Mike wasn’t doing well. On days like this, I would step lightly, careful not to break any of the eggshells beneath my feet. It didn’t matter. Our conversation quickly went to a bad place. In a matter of minutes, his mind misconstrued things I said. In the midst of it, somehow he convinced himself I had betrayed him.
I saw his eyes change. I was looking into my father’s face. A face I hadn’t seen in a long time. And then, I felt a sting on my cheek. I was stunned. I screamed, and within seconds, my son came upstairs. I told him, “Dad just…”
Nathan told me, “Mom, go for your walk.”
Before I knew it, I was on the other side of the door. I walked around the neighborhood fast, hoping I didn’t see anyone I knew. Mike had never raised his hand to me. Never. I didn’t know how to process this.
I got back to our house and Nathan told me to get in the car. Jessica was already in the back seat. He drove us to my friend’s house, just minutes away. Once there, Nathan began to shake, even when my friend placed a blanket around his shoulders. Looking down, I noticed he hadn’t even stopped to put his shoes on. I felt sick.
After a while, Nathan left to go to work. What he didn’t expect was that I would return home.
But I knew Mike didn’t mean to cross that line. I knew he would feel bad. I just didn’t know how bad. Outwardly, I tried moving on. Inwardly, I was scared. This was new territory.
Mike’s self-hatred surfaced. He was tired of all the pain he had caused us. Tired of all the yelling and screaming he had done. Tired of the anger which controlled him. But more than anything, he couldn’t forgive himself for raising his hand to me. The guilt became too much. (Excerpt from Broken: A Story of Abuse Survival and Hope.)
I did not know my husband had problems when I met him. I would find out later that when he struggled within, he would leave for a while. Go for a drive. People will try their hardest to keep some parts of them hidden. I’ll never forget the day we sat in a Psychiatrist’s office and Mike was asked, “Have you ever wanted to take your life?” Why was he taking so long to answer? Just say “No.” But he had something else to say.
I knew about the outbursts of anger, I had witnessed them firsthand. But when he was prescribed medication, it evened things out for us. Oh if only we had known about this before. It would have made things so much easier. But it took an outpatient program to give answers to my many questions. And words that would become part of our lives. Bipolar. Clinical Depression. Anger Impulse control. A bunch of words, but none he had chosen. And that’s how I’ve always viewed it as mental illness. People don’t choose to have it.
While mental illness does have a stigma, for those who live with it firsthand, it’s something we have to face. Sometimes people tend to step back. Maybe they’re afraid of catching it.
What do you do if you are in a relationship and your partner suffers with emotional problems?
1) Find a support system
It’s important to find people who will be there for you. But it doesn’t have to be a large group. Knowing you have a few people you can call for prayer is vital when you are dealing with someone who struggles mentally. You already feel isolated knowing not everyone is going through what you are going through. You already feel different. Finding a small group who accepts you is paramount to your feeling less alone.
2) Saturate yourself with God’s Word
It’s so important as you deal with the struggles in your relationship that you know what the truth is so you can recognize the lies you may hear. The enemy of our soul is a champion at pointing things out to us to cause fear. Lies like:
- God doesn’t care about you, if he did, this would not be happening.
- God is done with helping you.
- You must have done something to bring this on.
Remember, Satan is the Father of lies. But we can know God’s truth and be assured that God loves us, and loves our spouse as well.
3) Educate yourself about the illness
If a loved one had cancer, you would immerse yourself in information so you could best help him/her. The same thing applies when the illness is a mental one. Reading up on it will better prepare you on what you can expect, and things you can do to help those who suffer with it. To be forearmed is to be forewarned.
I can’t tell you how much it helped me to write out my own feelings when we were going through some really rough patches. Unhealthy actions result from unhealthy thoughts. So it’s important to just get those thoughts out. And what better way than to sit and pour out your hurting heart.
5) Get help for yourself
It is important that you seek help for yourself through family, friends, or counseling. Don’t be afraid to reach out and get the support you need.
6) Pray without ceasing
Paul was right when he encouraged us to pray. If you are in a relationship with someone struggling with mental illness, you need to lean hard on God. It was comforting to know, I could call on God at any time, at any place. And I knew that I could commit my marriage to God because I had prayed before I married. I knew I was supposed to marry my husband. And I knew that God would work with each of us individually as well as a couple.
7) Reflect on the fact God cares
No matter what circumstances I have gone through, there is a truth that I hold onto more than any truth. God is Always There. Whether I’ve experienced losses or struggled in our marriage, or other trials, I know that I am not alone.
God tells us in scripture that he will never leave us nor forsake us, if we are his children. And yet, when we are in the midst of difficult situations, like Peter, we seem to notice the wind and the waves, when we take our eyes off our Master. Knowing we are not alone and that God is near the brokenhearted gives us comfort.
If we would meditate on this truth, we would find it easier to fight off those anxious feelings that try to uproot our lives. God gives peace that passes understanding. It’s offered to all of us.
Life is hard. Sometimes it feels impossible. Impossibilities are God’s specialty.
No matter what you are facing, whatever struggles lie ahead, God is sovereign. He’s never surprised by what happens in our lives. He’s always available and all we have to do is call on him. If mental illness lives in our homes, we have to remember, so does God.