Our baby was napping in her crib after another long day of crying; she had an overwhelming need for constant touch from me. My husband came home from his own long day at work to find his wife curled up in bed. Dishes piled up, and the floor was cluttered and dirty. Despite the fact that we lived in a beautiful college town with great sidewalks and places to visit by foot, I simply could not bring myself to even walk out into the apartment building’s hallway!
This happened every day of every week. I could not handle more than one or two chores at once, usually cooking and laundry. I dreaded the end of nap time when my daughter would begin her fussing again. Family and friends were out of state, hours away, and I couldn’t bring myself to talk to anyone. Explosive anger, uncontrollable sobbing, and even numbness to my role as a mother and wife permeated my life.
That day when he came home, my husband confronted me about it. He was worried about me, and we were arguing about an issue that had become a regular point of tension: a possible unplanned pregnancy when we felt too burdened already.
Both of us suspected that I was suffering from depression, or postpartum depression. We simply weren’t sure, and were terrified that even acknowledging the existence of the depression would somehow mean admitting defeat.
In the heat of the argument, just to hurt him and to deny how scared I felt, I said, “If I am pregnant, then I hope I miscarry!”
For the first time since we became a couple, he outright yelled at me. It was a first for us. “How could you say that? How could you even think that?!” I let it wash over me because I silently agreed: How could I?
I started crying again and covered my face with my arms, ashamed. I finally admitted a dark secret that I fought too desperately to ignore and also hid from my husband.
“I almost cut myself today.”
In that moment, I was ready for my husband to fall out of love with me. Or, at the very least, continue to be horribly angry with me and everything I had said and done. Whatever happened, the elephant in the room was acknowledged and there was no turning back.
Almost immediately, however, my husband sunk into bed next to me and held me tight. He was crying too. “Why?”
So we both became a puddle of tears, coming to terms with this new darkness we finally admitted was there. As it turned out, he had no idea how hard I was having it at home alone. He had no idea until I confessed to him how difficult I was finding to simply survive, to the point that I desired to self-harm.
It would be many more months before I would finally see a therapist for my mental illness. In fact, I was pregnant with my second and had gone through another suicidal episode before my husband and midwives urged me to get clinical help. And I am so glad I did. I learned so much about myself and my mind. The coping techniques I learned then still help me today. Therapy prepared me to be a mother to two little girls, and to be a stronger, healthier wife.
Most importantly, in my opinion, finally facing my depression and anxiety saved my marriage. Of course the therapy did wonders for my mental health, but I also saw how supportive, open, and non-judgmental my husband was to my condition. He saw that I was broken, and instead of running, he chose love.
This moment and many moments after that defined our marriage. The living hell that was my mental illness, as powerful as it was, could not break us apart. We wouldn’t let it. With my husband’s support and love, I was able to be a wife who could support and love him in turn.
If you are in a relationship, and fear mental illness in either yourself or your partner, don’t let fear break you apart. I am not saying that you should stay with someone who allows their mental illness to make the relationship toxic. I am saying that mental illness does not need to spell doom for either of you.
Love endures all things, even mental illness, if you and your loved one are willing to seek help. Take it from someone who has been there.
Here are some resources that brought me hope during this difficult time:
- I found comfort in online communities that normalized mental health challenges after birth, such as Birth Without Fear.
- I was also directed to Catholic Charities (a nationwide service that provides all kind of things, such as counseling, housing, etc).
- Books like “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” and Dr. Hilger’s book “The NaProTechnology Revolution” empowered me by showing me how hormones and life changes can affect my mental health.
If you are contemplating suicide, always call 911 if you fear for your life! The following call, text, and chat lines can also help:
- National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
- Crisis Text Line: Text HOME TO 741741
- Online Chat Line: https://www.imalive.org/