Excuses.

To the woman in front of me in the Target checkout line:

I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation with your friend about the other girl that had bailed on you tonight… again.

“She uses her Anxiety as an excuse,” you claimed, complete with an eye roll.

An excuse? No, sweetheart—but you’re fortunate to have a friend who considers you safe enough to speak the truth instead of actually making up an excuse. I’m not angry with you for not understanding; I can put myself in your shoes and feel the confusion. Instead, I feel sad. I want to throw another metaphor at you about, “Would you claim she was making an excuse if she had cancer and said she was too unwell to accompany you tonight?”

Except I don’t want to do that. Honestly, I believe that metaphor has been used beyond any effective measure. Cancer and Mental Illness, they’re 2 completely different illnesses; and the metaphor is apples and oranges. I can wrap my head around the message intended, but I would rather just speak the truth and see if that could bring a hint of understanding about the struggles of your absent friend.

She didn’t make an excuse. She wanted to be with you tonight. She had looked forward to your girls’ night for a week. Planning for an entire evening with friends brightened her days leading up to the occasion. Because you see, she doesn’t take those girls’ nights for granted like you. She craves those outings—because they don’t come easy for her—and her mind renders her lonely most days.

She wasn’t making an excuse. She legitimately could not bring herself to attend. The irrational fear and self-consciousness was too great to leave the safety and comfort of the home surrounding her. She doesn’t want to miss out; she resents her illness for shutting her inside again. She’s sitting on her couch right now wondering about the fun you’re having without her—which only increases her feelings of loneliness.

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For the beautiful souls who watch their loved ones spend the majority of their days in bed—depression isn’t an excuse. Depression is their reality. They sense your frustration even though you try to seem empathetic; but they know you believe they’re using their Mental Illness to excuse their laziness.

Except they aren’t lazy; they are fighting harder than you can imagine to break the chains of their depression. It suffocates the life out of their spirit. It’s not an excuse. On the days they wake up and complete the dishes and laundry and run the vacuum—you probably haphazardly praise their efforts. It’s not a big deal to you, those are simple chores. Except for them it’s the promise that one day they might feel normal—and on this day, they feel worthy. Completing a simple task for them is comparable to a job promotion for you.

It’s not an excuse—for them to climb out of bed and complete a grocery shopping mission is cause for Champagne.

***********************

There are some that can no longer carry on. The demons of their mind have exhausted them; and that spark of hope that carried them through their worst days has lost its flame. When they commit suicide you believe they use their Mental Illness and life choices as an excuse. You label them cowards; maybe because it helps you deal with the pain of knowing you might have been able to save them?

Except you couldn’t save them, so please don’t blame yourself. It’s a fight only they can conquer—alone. You can stand outside the ring and cheer them on, but you cannot enter; and you cannot fight for them.

Suicide is not a glamourized portrayal of a person seeking attention. Suicide is not the epitome of excuse. Suicide is not a controversial series on Netflix: Thirteen Reasons Why… Suicide is the raw truth of a victim overcome by their mentally ill thoughts. You will never understand the pain they have walked through. You will never understand that battle between their heart and mind; the war of survival vs. complete loss of hope. Because if you could, you wouldn’t claim them to be a coward for ending their life; you would see them as I do—a fallen Warrior.

While you sit in shock after your favorite celebrity commits suicide, thankful you don’t have to endure the pressures of fame and drugs that took their life; I sit and sob, and pray for my comrades. I realize fame wasn’t their demise—their illness that you called an excuse was. Only one thought circulates in my mind after I hear of suicide: That could have been me—will the fire of hope that gives me strength turn to ashes one day?

 

Your friend wasn’t making an excuse. In not so many words, your friend was telling you she is unwell.

If you truly claim friend status in her life, please don’t scoff behind her back and roll your eyes. She can sense those arrows of judgment.

Go find her. Change your plans; bring dinner and movies to her house. Stay inside her safe-zone so she can participate.

Become her loudest cheerleader standing outside her ring.

Mentally Ill Mothers are Worthy.

“Mommy, why are you so mean sometimes?”

It was a question that came out of nowhere. Life was fine when she asked, almost perfect.

Then BAM. It slapped me so hard I almost saw stars.

“I love you more than you love me,” she finished—and then she fell asleep.

I lost my mind that night. I couldn’t breathe I cried so hard, and for so long; I vomited numerous times—my body’s physical attempt to regain control.

