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As Newlyweds, All We Did Was Survive This Year

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People often say that when a couple gets married, they have their whole life ahead of them. That first year following the nuptials is often a flurry of excitement and monumental life changes. Often, the honeymoon period is kicked off with a trip to celebrate. For many newlyweds, there’s the prospect of new houses, new babies, perhaps even new jobs or new pets. Getting married for most people kickstarts an exciting new chapter of life. However, in my husband and my first year together as a married couple, we barely did more than survive.

Due in part to the pandemic, and in part lack of finances, we never had a honeymoon. The only traveling we’ve done in our first year of marriage was to and from doctors’ appointments. There were no new homes, new babies, new pets or new jobs to signify and celebrate our new roles as husband and wife. Beyond filling out extra paperwork and putting on rings, our lives barely changed at all. Since we’ve gotten married, all we’ve really done in the last year was continue to survive.

My husband and I are both currently considered disabled. In all honesty, both of us having that designation was one of the only reasons we were able to actually get married. If only one of us were disabled, tying the knot would have jeopardized my much needed health coverage. Up until he received his disability diagnosis as well, we were one of many couples in this country who could not afford to get married without putting my coverage at risk. Few allowances are made for couples where only one spouse is disabled — usually the marriage penalties are too steep unless both partners are disabled.

My husband has bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as multiple painful physical issues related to past injuries. I have major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, PTSD, and two benign tumors on my brain. Between the two of us, we have a lot of bad days where one or both of us struggle to even get out of bed. Some days I cry — a lot. There are a lot of days where one or both of us withdraw from the world because everything outside our home feels too overwhelming to face.

Due to our disability statuses, finances are ridiculously tight. The paltry amount we receive for disability assistance, supplemented by periodic small sums for my writing, never seem to be quite enough to make ends meet. I clip coupons and shop sales religiously, yet we regularly fight to keep our heads above water.

While in theory getting jobs would ease our financial struggles, it would also mean losing the disability coverage we’ve both fought so hard to achieve. Even beyond that, we both know that honestly we’re in no place mentally to work right now. Neither one of us is reliable enough right now to adhere to any semblance of a set schedule, even on a part-time basis. We both struggle with depression so bad that there are days we can’t even pull ourselves out of bed.  Though our depression comes in waves and some days are better than others, we never know when those really low days are going to hit or even how long they will last. Employers tend not to want an employee they can’t count on to be there from one day to the next, whose availability is spotty at best, and is likely to change on the drop of a dime for undetermined, unpredictable periods of time. I do sporadic freelance writing when I can in order to earn a little extra money, but even that is unsteady and unreliable because I am unable to write regularly due to my mental health struggles. I’ve resigned myself to doing what I can when I can, and forgiving myself for all that I cannot do at this time.

We have a lot of days we have fondly nicknamed “F*** it” days, where we are both struggling so badly that we know our chances of any possible productivity is low. We’ve had many days we’ve microwaved TV dinners, heated up frozen pizzas, or had other minimal effort meals on TV trays while curled up on the couch together or on lap trays in bed. It isn’t that I don’t know how to cook. I actually enjoy cooking and baking when I am up to doing it. There are just many days I am physically, mentally and emotionally not up to the task. So we’ve learned to adapt together and throw together minimal effort meals on those days when we are not capable of doing more.

Most days there are dishes in the sink and laundry piled up waiting to be washed. There are times it takes days before we make it into the shower. Sometimes it takes days or even a week to brace and prepare myself to do even the simplest of tasks like making phone calls or running errands. Depression isn’t pretty and it isn’t easy. Some days it takes hours before we’re even able to pull ourselves out of bed to pee. Most of this past year we took one day at a time, sometimes even one hour at a time, plodding through life moment by moment, just trying to survive.

There have been times I have wondered whether I might have made his life harder by becoming his wife, and I’m sure he has pondered the same about being my husband. But at the same time, we give each other more compassion, empathy, understanding, love and support than either of us had ever received prior to reconnecting with each other. In each other, we have found everything we never realized we needed and everything we could ever want in a partner. I have never before felt so heard or understood. We may have done little more than survive together this last year as newlyweds, but there is nobody else I would ever want at my side.

I know the idea of going through an entire year just surviving might sound pretty sad and pathetic, but for us it was monumental. We survived. That’s huge for us. We fought an ongoing, daily battle with huge monsters on our backs and lived to tell the tale for another year. And more importantly, we did it together as husband and wife. It may not have been the exciting first year that many newlyweds get, but we got through our first year together. We survived!

If any of you made it through the past year — if all you did was survive — I’m proud of you. You’re still here! That’s huge! We’re all doing our best to get through life however we can, doing our best when possible, even if our best some days is just treading water. Whatever you can do is enough. Just keep plodding on, day by day, minute by minute if you have to. And know there are others out there, like my husband and I, who understand and empathize, and are cheering you on along the way.

Getty image by Tetiana Garkusha

Originally published: December 13, 2021
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