Many who have recovered from depression can pinpoint a day or a time that they truly decided they would fight against it. For some it was a conversation, for others a traumatic event. For some it could even be just a festering thought.
Personally, that time was the day my husband said four extremely painful words. They were words I had never imagined hearing, despite the hundreds of thousands who hear them annually. He came home from work and said, “I want a divorce.”
The word hit my ears six years after we had gotten married and brought with it an overwhelming plethora of emotions. I screamed, cried, and sobbed. I became downright unreasonable.
But when the emotions were gone, the questions took over. The most prominent being the one that seems to have dominated much of human history – “WHY?” Why would he want to leave me? Why would he want to break the vows we had made to each other at the wedding altar?
It Was Because He Loved Me
The answer was a hard pill to swallow and brought tears not just to my eyes but down my face as well. In a nutshell, my husband explained that while he did truly love me, he couldn’t bear to see me so unhappy any longer.
He felt responsible, inadequate, and guilty. He had tried so hard to help but he was hurting too and he didn’t know what else could be done. So he wanted to end it. He was willing to be civil and wanted to find a way to make it all work in the least hurtful way possible.
But it did hurt. It hurt in a way that truth often does. Sure, I was angry. I was upset. I was sad. But that hurt and anger caused me to look deep inside of myself and ask more questions. “Why did he feel this way?” “Was he right?” “Why was I unhappy?” “Was he responsible?”
No, he wasn’t. I was quick to see that he had struggled so hard to make my life as wonderful as he could. From caring for our kids, to doing housework, to taking me to doctor’s appointments, to lightening the mood with humor, to comforting me when I was ill.
He was always there and he sacrificed a lot more than I believe most men would ever think of. So if he wasn’t to blame, who or what was?
The Problem Was Me…
…Or rather something deep down inside of me. It was a monster of darkness that had resided within me for quite possibly my entire life. The creature had reared its ugly head more than once, but in recent years it had gained momentum and was nearly out of control.
Its primary goal was to steal every ounce of joy from within me. I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t even close to being happy. In fact, most days I would declare I was absolutely miserable. I didn’t enjoy feeling this way, but this monster of despair, hopelessness, and loss had gained such a grip on me that I hadn’t been sure it was worth it to try to wrestle out of its grips.
At least, I wasn’t sure until that moment. That moment I realized I had something to fight for. It was the moment I realized there was purpose. The day I heard the word “divorce” was the day I realized my lack of resolve to fight against this monster wasn’t just increasing my misery, it was affecting my loved ones as well.
The pain continued as I allowed myself to think of all I had put my husband through. I thought of all he had given up to try to convince me to fight for myself. I began to see the pain he must have felt watching me cry myself to sleep night after night as well as the extra work he had to do to make up for the days that I couldn’t bear to pull myself out of bed.
He Wasn’t The Only One Suffering
Then I turned to look at my children. My beautiful little girls were suffering too. They got tired of watching Mommy cry. They wanted a mommy who would go play and laugh with them.
Instead, they were often sent out of the room, or even yelled at simply because Mommy was “having a bad day”. I began to wonder what they thought. Did they feel guilty as my husband did? Did they think it was their fault Mommy was always so sad?
Time For Action
As I began to see life from the views of my husband and from my children, I came to realize something had to change. I had to do better for my husband, for my kids… even for me. I had fallen low enough and it was time to rise up and reclaim the joy that I once had possessed. At that moment, I knew it was time to fight. It was time to stand for myself.
I wasn’t sure how or even if it was possible to escape from under the cloud of darkness above me. In all honestly, I wasn’t sure if the damage that depression had inflicted on my marriage could be repaired. I didn’t know how long it would take to rebuild the confidence in my children.
But I did know that if I was going to ever live a profitable, healthy, joyful life and provide one for my children I had to take back my joy from the deep and hideous monster within.
“Divorce” Brought Healing
The day I heard the word “divorce”, was probably one of the worst and one of the best days of my life because that word challenged me to fight against depression. While I still despise the term as well as the meaning of it, I truly believe it was that word that saved my marriage, my family, and quite possibly my very own life.
The word “divorce” showed me just a glimpse of purpose and left me with the biggest question and challenge of them all: “Are you willing to fight? If not for yourself, for your family?” And that word gave me the strength to say, “Yes. I will do whatever it takes to reclaim my joy and fight for my family.”
And that was the day that my life changed. It was the beginning of the fight (which I won) for my marriage, and the fight to reclaim my smile.
Has mental illness hurt your relationships? Let me know in the comments below and consider sharing this post with your friends!
***UPDATE: For an update on our marriage, please check out this post. Hint: We Didn’t Get A Divorce.