Except there was no control to regain at that moment—I fell into a bottomless pit where only the worst mothers go; but I immediately began clawing my way back to my children before I ever actually hit the ground.

That was the life-changing moment when I vowed to keep it real with my kids.

There seems to be a new trend amongst the parenting world—and the self-proclaimed parenting advisors. Everywhere I’ve looked the past few weeks has been plagued with comments and opinions that mentally ill women are selfish to have children. That our effect on these children will be long term; and there is no way we can raise an emotionally healthy child. These comments have also led into ignorant discussions that we are risking these children living normal lives because passing along our infected genes is a very big possibility.

And then my daughter asked me why I am so mean sometimes. You can understand why the world crashed on me that night. Was it possible that the numbness I have for my own illness had made me too arrogant to accept the advice that I am an unworthy mother? Have I started my children down a very broken path at such a young age—and they are doomed for life right out of the starting gate? Gut wrenching questions that didn’t allow enough space in between for me to even fall asleep that night. I stared wide eyed at the ceiling with tears soaking my pillow; and when I could no longer muffle the sobs I moved to the back porch and stared wide-eyed at the stars until the sun started to rise.

After a few weeks post breakdown—I am extremely confident when I say, “I am a damn good mother, and my illness is not a liability.”

My flaws and my illness have set the stage for emotionally healthy children in a way the world has never seen before. Is there a chance they have inherited my illness? Ten percent chance. TEN percent, people. If they do actually inherit an unstable mind they have a mother with a team of doctors and therapists on call. They have a mother who can read the warning signs long before they realize anything is wrong. Because of the advocates before me, a new road is being paved that lets us bypass the stigma of mental illness—and we can openly discuss any roadblocks and how to get past those barricades. My children will never feel embarrassment for the thoughts that might run through those pretty little minds. My children will never hide from themselves until they self-destruct. I am a good mother.

That next morning after I cried my way to sunrise, before I even poured my children a bowl of cereal, I began explaining to them why Mommy is so mean sometimes. Mommy’s brain is sick, but it’s nothing to worry about because I take medicine and the doctors give me checkups. Sometimes, though, I have bad days. So when Mommy apologizes and tells you I’m not feeling very good today, it’s not because my belly hurts—it’s because my brain hurts. Instead of vomiting or fever, I lose my patience quicker and sometimes I am mean. I never intend for my sick brain to hurt your feelings, and that’s why you see Mommy cry and apologize a lot. That’s why I make my way to the bedroom to be alone–so that my sick brain isn’t mean to you. My daughter hugged me tight and told me it would be okay.

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He wasn’t actually angry, but this is what it looks like when he is. This picture always makes me laugh.

She’s right; it will be okay, and they will be okay. Where some kids are hushed and silenced because their release of emotions comes off as disrespectful—our kids are told it is okay to be mad, but not aggressive. We let our kids yell, scream, cry, or a combination of all—because don’t you do the same as an adult? In a world where expressing emotion is deemed inappropriate; we have created a space where they can release the tension of life—and that place is home, with two parents who can guide them through the confusing parts.

Because of my illness, I realize the innate human need to scream it out sometimes. What mother hasn’t, at some point or another, locked herself in the bathroom and silently yelled and banged her head against the wall? What employee hasn’t walked to their car and beat the steering wheel after a long day? Life happens, and life is tough, and we are living beings with spirits that require a release of tension from time to time. It’s not disrespectful—it’s healthy.
I realize (probably more than most) how toxic it can be to hold in thoughts and emotions for fear of stepping on toes or causing conflict. I realize the trauma that can cause any brain, but especially a mentally ill brain. I am also learning the incredible bond that can form between members of a family that allow each other to be real. We let it out, we apologize, we learn from our mistakes, and we move on—together. I don’t question how my illness is affecting my children, because they will openly tell me if I’ve hurt them—and if that requires yelling at me, then so be it. I know they will be back to apologize, because they are learning from the master of apologies.
In this house we are raw, and we are real. There’s no unicorn-mom and fairytale moments happening behind these walls—if you dare to enter you should check your arrogance at the door. We can offer a lot of fun, an abundance of love, incredible honesty, and even more forgiveness; but we don’t play well with imposters or practiced smiles and gestures.
I am a good mother, and my children will become adults with an incredible understanding of emotion—because I am mentally ill.

 

When Bipolar steals your joy.

