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To the Husbands Who Stand by Their Wives With Mental Illness

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You think you’re flying under the radar and no one notices, but I do… At least, now I do.

It’s not been an easy road for you, has it? Your efforts may go unnoticed by your wife. She may be too wrapped up inside her own mind to see you actually are trying to not only hold her together, but hold yourself together. The people around you may be focusing so intently on her emotional well-being and mental state that your presence seems to stand back in the shadows.

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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 who is depressed, laying in bed with dishes and laundry piling up. Sometimes you think this isn’t what you signed up for. You may want to run away because it sometimes feels like it would be so much easier. You may 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. 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 may have 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 in her eyes and you see her still in there. She is trapped and chained, but she’s there. And so you stay. Though you may feel confused and weak and defeated, you stay. Though you are unable to break the chains that bind her, you stay because you have faith she will one day free herself.

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

She may push you away. No matter how hard you try to show your love, she may shove your attempts back in your face. She’s sometimes unreachable. You may begin to doubt your worth as her partner. No matter what you do, it can feel like you aren’t good enough, like you can’t love her how she needs to be loved. She may tell you this, even. You may want to give up, and at times it can even seem 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 may see the demons you are slaying, I see your sword drawn and ready for combat. You may be holding that sword in a wobbly hand at times, but you are making progress.

You may not see this, but I do.

Slow and steady wins the battle.

You may be lonely. For a husband who fights so hard to provide, protect, show love and support… it may seem reasonable for you to have a loving home that embraces your efforts. Except you may not. You may come home to bitterness and resentment. You may come home to feelings of heaviness and tension, because her mood may be 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 may be too pissed off to even sleep in the same bed as 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 may not feel able to. Keep showing your love no matter how hard she may try to convince you it’s not enough. Keep fighting. Keep slaying demons. She may not be able to help her reactions. She may not be able to help the way she makes you feel. She probably wants to, though. I believe if she could, she would fight right by your side. Every time she screams at you, her heart may try to remind herself of your goodness — but the demons in her mind may still win out sometimes. She may feel 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 strong.

The world will tell you that you don’t deserve this treatment, to walk away to find happiness. But please, if you love her, keep showing up. She may need 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 woman who wholeheartedly meant every vow she made at the altar with you. One day, I believe 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.

Your efforts may go unnoticed, but I see you. Please know I realize what you’ve fought through.

The world may rejoice for her healing, and you may stand in the shadows, not calling out for recognition. Instead, I believe you will be rewarded by being excited to come home. You will be rewarded by seeing the true woman you married stand before you.

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

One day she may 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.  You may feel too defeated to realize the warrior within yourself, but you are absolutely a knight in shining armor. If you keep fighting, one day she may tell you that herself. And she may be unable to ever show the depth of her gratitude.

And then you may have to wait. Because although you won the battle, the war of her mind may not be 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 may return. The medication may not be as effective anymore. The therapy may have paused.

But you will still be there. Sword drawn. Ready to fight. Ready to battle all over again when she needs you.

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.

Follow this journey on Strong Humble Warriors.

Thinkstock photo via Benjavisa.

Originally published: June 2, 2017
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