I should preface this post by saying my wife was kind enough to approve me writing about this. I say that because it’s quite personal, for the both of us. But I think it’s important to share bc I know for certain we’re not the only ones who have experienced it. So my hope is it helps others who might be going through the same thing or something similar.
Like any good marriage, there are ebbs and flows in our relationship. And last year for a few months we hit a valley. My wife suffers from what is called Generalized Anxiety Disorder, or GAD for short. And for about a 4 month span we were knee deep in it. If you’ve ever been married or lived with someone you love, you understand why I use the word WE. Though it’s her disorder, we very much battle it together, just on different fronts. Make no mistake, it’s a team effort. Especially when you have a young one.
So you don’t have to run and google GAD, here’s the gist of it. It is an overwhelming, irrational fear inside your brain. It can cause physical pain by way of panic attacks, shortness of breath, and draining all of your energy. Imagine it’s winter and you’re walking around in the snow in nothing but your bare feet. You’re shaking, trembling as you look for a warm fire that is no where in sight. You’re exhausted all the time from trying to huddle yourself so tight together all day long. And now let’s toss in you’re having a heart attack, but it’s not an actual heart attack. Just the immense pressure and feeling of one. That’s how severe the effects can be. But at least in the cold you’d know why you’re shaking. With anxiety, you don’t even know what’s causing it a lot of times, so you have to ride out the storm. Our storm just happened to last much longer than usual this time.
Being on the other end and not having the anxiety disorder, there is but one word to use, exhausting. It is emotionally draining watching someone you love suffer and not being able to help them, other than taking care of our son as much as possible. Given our current situation, it nearly drove me into the ground. Between work, our son, and being woken every night to explain to my wife she’s not having a heart attack, it was challenging to say the least. So if it had that effect on me, I can only imagine how grueling it was for my wife suffering both physically and mentally through a new storm every day and night. And my wife's a smart woman. She saw the wear it took on me day in and day out as well. But she needed to focus on herself, and I understood that.
She would talk about it often, which is 100% necessary, but it quickly became the narrative for our every day, every hour, every minute. A full consumption so to speak. "How can I help my wife today?” became the first thought of every day. And most of the time the only answer was to listen best I could and just be there. Be a pillar. Be a rock. Be available. Not enough is said for the difficulty of this task because it’s incredibly hard to do with consistency sometimes. But you still must find a way.
And I’ll be honest, there were times I was angry, times I was sad or depressed, and times when I flat out couldn’t hear another word about it. And that’s because GAD is something I don’t have and therefore, will never fully understand. But I know it’s real, and I know my wife battles it like a champ every day of her life. And she’s so much stronger than she gives herself credit for. I’m not sure I could survive the daily battles she faces. It’s just a part of her daily life and she has accepted that now. Some days are better than others of course. And in this process she did learn a great deal about how to control it better and identifying her “triggers”. And she’s never been better. 🤓
I do not tell you this story for pity. I do not say these words for sympathy of any kind for neither myself nor my wife. I tell you this very personal experience in the hopes you see there’s light at the end of every dark tunnel. That whether you’re the person with anxiety or their partner struggling to find how to deal every day, there is a way.
To my wife’s credit she was finally able to get better by learning. Learning her triggers and learning through each battle how to counteract them. Keeping her mind busy and finding the right medication to help keep her head above water. She did the work to make herself better. Exercise, eating right, and dedicating time to make herself well again in the midst of being a good mom to a young man. It wasn’t an easy task but what other choice was there? So she battled and won. And when she won, WE WON.
It has undoubtedly added a layer to our relationship we never had before she became ill. A closeness and understanding that together we can take on anything. A “ride or die” mentality if you will. Its an odd sense of freedom when you face something difficult and prevail. A sense of ownership and self worth emerge.
There can be strength in silence. There can be courage in getting out of bed. There can be love grown in the dead of darkness. And truly if you can find the will to just carry on, there indeed is a way.
To everyone out there struggling through each day, there is hope. It may take time to find it, but its out there. Until then, be a pillar in a house of sand if you must. You’ll be amazed at how strong you are, even through silence.
Listening to: "Long Day" by Norah Jones