He brought me $3.47 from his piggy bank and asked if that would get us to Disney World. For months he has talked about this magical place and his dream to one day walk those sacred pathways leading to every character he’s ever loved. He’s 4 years old, and our daughter is 5—their imaginations are still magical, but the hourglass of untamed beliefs is losing sand faster than I can keep up. It’s an opportunity to watch their faces of unparalleled enchantment that would leave scars on my soul if missed.

“We just don’t have the money right now, bud. One day, I promise we will get there.”

I’ve not worked in over a year; and the year before that the business I stubbornly swore would be our ticket to riches…well, it bankrupted and plummeted us so far into debt that I sometimes wonder if we will ever walk without chains tightening around our necks. Somehow, every necessary bill gets paid and every meal is served hot on the kitchen table; it blows my mind every week. Our lifestyle was demolished when our income was cut in half; the adjustment from that has been close to unbearable—but humbling at the same time. Our house is warm and the mortgage is paid, food in our bellies, running water to drink, and more love than can be contained within our own family. I have my husband to thank for that, and his unfailing love of an incredibly complicated and undeserving wife. (Refer to this blog: https://sarahbethmcclure.com/2017/03/17/to-the-men-who-love-complicated-women-i-see-you/

I have children who think I hung the moon; and a warrior husband that has climbed out of the rubble with me and chose to remain loyal though I blew his world apart. We have been stripped bare of our recognizable life, but our souls have been refined in a way that isn’t possible unless you survive a fire of epic proportions. We are the lucky ones because we are still standing, albeit naked and on shaky ground; but I am more thankful for the financial chains around our necks than I ever was for all the material possessions we took for granted. With every successful bill payment I am reminded that miracles truly happen, and it’s a constant celebration that we survived another month.

I blame myself, though; and there are days that shame wraps a cage around my bed where I wallow in grief and resentment for all the Disney Dream Vacations I see on Facebook. I can’t hop on a plane and take my kids to the most magical place in the world. I can’t give them that one rite of passage that every child should take. But they have never given up hope, and any loose change they find is placed in their piggy banks or the Disney Savings Plate on the kitchen counter. They still believe their parents carry magic in their wallets; and that come hell or high water–we will get them there, and so they patiently wait.

I know what you’re thinking, because the normal side of me is thinking the same thing: I should find a job. Simple answer, it makes complete sense, right? I’m qualified, and I have truly wrestled with the idea for months now. I obtained a Bachelor’s Degree; and I worked a successful and well-paying career for nearly 10 years before my life imploded. I’m not bragging; those credentials played a part in ultimately breaking my soul.

You see, my spirit hid a ticking time bomb from me; and everyone else around me. By maintaining complete and utter control of my life, and the lives around me—I managed my condition without even realizing how miserable it was making me. Looking back, the evidence of Bipolar Disorder is so apparent that I can’t believe how blind I remained for 32 years. The people close to me still question if I truly suffered from the disorder my whole life—but that’s because the control I maintained hid the toxic thoughts that I ignored daily. I coped and self-medicated when necessary, the dosage just enough to keep my sanity. Then I got married, gave birth to two beautiful children within a 14 month timespan, and continued working and self-proclaiming myself as super mom. Then I was laid-off by my job; a job I enjoyed with people I loved dearly. Of course this was my moment to purchase and build a business that would make us millionaires. Private Jet to Disney World whenever we wanted. That was the crossroads where I stepped onto a looming path that was screaming for me to run far away and never return, but my stubbornness is toxic.

I lost control. I lost complete control and fell off the saddle; Bipolar Disorder was there waiting and laughing as it stole the reigns. I can still hear it mocking me, “Buckle up, Buttercup.” Essentially, my disorder spurred the horse and rode straight towards a spiraling and endless vortex of mania; leaving the controlling version of me face down in the mud.

What I didn’t realize at the time was my sudden money spending, binge drinking, and irrational thinking was a textbook case of a manic episode. A very intense episode that I had never experienced before because Bipolar only ran along beside me, my control blocking the reigns. I was spiraling upwards and increasingly out of control with nothing to stop me besides complete and total self-destruction. I became a person that I didn’t recognize; I stared at this second version of myself in the mirror every day, and she seemed fun and the life of the party, but my heart knew that she was not someone I wanted to know—still, this strangely curious girl laughed and pleaded that I keep spinning with her. I devastated many people along that twisted and dysfunctional path. The amount of damage is unfathomable, and I don’t think I will ever be healed enough to discuss it openly. Those who love me were chasing me, but I refused to slow down. I left them in a cloud of haze and smoke until the sudden brick wall of complete self-destruction knocked me completely to my knees.

