I used to think that the subject of infertility and trying to conceive was one of the biggest taboos society faces.
Actually it’s mental health.
And when you combine the two together, you have the ultimate mind-fuck taboo.
Society is getting better and better about opening up and talking about these issues. The problem is, there is a second group of people suffering in complete silence. I know it, because I’ve tried to google support networks and I can’t find any. So if I’m one of these people, and I can’t find others to talk to, then there is definitely many more out there in the same boat. 100%.
Those people are the partners of those suffering with mental health issues.
Which includes me.
And when you’re pregnant and in need of physical, mental and emotional support yourself, it makes caring for your partner even more challenging.
I have no problem talking about mental health as I’ve experienced circumstantial depression myself when I was 19/20 and a few years later. I also think teenage hormones gave me mild depression growing up too. I’ve had blocks of therapy/counselling twice during these times, and I’ve always had a supportive network around me.
But when it comes to my husband, I can’t talk about it. I can’t talk about his issues because they are not mine to talk about, but I can’t talk about how it’s affecting me either. Therefore there is so much left unsaid, but desperate to be voiced.
I hate to write this post in vague riddles and allude to things without actually explicitly saying what I’m trying to say. But that is because it is out of respect to my husband. Even if he gave me full license to reveal everything I still don’t think I could. The events we’ve gone through over the past 10 months are so personal.
But something happened in April last year that is etched on my mind forever. No amount of personal therapy (although I had 3 sessions myself to come to terms with it) will ever help me I don’t think. It’s changed me forever. It’s changed us both forever. I’m not going to give any more detail than that. You can read between the lines.
But on that day, my role immediately switched from wife to carer. You may say that being a wife involves being a carer anyway, but not like this. If you haven’t experienced it yourself then you can’t quite imagine. I’m sorry but that’s how it is.
I’m naturally a weak, sensitive and easy-to-cry person. Since then, I’ve had to toughen up. Because the person who needs me most also needs me to be the strongest person. I don’t know where I’ve found the strength from, but I just have. It’s like a survival mode. There’s a switch and it gets turned on automatically. Your own needs are immediately put secondary. Your own happiness is sacrificed actually, because your mood depends entirely on theirs. If they are having a bad day, then you are too. And even if they’re not, you spend all your time worrying about them because you know the slightest thing can trigger another blip (I call them blips. Blips sound temporary. Something that will eventually pass and can be overcome). But the rollercoaster does get exhausting, waiting for the next time it will come crashing down again. It ALWAYS does.
I cry in private. Always. In the bathroom mostly, often when I’m falling asleep, and more recently on the sofa in the middle of the night because I can’t sleep next to Dave when he is like he is. It’s like sleeping next to a stranger, or Mr Hyde. It’s not comfortable. Sometimes it is downright scary.
I’ve learned to compartmentalise. There is old Dave and new Dave. There is pre-April 2017 and post-April 2017. There is Dave during his blips and Dave when he is “normal”. Then I fit in where I can. I’m fluid. I wear different hats. Okay, today I need to wear my supportive hat. Tomorrow I’ll need to wear my practical hat. One month I can wear my normal wife hat. Other months I’m wearing my might-as-well-be-lodgers hat. I never get to NOT wear a hat. Sometimes I want to burn all my fucking hats.
There are times I wish I could go back to how it was before, before it all blew up and Pandora’s box was opened and never to be shut again. I could go back to living in ignorant bliss with with the every-now-and-then angry eruptions from Dave. When something I said or did (or more likely, nothing I ever did) triggered him and he would explode. Yes it was fucking terrifying in more ways than one, but we got through them and then carried on as “normal”. Until the next time.
But that period of our lives – 10 years together – was a lie. I didn’t truly know my husband because he kept a part of him deeply hidden. I still don’t know him fully now, but I know him a damn sight better than a did before. I know what life events will trigger him. I know what topics of conversation to avoid. I know when to keep my trap shut.
