t long before I realized that I was being used and nothing had changed. With my physical health still deteriorating I once again began to distance. I don’t even know that me becoming distant was done consciously or not, I was putting up barriers. I was so tired of hurting. The cycle continued, and it worsened. By this point, he knew I was miserable and I wanted out. So in addition to the suicide threat, the toxic behavior was escalating. He would tell me that I was the only reason he had to live, without me and the kids he would be nothing and likely become a drunk. He would only ever love me, he can’t imagine his life with anyone else. He often would give me ultimatums of proving my love and loyalty to him. When you are in the mental state I was in, rising to the occasion was damn near impossible. I failed miserably when I was put to the test, which I never should have been tested or put myself in a situation where I needed to be tested. When he did test me, I didn’t live up to his expectations. Our lives would get bad fast. I ended up giving up hope, gave up trying to help him and help myself. I just lived in a constant state of limbo, but a limbo from hell. We all suffered because of it, I was completely checked out. I began to feel guilty when I thought about helping myself or leaving. I wasn’t ever sure if he would hurt himself or if it was all about control, but I knew that I would struggle with the guilt if he did commit suicide. The worst part was that he knew that I would feel guilty and he preyed on that.
The years went on, my physical health remained unchanged and he was still mentally unhealthy. I was a hostage, I felt like a hostage. I enjoyed nothing. I was grateful for nothing. It was a constant struggle just to get through the daily motions of life. I kept it a secret, I told no one. Just shoved it down and pretended it wasn’t my life, that wasn’t my reality. Everyday I just wished that one day his threat would finally come true and I would be finally free from the constant hell. Admitting that I actually felt that way makes me feel terrible, I would never wish death or harm on anyone but here I was the man I was married to- I wanted him to finally carry out his threats. Now that I am on the other side of this, I do feel guilty to a point. However, I do know that I tried to find him help, I set up appointments and I cannot make someone change if they don’t want to. I cannot take on the responsibility of someone else’s mental health. I am just not responsible for any of it. I know that my wish was out of anger and frustration.
As angry as I can be at him, I do have compassion. I think about how miserable he made me feel and I can’t imagine what life is like in his mind. I do wonder what happened to him as a child to have this impact on him. I will never excuse any of his behaviors, it doesn’t make it okay but I won’t let it weigh me down anymore.