And then I fell, and I fell hard. I fell into the deepest pits of depression one could ever face; and I continued spiraling downward as quickly and intensely as I had spiraled up. Bipolar Depression is different; and it is deep, and it takes root at rock bottom and grows around its victims, making the potential escape almost impossible. Those who make it become Warriors—fighters that never give up, ever.

At that point in my depression, it’s not that I wanted to stay in bed to escape the world—I HAD to stay in bed. I had to sleep; and there were times I couldn’t be woken up, which would be normal if I was taking sleep medication—but I wasn’t. I was on low doses of depression/anxiety medication and mood stabilizers. Those medications give energy, but they couldn’t even touch the depression I was facing until they were increased in exponential proportions.

This new and depressed third version of myself was colorless and rarely spoke; she detested sunshine or relationships, and she wanted me dead—she nearly succeeded. She held me hostage inside the walls of my house and her branches grew quickly around me, tightening their grasp as they staked their claim on my life. She chained me to my bed—then she whispered continuously in my ear that I was worthless and only made the lives of those around me miserable. I hurt people, it’s what I did—they didn’t deserve it, but she didn’t care; and she would continue with those swirling thoughts until I ended my life. She told me it was the only escape. 

My children kept me alive during that time; not that I was any type of mother that a child deserves. I could barely care for them, but I spent what small amount of energy I had on making sure they were fed and mostly safe. The thought of not seeing them grow up and the incurable pain they would feel if I was not at their graduations and weddings gave me just enough strength to grasp the edge of a cliff and hold on until my husband and family could ensure my medication was beginning to release the grip the branches of depression had over my entire body.

My children are incredible little humans that have learned the art of forgiveness and self-sufficiency at an inappropriately young age. My five year old daughter knows that when a person begins crying all you need to do is hold their hand and hug them. How many times has she rubbed her mother’s back while I silently release unhealthy thoughts and emotions? She normally asks why I’m crying, but when I don’t answer she never demands an explanation. My son just received the “Most Fabulous Friend” award at his preschool, and was recognized for always trying to comfort his friends that were sad. He’s a natural; and I almost lost my composure when those values were spoken. I can only pray these experiences have somehow miraculously strengthened their spirits more than harmed them.

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So you can see the incredible fear that I have of entering the fast paced and busy world of working mothers. I made an agreement with my disorder: that in exchange for shared control of my mind, I promised to slow down. I promised to admit defeat and that I will never try to regain control again. I will speak openly about my mental illnesses and I will accept them as a part of who I am. They still show up sometimes, depression and mania—but they only visit for a short while and their stay doesn’t entirely disrupt my life. They remain quiet for the most part, but I can tell when their plane touches down.

My fear is the reason my resume remains the same as it did 10 years ago. Rationally, I know we need more income immediately, but if I choose this route will the pressure push me over the edge again? Could I destroy my family by getting swept into another upward spiral? Could I survive another downward spiral?

My children deserve a trip to Disney World more than most—they’ve earned it. It would be a small reward compared to the battle I would have lost without them and their little understanding and forgiving hearts. But I cannot give them that reward if it means I’m stolen from their lives again. I vowed that mania and depression would never mother my children ever again.

So while I wrestle with the decision of side jobs just to make ends meet; or full time work so we can take an extravagant lifestyle for granted again—I just cannot stop leaning towards the side of miracles and the celebration of bill payments being made. I cannot help but have faith that the magic those kids believe lives in our pockets will someday miraculously manifest.

Maybe our pockets really are magical… if we choose to believe?

Meet my friend, Anxiety.

I’m sorry I cancelled last minute.

When I accepted the invite earlier this week I was feeling great. I was so excited. I was comfortable, and my anxiety was well contained.

When I woke up this morning I panicked.

I have nothing to wear. Will they be able to tell I’ve gained weight? What if I slip up and say something weird and make a total jackass of myself? I just can’t handle “uncomfortable” today. I need certainty. I need to stay safe today. I need my pajamas, and my tea, and my Netflix, and my locked door that keeps me safe inside from all the people.

The warm pressure rising from my gut all the way up my neck is making it hard to breathe. Just thinking about being in a crowd of people tonight makes me cringe. My fear is on high alert. Except what am I fearing? I have no idea. Seriously, I don’t know—but it is true fear.

