You are a hard-working man. You’ve got your wife at home with your kids. While you’re listening to your boss complain about something you know you did right, you keep telling yourself, “I have to provide for my family.” This stupid job may be taking a toll on your sanity, but you gotta do what you gotta do.
Finally, 5 o’clock comes. You clock out, quickly walk to your car, and drive home. You just want to hug and kiss your lady as soon as you walk through the door.
Unfortunately, you can’t do that.
Her anxiety and depression has given her another bad day. She’s angry at you, but you don’t know why. She doesn’t know, either. You try to ignore it and go play with your kids, before your food is ready. You’re hungry after all that work you’ve done, today. She fusses and continues to argue after she brings your meal to you. But, you’re patient. You know she doesn’t mean it. You’ve known for quite some time how intense her mood swings can get. So, you continue to listen with the occasional “I know” or “Yes, sweetheart”.
You’ve ate, changed from your work clothes, and you’re ready to relax. But, wait. She’s at it again. This time, she says some pretty hurtful things. Even though you know she doesn’t mean it, you get a little angry at her. You say something. It wasn’t even that bad, but she is now bawling her eyes out, threatening you with a divorce. You scoff at her behavior.
How dare she say such things! You provide for her and the kids. You spoil her when she wants something. You bust your ass for her, and this is how you’re repaid? Maybe you should get a divorce. She always says she’s tired of you and your lack of understanding. What are you supposed to understand, exactly? It’s not like she is giving you straight answers.
But, she’s confused. She doesn’t know how hard it’s affecting you. You’re terrified to leave her alone, sometimes, because of her past attempts at suicide. You tell her to calm down, but you know you’ve only made it worse.
She’s shaking, mad, crying, talking crazy, and plain out acting childish. All of your past mistakes are brought up. “You’ll do it again, just watch!” She screams. “You’re never there for me! You don’t listen! You don’t understand what it’s like!”
And, you don’t understand. You know you probably never will. It’s not your fault, though. You try to be there for her. You do your best to comfort her, but she’s not telling you why she’s unhappy. She isn’t telling you how she wants to be loved.
You miss it. You miss the beginning of your marriage when she was always smiling. You miss her giggles at the dumb jokes you told. All the things you two used to do together are now just a memory. She’s too scared to even go out of the house, anymore. That frustrates you. Was it something you did? Was it something you said? Or was it something else? You don’t know.
Odds are, she doesn’t know, either.
You’ve seen her worse than this, before. Why is this day hitting so hard? Because it happens most days. It’s just the same thing, day in and day out. How does she even find new things to be upset about?
You realize it’s just the anxiety. Never did you think anxiety could affect a person, so bad. You always thought it was just a little worry. You didn’t expect the physical symptoms, the random fights, the out of control crying, nor did you expect the wild mood swings. And you don’t even want to bring up her monthly PMS.
But, this is who you married. You promised to be there through good and bad. Sickness, and in health. When you said, “I do” you became hers and she became yours.
What do you do when she is being smothered by these emotions? Do you grab her and hold her? “No, she would just push me away.” Tell her everything will be okay? “No, you’ve said that too many times. She wouldn’t believe you.” Tell her to calm down? “No, that always ends badly.”
She’s now in full panic attack mode. You rub your temples, wondering how it even got this way. You hate to see her so miserable. You’re constantly telling her she’s beautiful, even when she doesn’t believe it. You keep the kids occupied when she needs a rest. What else is there to do? You wish you could take her away from this place. Maybe just go out for a few days. Alas, you can’t leave your other responsibilities.
Finally, you’ve realized that fighting is not the answer. When she’s feeling lower than she ever has, you see it. She’s done talking. Now, she just sits there, staring. You wonder what she’s thinking about. Suicide, again? Thinking of your flaws? Thinking of her flaws? Or is it everything? Is her thoughts so scattered, she can’t keep up with her own mind? You think the last one. You may not understand it, fully, but you do know one thing: She’s torn into pieces. Her tears have stopped, now she’s just giving up. She says being alone keeps her from being hurt, so she tells you to leave her be. Is that how she really sees it? Is her pain so bad it pressures her to stay away? Does she even want to be happy?
You think about what you said or should have said and feel worse. Even after all of this, you still love her. Unconditionally. You want to promise it’ll never happen again, but you don’t even know what you’re promising will never happen again.
For a few minutes, you just watch her. She hasn’t moved from that spot, only getting up to care for the kids. Her eyes are tired. Her hair is ragged and stringy. She has stopped taking care of herself, and you see it. It’s hard to see the person you adore be drained of any color. You can almost see the fire die in her. You’re afraid to say anything, thinking it will just draw out another fight.
But, you can’t just sit there. You apologize. For what, you don’t know, but you’ll do anything to make her feel better. You just want to see her happy, and you tell her that. To your relief, she opens up. She tells you she just wants you to listen. She doesn’t care about material things or money. She just wants you to be there. She knows it’s hard for you, too. She still loves you. She is just so tired of her anxiety. “It’s a never-ending war.” she says. “I don’t want you to be angry or upset. I know it’s not your fault, it’s mine. I am exhausted from fighting.” She struggles to explain how her waves of depression are wearing her down. How her strength is draining with each passing day, and she is afraid. She’s afraid of everything, you say to yourself, but you never thought she would be afraid of herself. She doesn’t know how much longer her sanity can hold out. She’s afraid those short moments of crazy will turn into permanent psychosis. She’s afraid of being afraid.
You don’t want her to say that. You don’t want her to feel even more guilty than she has the past couple of years. So, you take her hand and tell her you’ll be there. You’ve been through a lot, together, and you hope to go through a lot more by her side. You didn’t marry her anxiety, you married her. That’s who you want to be with. You swear you’re mistakes were in the past and that the future is what matters. You swear this war won’t last forever. You swear she will be free from the chains of misery, one day. Even if she doesn’t know it, you do. She will never have to be alone.
You’ll always be there. You would never event think of giving up on her, because she needs you just as much as you need her. Her anxiety is not who she is, and you know this.
You know you married a woman. Not a monster.
Post dedicated to the spouses of the men and women with anxiety. It’s hard for you guys, too, but you gotta stay strong. We appreciate everything you do for us! It may not seem that way, but under all the anger and sadness, we are still human beings who want to love and be loved. Thank you.