I was diagnosed with Anxiety and Panic Disorder in 2012, while I was pregnant with my now 2 year old. I suffered from panic attacks throughout my pregnancy, and did not know what they were, we even thought I may have developed asthma. I spent days in hospital rooms, being tested for everything, they checked my heart, lungs, several stress tests later no one knew what was causing my breathing problems or fainting spells. The doctors thought it was the pregnancy.
Eventually my doctor asked me if there was a possibility that it was all in my head, and mentioned that stress can trigger anxiety and panic attacks. It took me some time to accept it, but it was unavoidable. There were so many things going on in my personal life, I was stressed, my pregnancy had been very challenging, and the weight gain was not easy for me because I was recovering from an eating disorder. I scheduled an appointment with a therapist, and was given an official diagnosis.
This journey has not been an easy one, but it has helped me to understand how easy it is for mental illness to lead to Divorce.
Coping With Mental Illness in a Marriage:
Yes, the marriage vows say “in illness and in health”, “til death do us part” but unfortunately not everyone is really prepared for the weight that those words carry. I believe wholeheartedly, that if Corey were to get sick and need me to care for him, I would not hesitate to dedicate my life to doing just that. I do remember an ex boyfriend who told me that his fiancee ended the engagement while he was recovering from surgery, after being told that he had skin cancer. She just did not feel as if she was strong enough to marry somebody that could have been so sick. Luckily he recovered fully and he felt as if he dodged a bullet.
I like to tell my readers that in order for us to break the stigma that comes with mental illness, we have to remember that it is just an illness. Many people refuse to accept that they could suffer from depression, anxiety disorders, and more because they are ashamed. Shame gives the illness power and keeps the patient from seeking the help that they need in order to recover. This is when I believe that Mental Illness can destroy a marriage.
Corey has been very supportive throughout my journey but there were times when I was sure that our marriage was going to fail. I remember not wanting to share what I was going through despite the fact that my doctor made it clear that it would help, but I was afraid of being judged, I did not want him to feel as if he was married to a ‘crazy person.’ I was ashamed and embarrassed, the problem with that is if I don’t express myself, I keep feelings bottled up, I become overwhelmed, and voila, ‘TRIGGER!’
As a stay-at-home mom (at the time) while Corey worked I had to continue to take care of the children and my unwillingness to do what I needed to do to help start my recovery was making it hard for me to care for the children and the home, which began to affect his career, because it was at a pivotal point and he had a lot more to take on at home.
We began to argue more, and simply put, he began to become impatient. Of course I did not see it that way, all I saw was somebody who was not willing to understand what I was going through. He finally had to sit me down and to honestly open himself up to me.
He spent about eight and a half months of my pregnancy juggling his career, the children, the household, and worrying about a sick wife. No one could explain to him what was wrong with his wife, all he knew at the time was that I suffered from fainting spells, breathing problems, and was suddenly shutting him out.
His normally peppy, and jovial wife stopped laughing, sharing, and he did not understand why. Through all that he took care of me, until we found out what was wrong, and now I was unwilling to get help because of what other people would think. He was frustrated because all he wanted was for me to get better, for him and the children. Instead I was shutting everything out because I was unwilling to accept that I could be suffering from mental illness.
It wasn’t a lot to ask, a loving husband who simply wanted his wife to get better. The problem is that this is what two thirds of the 12 million women suffering from mental illness in America are doing. Not getting treated, because most of them are ashamed of the fact that they may be struggling with some form of mental illness. Why wouldn’t that cause trouble in marriages, when some of the symptoms of these illnesses can be so detrimental to the one living with the illness.
I completely understand my husband’s frustrations, after all, it doesn’t just affect you, but it affects all your loved ones.
Lean on those who love and care for you, and allow them to be your support system as you make the choice to work towards your recovery. Not everyone is going to be a supportive spouse, and if your spouse is creating an environment that does not encourage your recovery, then you have no choice but to separate yourself. However if you do have a great partner, let that partner help you.