I have to cancel, but if I tell you the real reason you’ll scoff at me. So what can I say? Hmmmm. Sick? No. Tired? Maybe. Plans got miscommunicated with husband and he already had plans. Yes. That’s perfect! Some might say I’m a pathological liar. I claim self-preservation techniques.

Please don’t be disappointed. Next time, I promise—because next time seems so far away and manageable.

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I’m sorry I never answered your phone call.

I tried to answer for the whole 20 seconds it rang. Instead I just stared at your name flashing on the screen of the phone, a million thoughts rushing through my mind.

What could you possibly want from me? If you’re trying to make plans I’m going to say yes, but I can’t promise I’ll actually show up.

If you need something from me I’ll be terrified to tell you ‘no,’ even though I’m barely taking care of myself at the moment.

Are you just wanting a conversation? Oh dear, can I formulate sentences that even make sense right now?

What if you ask me how I’m doing? I’ll be forced to lie and say ‘Great!’ Even though I’m still trying to calm myself from hearing my phone ring. I don’t like the lies. Even my lies make me uncomfortable, so I’ll just ignore you instead. If you need something important you’ll text me. I can take time to organize my thoughts if we text.

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I’m sorry I had to leave your party early. When I showed up I was so excited to see you and everyone else. Congratulations on your engagement, by the way. I’m so happy for you.

It’s just that, well—I wasn’t prepared for quite so many people. I had mentally prepared myself for your family, I had forgotten his family and friends would be there. Making small talk is so hard for me—especially with strangers.

There were so many people, as the crowd began to thicken I could feel that familiar warm pressure beginning to rise from my gut to my neck. Mouth dry, sweaty hands, and I was having a hard time catching my breath.

The more conversations I had to participate in the more my thoughts raced. Trying to hear them over my own thoughts  grew more challenging by the minute.

I had to get out of there.

I’m sorry I missed such a momentous occasion in your life. Again, congratulations!

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I look around the room and I’m so content being alone. I can feel my shoulders untightening the longer I sit here.

I sip my warm tea, curl my legs up, and find a good series on Netflix. I can shut my mind off now. I can let my anxiety cool off to a low simmer. No questions for me. No demands of me. No smiling for me.

The doorbell rings…

For the LOVE—call before you come over.

I’ll pretend I’m not home.

The lights and TV are on.

Shit.

(Opens door.)

HEY! What an awesome surprise!! The house is a mess, but come on in… let chat! It’s so good to see you….

Depression Sucks.

I don’t want to talk.

I need rest.

I need silence.

The thoughts in my mind are overwhelming. They won’t stop. My life is a constant battle of outside voices competing with internal thoughts. It’s too much.

I don’t know how, but I need rest.

I’m lonely, but I can’t silence the storm of thoughts in my mind when another voice is in my ear; so I shut everyone out and feel relieved when they finally walk away.

I don’t mean to hurt feelings, but I need silence.

I don’t want anyone around because the tension that radiates from their discomfort with silence is even worse than being forced to talk.

I know they mean well, but I need rest.

I don’t need to lay down in the sense that it’s been a long day. I need to disappear for a while in the sense that it could be fatal if I don’t.

I need silence.

I need rest.

I don’t want to cater to your emotional demands at this time. If there’s ever been a time I need to be selfish it is right now. I cannot heal if I’m constantly juggling how my illnesses are affecting you.

I need someone who doesn’t take control.

I need someone who listens without reacting.

I need someone who is comfortable to sit in silence, because I’m going to stay quiet for a long time. It would be nice to have a presence with me, but it will take a very special soul to keep me at ease.

I need someone who will let me be me. The broken, doubting, overwhelmed, depressed, sometimes angry me. I need someone strong enough to let go of the control that causes them to tell me I’m great and perfect and wrong to believe I’m anything less than magnificent. I need someone that will let me be me in my worst form, because that is the foundation of my healing.

Once I feel safe to step outside the numbest areas of my conscious, I will start processing my overwhelming thoughts one by one. I will keep what is good, and evict what is bad. I cannot be led in this process, and I cannot answer the questions that may arise. You must allow me to lead, and at my own pace. These thoughts will be ugly, and terrifying, and disturbing, and as close to demonic as one will ever get without actually stepping foot through the gates of Hell. I need someone who can listen without reacting, because the second you react is the instantaneous moment I will no longer consider you safe.

