I knew that it was going to be hard.
I tried to explain to my fiancé (now husband), that I was not going to be easy to live with.
It’s almost as if I tried to convince him not to marry me.
I didn’t want him to have to take on the pain and suffering that comes with my mental illness. I loved him too much.
My husband and I have been dating for over 6 years now, and married for a little over 6 months.
We’ve been through a lot together, and he has seen the best and worst of me, still loving me the same. He was with me when my disordered eating spiraled into anorexia. He was there when I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. He heard stories of how I couldn’t sleep at night or didn’t want to eat. He went to doctors appointments and counseling sessions with me. He experienced it. He knew what he was committing to. He knew that some weeks were a lot harder than others. Yet he was still convinced that I was the one.
I still wasn’t so sure that I was the one for him.
I knew that by marrying me, this burden would completely fall on him.
“But at the beginning of creation God made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Mark 10:6-9)
One flesh, one body, one mind, one soul, one spirit.
I didn’t want him to become one with me because I knew that I was dragging in more baggage than he was. My husband found a job that he loves. For him, it’s challenging, energizing, and was an easy way to develop friendships after graduation. He was financially stable, living on his own, and paying our rent before we were married. He is very independent and is easily able to separate work from his personal life. He is patient, positive, level-headed, steady, and strong.
I, on the other hand, didn’t have a job coming out of college. In August, I started my supervised practice at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. It’s an amazing program, the opportunity of a lifetime. However, it’s pretty expensive when you add up tuition, enrollment fees, national conferences, transportation, textbooks, and other supplies. On top of that, recovery is expensive. If I was on my own, I wouldn’t be able to pay for any of this. Consequently, the financial burden was put on him, because he was (and still is) our only source of income.
My experience has been challenging, energizing, and has allowed me to develop many relationships with 15 other interns that I love deeply. But it is also draining, fast-paced, stressful, and difficult. I can’t handle stress the way that Josh can. I’m not able to easily separate work from my personal life. It’s hard for me to be patient, to stay positive, and to be strong when it takes every ounce of energy that I have to make it through the day.
This is where the baggage comes in. Josh was affected by my mental illness before we were married. There’s no question about it. But now, because we are one flesh, he experiences it on such a deeper level. My problems are now his. He is now apart of the war that I have been waging for some time against the physical, psychological, and emotional fiery darts that the enemy sends my way.
It’s easy to feel like I am the problem, but I know better than that.
I am not defined by my anxiety, depression, or eating disorder. Those things are not who I am. They have no place in my life. They may stop by and make an appearance more than I would like, but they are not welcome.
On days where I am irritable, depressed, isolated, or weary, the enemy is trying to do everything in his power to stop me from pursuing Jesus. He knows that I am a follower of Christ. He knows that I will not waver or change my faith in him. So he does only what he can do, he tries to discourage me, distract me, and disable me, rendering me as powerless.
Josh knows this and understands this. But more importantly, he knows the one who has no other rival, who heals the sick, is near the broken hearted, and is in the business of changing hearts and stitching up wounds. He knows that Jesus has the final word, and he reminds me of that.
He reminds me that our present reality is temporary. He fights for me when I can’t for myself. He makes dinner on the nights that I am too drained to do anything but curl up in a ball on the couch and close my eyes. He encourages me to go out and spend time with others, but he also has the discernment to let me take a nap and recharge when I need it. He cooks, he cleans, he does the dishes, he takes out the trash, he makes the bed; all of it, without complaining. He has learned to rely on God more than any other point in his life, and so have I.
So here we are, 6 months in. Marriage and Mental Illness: For better or for worse?
My mental illness affects Josh in ways that I would never wish on him. Because we are one flesh, he’s had to take on a lot.
But I believe that our marriage strengthens our faith in Jesus, brings us closer together, exposes our pride, sanctifies our souls, and teaches us more about the beauty of the gospel each day. We both have someone who completely knows and understands, yet still loves. We laugh until we cry, and cry until we laugh. We both make mistakes and say things that we don’t mean, yet there is still so much grace. God capitalizes on our strengths and makes up for our weaknesses. He encourages us to work together, to problem-solve, and to figure out what it looks like to love each other and love the world in light of the love that God has for us.
Marriage and mental illness…it isn’t for the faint of heart. But when you’re married to someone who puts your needs before his own, and commits to loving you like Jesus does, it’s always for the better.