This article by Mark Lukach is achingly poignant and is suffused with gentle hope.
He writes about life with his wife (married for three years) through her suddenly experienced psychotic break and the following time of recovery.
Fear and hope, distance and intimacy, despair and encouragement and the return to a less intense and, in some ways, more mundane life are revealed.
I’ll put an excerpt here, but go and read it all.
…Instead of questions like, “Why would God do this to me?” or “Can you agree to let me kill myself in one year if this doesn’t get better?” my lovely, broken, medicated wife would take my hand, look me in the eyes, and say, “Mark, you are the most wonderful person I know. Thank you for helping to save my life. I love you and am staying alive because of you.”
Just like that.
As her spouse and caregiver, one of my biggest struggles was to keep my own emotions in check. She was too fragile to witness how much her delusions, paranoia and depression scared and worried me, so I had to pretend that none of it bothered me.
I became a master at compartmentalizing my worry and anxiety, neatly packaging my feelings into the small, permissible moments when I had the time and space, away from Giulia. For the most part, though, I was her cheerleader, and nothing, no matter how dark or despairing, could shake me.
But when she told me she loved me? That I was saving her life? And that she was staying alive not for herself, but for me?
Those moments always left me stunned, teary-eyed and breathless. I had no defense against those. They left me reaching to her to find my stability, rather than the other way around. How can you shield yourself from the impact of someone saying, “I love you”? And why would you?
Giulia has since gotten better. She no longer takes the medicine. We don’t live in a “Yes” or “No” existence anymore. We now live with bills and iPhones and deadlines.
I’m glad to have left behind the anxiety and unknowns of dealing with a serious mental illness. It was a grueling year for both of us. And yet when I look back on that year, I have to admit there is a part of me that misses it — or, more accurately, a part of it that I miss.
I don’t miss the illness itself, of course. We’re still not sure where the darkness came from, or why it’s behind us, or even what the actual diagnosis was (psychotic depression, maybe). All I know is that it was exhausting to deal with on a daily basis, and so I am glad it is gone.
And I don’t miss Giulia’s sadness, a sadness that seemed to be without limits. Good riddance to that.
BUT I do miss how much we talked about life and love that year…