But I don’t always get it right. I’ll think I’m saying something supportive and a millisecond later I’m saying “fuck I’m sorry I’m so sorry I didn’t mean for you to take it that way please pretend I didn’t say that oh shit don’t ignore me just forget it let’s go back to how it was I don’t want our day ruined I’m sorry I’m sorry…” and I’m crying my eyes out and mentally preparing for approximately 48 hours of… endurance.
Of course I know I’m not doing anything wrong. It’s not my fault. Dave even tells me that. The issues are his own. It’s the depression and anxiety that change him. And he’s getting better every day. He’s talking more. He’s becoming more of an open book. Which is a massive fucking deal when you’ve spent 32 years NOT talking about stuff. Ever.
The problem is, the more he opens up, the more I close off. Each blip, each mood swing, each cruel remark, each silent treatment damages me – intended or not. My heart gets a crack in it which can never be repaired. It can be kissed better but the scar remains.
I have a few close friends I talk to about it, but I’ve stopped now. It’s just too hard. The barriers are easier being kept up high and strong. I can’t support Dave whilst feeling weak myself. I’ll get him better first and then I’ll focus on me.
And that’s what is hard about being pregnant. You’re hormonal, insecure, needy, tired, need back rubs, have mood swings etc. But no matter how much you want to be treated like the pregnant princess that you are and be waited on hand and foot, you have to put your own needs aside. People can tell me all they like “you need to put yourself and the baby first” and that’s all well and good, but who will mark my books? Who will cook dinner? Who will tidy the house? Who will wash my hair? When your partner is in a catatonic state in the bath, or even not showering – which is worse – they’re not going to hold life together themselves are they? I still need to eat, have clean clothes and bedding, take care of myself and my job. If I don’t do it then it won’t get done.
People will ask “How’s Dave doing?” And quite rightly so. But you know what, ask me how I’m doing too. Acknowledge that if he’s feeling shit at the moment then you can guarantee I’m feeling it too. Plus more, because I’m pregnant.
I appreciate people praising me for my strength, bravery, resilience etc. But please don’t think I’m the perfect wife. I’m not. I’m just getting through it and sticking to my wedding vows as best I can. We’re riding out the “for worse” and “sickness” parts, but the goal is to get back to the “for better” and “health” parts. You don’t throw away 11 years of love, laughter and memories for a blip.
And that’s what this is. A blip.
The counselling he is attending (I had to physically drag him to his first appointment that I made for him, like a child) is slowly getting him better. It’s worse before it gets better though. You’re opening up wounds that were long since sewn up. And he told me something tonight after his most recent session that broke my heart. But at least he’s telling me stuff now.
It hurts when he says he can talk to his (female) counsellor more easily than he can to me, but I get that opening up to a stranger thing. You don’t want to burden the people you love. And I find it easier to talk to my (male) best mate sometimes than to Dave. We don’t want to burden the other with our feelings.
Dave has suggested that maybe we do therapy together, once he’s better. I said I’ll think about it. I think it’s a great idea but I also don’t want him to know how his behaviour and what he did last year has affected me. I wouldn’t want him feeling guilt over that. He couldn’t help it. And it would set him back.
There is more I could say. But I don’t want to. It’s very raw. I think I’ve said enough. But I hope this will explain my absences (past and future) and my ambiguous social media posts. Sometimes you just can’t explain the shit that is inside your head. Those that know, just know.
His main priority now is Ollie. That is his focus. His reason for getting better. He needs his son to counteract his shit childhood.
But I will continue to be there for him, sitting outside his counselling sessions with a magazine for as long as he needs me to.
For better or worse, in sickness and in health, til death us do part.
I hope you don’t read this Dave, but if you do, I love you xxx
(If there are any typos etc in this then I’m sorry, but I don’t want to read through this post again to edit them out. If I did I would probably delete the whole thing.)