I know I’ve hurt your feelings, and for that I am sorry. I know you’ve meant well by the band-aids you’ve offered, but the infection is just too deep to be covered. I know you want to walk this road for me, but I must go it alone. I only need to know that if I get scared I can scream and you will hear me. I need reassurance that I will make it–not how I will make it–but that you’re confident I will find a way. My own way.

 

Love.

What mental health victims wish you knew.

They tell you to get up, don’t they? They storm into your room and throw open the curtains. They rip your blankets back and tell you it’s time to quit feeling sorry for yourself. So, like always, you tuck your tail and you rise up out of bed… secretly resenting their presence.

It’s mind over matter, right? If you just get up and get moving you will feel better. As if your mental illness is a fleeting virus.

They tell you that your kids and your family need you. And then they unknowingly shame you for all the ways you aren’t fulfilling your roles in life–and so you begin shutting down even more. Not only are you battling the terrible thoughts in your mind, now you’re battling the guilt of never being good enough. .

But they can’t see. They can’t comprehend your world.

And so you hide.

They tell you all the ways your mental illness affects them, don’t they? Oh, they always do. Always an unconscious jab that you’re causing them stress.

If they could only peek inside your mind for a brief moment… just a split second of your thoughts–then they would realize their own worries live amongst unicorns and rainbows. If they saw inside your mind they would understand you’ve seen a world that would melt their worst nightmares.

You feel some weird and twisted need to comfort them, and so you do just enough to present an acceptable image. This allows you to avoid the shame. But in the quiet moments alone you close your curtains and crawl into bed and you sob. You sob for your family and the pain you cause. You sob for your children and all the ways you aren’t showing up for them. You sob because you have to smile tomorrow and you just don’t have the strength–

but you smile anyway, because it keeps them comfortable.

You laid in your bed today and for one fleeting moment you wished you had some form of cancer. Victims of cancer are viewed as brave, and heroic, and praised for the strength it takes to fight for their life. They’re truly warriors.

According to society they are truly sick. They’re allowed to be bedridden for weeks when their energy is depleted.  Cancer patients don’t have individuals throwing the covers off of them and demanding they stand and face the day. They aren’t told that if they would just move around their illness will cure itself.

Cancer patients are allowed to be sick; and it’s understood they will need rest and time to regain their strength.

But you aren’t a cancer patient. And your illnesses makes them uncomfortable.

You’re highly sensitive and intuitive mind allows you to feel the sudden shift of emotion when you try to talk openly about the sickness in your brain. They stare down, don’t they? They always stare down. They get tense and quiet and refuse to look you in the eye until the subject is changed.

The world has taught them to feel uncomfortable–it’s not their fault. It’s not your fault either.

But you slink back into silence–because that’s the easiest option for everyone involved.

You wait for your own form of remission, and you practice your smile. You hide the illnesses that you know will return. They always return, don’t they? This time you will keep it a secret, because maybe then they won’t force you out of bed.

You take your medication, and hide the amount of pills it takes to keep your sanity.

You bless the day and hope for strength, and remind yourself that you can do hard things.

You’ve faced hotter fires than this, and you always come out alive and stronger than before.

You do it alone because it’s easier that way. You do it alone because only you are strong enough to patiently endure the fire long enough to heal. It shouldn’t be that way.

But it has made you a warrior, and you can handle a little heat.
“Won’t you look down upon me, Jesus? You gotta help me make a stand–You just got to see me through another day. ‘Cause my body’s achin’ and my time is at hand. I won’t make it any other way.
I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain. I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end. I’ve seen lonely times that I could not find a friend…”
 -James Taylor

LOVE. ❤

To the men who love complicated women. I see you.

You think you’re flying under the radar and noone notices, but I do… atleast now I do.
It’s not been an easy road for you, has it? Your efforts go unnoticed by your wife. She is too wrapped up inside her own mind to see that you actually are trying to not only hold her together, but hold yourself together. The people around you are focusing so intently on her emotional well-being and mental state that your presence seems to stand back in the shadows.

I see you though. I see you standing there, on guard–protecting her.

I know there are days you want to give up. I know there are times you want to lash out and scream at the top of your lungs that you can’t self-sacrifice any longer. Something has to give, right? You can’t single-handedly keep your family afloat while you work tireless hours and come home to a wife laying in bed with dishes and laundry piling up. This isn’t what you signed up for, is it? You want to run away–that would be so much easier. You want to give up, but you don’t. The warrior in you stays to battle.

