This is going to be an intensely personal post.
1. Sitting on the couch with Natasha, both of us in tears, shaking with anger, hurt, wondering why we were in this place again. We taught workshops on communication and love and conflict resolution, but between us there was a cycle of fights that we could feel getting progressively worse.
Taking a breath, I try to speak calmly, rationally, trying not to let the anger and pain come out. “I really think you should get some help, because I can’t seem to give you what you need.”
Her eyes flash up angrily. “You just want me to admit that I’m broken,” she says. “You’re just looking for an excuse to leave.“
“No!” My voice is raised, but it’s pleading, not angry. “I’m looking for an excuse to stay.”
2. Pick one of many days in the past year; one of many, when Natasha is about to leave for a therapy appointment. “Tell the doc I expect him to fix you this time!” I call out, and she laughs. It’s our standard joke on these days, when she musters up the courage to go into the dark places of her brain and face whatever she finds there. We both know that it’s not about the fixing; it’s about things getting better, bit by bit, and things getting worse and then getting better again.
I quietly try to make sure that my schedule is clear for when she gets back, because TV cuddles and Oreo therapy are likely to be needed. Or just a long nap, because healing is hard work, and never fun.
3. “Here – read this.” I take her phone and read the definition of “Dysthymia“. I give a wry chuckle; Dysthymia interferes with your ability to function and enjoy life. “Ain’t that the truth,” I mutter, and look up at her expectant smile.
“Today that was taken off of my diagnosis,” she says, and I can see she’s nervous.
I think I know why, so I go back to our familiar joke. “Oh, so he did fix you this time!” We laugh.
Then I hug her, and we talk about the reality: she has learned how to swim, and swim well, and even occasionally relax and float on her back…but these waters are still deep, and there are going to be storms and squalls and such.
But we also talk about this reality: our lives together are more filled with love than either of us ever imagined possible.
Thank you, Natasha my love, for doing this work. I know it’s hard, and the work you do is a testament to how much you love me – love us – and love yourself.
There are a lot of resources out there that can help you understand depression,
both in yourself or your partner. Here’s one that helped us.
The one thing I would recommend more than anything else:
it’s ok to ask for help.