What to do when the woman you love is just not herself anymore?
This post was originally published at The Daddy Files and printed with my wife’s permission.
I hate this dance we do.
It starts with something small. Something barely noticeable. Sometimes it even masks itself as something positive. Like maybe you suddenly decided to clean the house from top to bottom. To the untrained eye that’s a good thing. But this isn’t my first rodeo and I know better. I know this was a compulsion you couldn’t control. An imperative mandated by the demons that echoes through the corridors of your mind until you comply. It would be fine if you wanted to make the house sparkle, but that’s not the case. You HAD to do it.
I try to shake it off by rationalizing that at least it wasn’t something harmful. Like the time I came home from work and noticed your swollen hand. You told me you got so angry you just started punching the bedroom door. Nothing specific caused your anger. Which is scary. And I won’t even get into the senseless arguments we have on an increasing basis.
The meds are losing their effectiveness. You know it and I know it. But neither of us want to admit it. This is, perhaps, the most insidious part of your condition. It’s certainly the most unfair. You work so hard to get things under control and find the right balance of medications. So many medications. It takes months and requires perfect precision.
A little of this in the morning, the other pill at night. That’s not working? OK, let’s switch the morning and evening pills. Still not quite right? Take this pill two hours after the other ones and see if that balances things out? No? OK, let’s introduce this medication in 200 milligrams. If that doesn’t work, we’ll up the dosage. What? You can’t sleep at night because you’re wired? OK, let’s cut that back to 250 milligrams and here, let’s try this medication.
It’s all trial and error and it’s all exhausting. While the doctors play with dosages and pill bottles until they find something that works, you’re lost. Not literally. I mean you’re still here in the house with me. But you’re not really you. Not by a longshot.
You’re an irritable, worn-out shell of the woman I love. You’re angry and picking fights despite my pleas to steer clear of them. Unfortunately you need a patient, understanding man. I am neither of those things. I’m argumentative and your nonsensical rants don’t compute in my black and white world. I know you’re wrong—hell, I think you even know you’re wrong—yet you keep coming at me.
You’re mad at me for meaningless things of little-to-no consequence. You’re mad at me for not letting you lie to your doctors. You just finished screaming at me because I don’t want to spend money we don’t have on converting our son’s crib to a full-sized bed, even though Will already has a twin bed. We don’t talk anymore, we battle.
And I know I should just take it and let it crash against me and wash over me like a rock against the tide. But I can’t. I’m not wired that way. The catch-22 is that I’ve begged you to be honest with me. To open up and tell me what you’re thinking. But when you do I’m horrified and hurt by the things that come out.
You want to leave. You don’t think you’re any good. You think we’d be better off without you. You consider harming yourself. You want to run away and disappear because you’re CERTAIN everyone is judging you. That particular paranoia floods your mind and heart to the point it becomes your truth, and no amount of proof to the contrary can convince you otherwise.
But the most troubling part is you no longer want help, because help means doing the dance all over again.
Hell, I can’t blame you. To have to feel like this every few years is torture. You spend months finding the exact balance of medication that allows you to function on a daily basis. Not to make you feel great, mind you. Just enough to get by. I can’t imagine hoping that the best case scenario is that my mood will stabilize at slightly below happy.
If we get lucky, the meds work for awhile and that’s nice. It was a couple years this last time. But then it stops working and the demons return. Suddenly you have to start from scratch. And the upcoming months to find the right mix of meds might as well be an eternity.
And yes, I know life off the meds is enticing because you actually feel better. At least at first. But even though you feel like Superwoman off the medication, we both know it’s fleeting. You can’t live life in fast forward because you’ll crash, leading to life in slow motion. And I think we both remember how awful that is.
So we enter the fray once again. Not because we want to, but because we have to. It isn’t fun and I hate it. It’s 100 times worse for you and it kills me to see you struggle. But it’s important because I love you and I need you here with me. And Will needs you too. You’re his mom. You make this family tick and without you everything grinds to a halt.
My wife is in there somewhere and I want her back. I know it might only be for a year, maybe even less before we have to do this again. But it’s worth it. You’re worth it. It’s not fair that you’re saddled with this battle against yourself while your own mind tries to trick you and lead you astray, but this is the hand we’ve been dealt. And we’ll fight this battle again and again. However many times it takes. Together. Because I miss your smile. The playful flicker in your eyes. And I’d beg, borrow and steal for the return of your laugh.
I miss my wife but she will come back to me. She has to.