I see you fighting. I do.

In sickness or in health is what you vowed. Even though your wife can’t wrap her mind around that vow, you do. When you want to leave, you remember your promise to support her through anything–even though this anything is not the sickness you imagined. You vowed before God and family that you would stay by her side through any challenge, and so you hold on. You cling to the hope that one day she will again be the woman who stood at that altar with you. Sometimes you get fleeting glimpses into her eyes and you see that girl is still in there. She is trapped and chained, but she’s there. And so you stay. Confused and weak and defeated, you stay. Unable to break the chains that bind her; but you stay because you have faith she will one day free herself.

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I see you. I see you staying even though you wish like hell you were far away from the mess she’s created.

She pushes you away. No matter how hard you try to show your love, she shoves your attempts back in your face. She’s unreachable. You begin to doubt your worth as her partner. No matter what you do, you aren’t good enough–you can’t love her how she needs to be loved. She makes it a point to ensure you understand that fact. You want to give up, and at times that seems the most reasonable alternative. But you don’t. You keep trying to show love the best you can.

I see you. And even though no one else sees the demons you are slaying, I see your sword drawn and ready for combat. You may be holding that sword in a shaky hand at times, but you are making progress.

You can’t see this, but I do.

Slow and steady wins the battle.


You’re lonely. For a husband who fights so hard to provide, protect, show love and support… it seems reasonable that you should have a loving home that embraces your efforts. Except you don’t. You come home to bitterness and resentment. You come home to feelings of heaviness and tension, because her mood is unpredictable. There’s a chance you might have an enjoyable night together (and you pray hard for that every day), but there’s an even bigger chance she’s too pissed off to even sleep in the same bed with you. And so you make your way to the couch… again.

I see you. I see you continuing to come home anyway.

Keep coming home. Keep protecting her. Keep carrying the weight and picking up the slack. Keep believing in your vows even when she doesn’t. Keep showing your love no matter how hard she tries to convince you it’s not enough. Keep fighting. Keep slaying her demons. She cannot help her reactions. She cannot help the way she makes you feel. She wants to. Lord, does she want to; and if she could, she would fight right by your side. Every time she screams at you her heart tries to remind her of your goodness– but the demons in her mind always win. She’s too weak. That’s why you must continue to carry your sword and fight for her. Fight for your marriage. Against all odds, you must remain the strong one. The true warrior.

The world will tell you that you don’t deserve this treatment, and to walk away–go find happiness. I mostly agree; but if you love her,  keep showing up. She needs you more than she will ever know. Keep being her warrior that stands in the shadows and fights when she doesn’t even realize she’s losing.

Because one day, after the rehabilitation and therapy and medication begin working together, there will be healing. And one fine day, you’re gonna look into those eyes and see the girl who whole-heartedly meant every vow she made at that altar with you. One day, the mother of your children is going to reappear out of nowhere and begin taking over the extra roles you’ve been playing. Life will pick up right where it left off.

I know your efforts will probably go unnoticed, but I see you. Please know that I realize what you’ve done, what you’ve fought through.

The world will rejoice for her healing, and again you will stand in the shadows, but you won’t call out for recognition. True warriors rarely do. Instead,  you will be rewarded by being excited to come home. You will be rewarded by seeing the true woman you married stand before you.

You will stare in awe when you see her laughing and playing with your children. When she notices your stares she will question them. And you will respond, “I just love seeing you so happy.”

One day she’s going to realize you kept the vows you said together. Against all odds, you fought for her. Even when she couldn’t fight for herself, you protected her. When she couldn’t keep a vow to save her life–you showed up to keep those vows sacred for her. You may feel too defeated to realize the warrior within yourself–but you are absolutely her knight in shining armor. If you keep fighting, one day she will tell you that herself. And she will be unable to ever show her true gratitude.

And then you will wait. Because although you won the battle, the war of her mind isn’t over. You will take in every good time over the next couple years. But you’re no longer a rookie to the game of mental illness. You know those demons will return. The medication will quit being effective. The therapy will have paused.

But you will still be there. Sword drawn. Ready to fight. Ready to battle all over again when she falls to her knees and forgets who she is.

You will be there.

I see you.

I see you and how you just keep showing up.

(For Daniel. My Knight. My warrior. My safe place to land. I love you… I see you.)