My wife and I have been happily married for almost 3 years. We have definitely had our share of ups, downs, and everything in between. We were high school sweethearts, and married when we were 21. Now every marriage has its struggles, it would not be marriage without them. Our relationship is no different in that regard. Early in our relationship, I was diagnosed with ADHD and Bipolar Spectrum Disorder. This made for some very distressing times in our lives and relationship. This was exacerbated by my non-compliance with my treatment and my denial of the negative impact my choices were having on those around me.
Now for a little background: my life has been filled with loved ones who were frequently sick. So the healthcare system has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Anyways, back to my main story. So my wife and I get married, determined to persevere and learn to live with my conditions and my wife’s health issues. It was smooth sailing until about 6 months into the marriage when I walked in on my wife planning to end her life by suicide. This scared both of us terribly. We talked and decided for her to see a psychiatrist nearby, hoping to find answers and help.
As we talked together alongside talking to psychiatrists, we were told it was likely depression. So a few weeks go by and something goes sideways, my wife got very upset and was experiencing worsening symptoms. So back to the hospital, and she gets admitted. It was about this time I began doing some research of my own. Several months later, my wife began acting very bizarre. She was paranoid, scared, and barely present when I tried talking to her. Back to hospital. It was around this time she received a different diagnosis: Schizophrenia.
At this point, I proceeded to read anything about schizophrenia that I could get my hands on. I managed to find a non-profit specifically for schizophrenia and those who are involved with caregiving. It was at this point I heard some wonderful advice that I still hold onto today.
No matter what happens, no matter how distressing the situation is, never let go of hope. Two years later and I still hold onto hope. Hope has been one of my strongest supports as a caregiver and husband.
There is no doubt there can be some pretty rough days, but they just make me cherish the good days more. For my wife and I, we are more than our mental illnesses, but the struggles we have been through only brought us closer together. We have learned how to listen to each other without speaking. We have carried each other and persevered through the good, the bad, and the ugly. I have often told my wife that if I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing. There is a very special bond you can nurture when you care for a loved one. It isn’t always easy, but it can be so rewarding.
When my wife was first diagnosed, she had to metaphorically learn to walk again. We both had to learn how to live with the cards that life handed us. Let me tell you, watching her learn, and grow, is a tremendously valuable and cherished experience. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
While hope is, without a doubt, the main support, there are many other tricks I have learned along the way. For example, I have learned to accept that for everything I do right, I will also do something wrong. This is because dealing with any mental illness is like playing soccer, a soccer game where they keep moving the net on you. It is okay to make mistakes, we all do it. Just learn from them and apply the lesson to future situations. Another important lesson that life has taught me is to always keep your cool. One of the hallmarks of working with schizophrenia is that sometimes a person’s symptoms can seem very bizarre to others. Try not to get upset when these symptoms arise as that will only exacerbate the situation. Lastly, when opportunity presents itself to have fun, go for it! Because what is the point of the struggles of life if you cannot try to have some fun?
I can recall essentially being told by family that nobody would think any less of me if I left my wife because of her illness. Well, my mama didn’t raise a quitter, and I looked at the prospect of caregiving as both a challenge and an opportunity. How many people go through life day by day being able to uplift one another?
Our marriage has only grown stronger since we started on this journey together. We have our bad days, but without the bad days, how could we possibly appreciate the good days?
If there is only one thing that you take from my story, let it be to never lose hope. Let it be the torch that lights the way as you tread the path of life and all that it entails. Hope has gotten me through thick and thin, been my compass when life has been at its lowest point. I often tell my wife (and myself) that every storm breaks. This has been particularly true for my wife and me. My wife has often had mediocre success with her medications and her symptoms. Recently, she was put on a new one she had never tried. For the first time in months she has finally found noticeable relief. That storm broke. More storms may come our way, but they too will break if we hold onto hope and persevere.
When my wife was diagnosed with schizophrenia, I was terrified. I feared I wouldn’t be able to adequately care for her, that I wouldn’t be strong enough to handle it. I often recall a quote that goes something like this: “courage is not the absence of fear, it is the presence of fear, with the will to carry on.” I have always been a worrier and fearful, but I always strive to keep moving forward. It is okay to worry, it is okay to be scared, but don’t let it make the decisions for you.
Today, my wife and I have never been closer. We have a bond that is stronger than anything that I have ever experienced before. While the last few years haven’t been easy, they have been so rewarding. The laughter, the tears, the accomplishments and lessons learned.
I look forward to spending the future with my wife and best friend, K.C.
Forever and always.