It is February – the month of love, when everyone thinks of hearts and roses and Valentines. And so, as I begin to think of watching my not-quite 6-year-old address 23 valentines to his classmates, and decorating a shoe box, and all that the holiday entails. . .I had a casual conversation with my husband about something new that I was worrying about. And his response was “Yes. I know you are worrying about it. And that you will probably keep worrying about it forever. You don’t have to keep worrying about it, but it’s ok.”
And it just made me think.
It must be hard sometimes, I’m sure. “Sometimes” may even seem like “most times”. Hard to keep loving us, to keep supporting us, to keep repeating the mantra of “it’s ok, I love you, it’s ok.” As exhausting as it is to live with mental illness, it can also be exhausting to be the one who loves someone with mental illness.
The constant worrying, the walking on eggshells wondering if you are saying the right thing, doing the right thing, even BEING the right person to help them.
Selfishly, I rarely thought about this until my experience with Bella. I thought mostly that other people didn’t understand what I was going through – that the words they said were kind, and helpful – but I never thought of the impact to their own hearts and lives as they walked with me through my journey.
But during my turn supporting Bella I truly began to understand how hard it must be on my husband, my friends, my family – because despite feeling like I had a firm grasp of what she was going through, that season was hard on me. I was scared, and tired, and worried, and frustrated and overwhelmed. And so, as I think back to my own journey and my own support system, I’m thankful that they have never given up, never thrown their hands in the air and told me to deal with it alone, never walked away. But it can’t have been easy. Not that they were perfect of course, because no one is and no one expects that, but that in my darkest moments, they continued to show us love.
So I would just like to take a moment to thank those who are loving those of us with mental illness.
For every compliment our spouse gives – our immediate reaction is one of dismissal and cynicism; we have to fight to believe their words. For every worry we voice, and every reassurance our friends supply – our heart does not believe them and we often bite our tongue to keep from telling them how wrong and naive they are. For every day that we felt worthless or useless or that the light would never return to our life – and we turned a deaf ear and blind eye to the love that they showed us, because there was no way that we were worthy of such… you were still there. Ideally, we would like to apologize – AND to tell you that it won’t happen again, and that we are so very, completely sorry.
And we are – so very sorry. But we can’t promise that it won’t happen again. We can promise that we are working on it, we are trying to let your love and support filter into us and impact our responses to life. But it will most definitely happen again. And we are sorry for that too.
But we can promise – that we hear you. That it matters, that it helps, that your love and support really do change us over time, that you are exactly the right person to help us – because you love us and want to help us. Its not instant, but its cumulative, and that the darkest moments are made lighter by the knowledge that you love us, and that you’ll still be there after our storm clears. You have been, in so many ways, life changing; and in many other ways – lifesaving. We have been broken and you have held us together.
So, thank you for not giving up, thank you for loving us in the darkness, for continuing to stay beside us even when you are exhausted and we are not responding the way you hope we would. Thank you for propping us up when we are falling over, for calling us out when we need it, for wiping our tears, for all that you do.
There is a famous set of verses from First Corinthians that we all know from every wedding, all about what love is, and what love isn’t. And this part speaks to me the most:
Love puts up with all things, trusts in all things, hopes for all things, endures all things.
– 1 Corinthians 13:7
Thank you, to those that love us, for living this love daily – For putting up with all things, trusting all things, hoping all things, enduring all things. Thank you.
Now faith, hope, and love remain—these three things—and the greatest of these is love.
Thank you for being the greatest.