As A Spouse To Someone Struggling With Mental Illness, The Mom Sentiment ‘Cherish Every Moment’ Hits Close To Home

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Disclaimer: This story contains mentions of suicide which may be triggering. 

“I often see these viral mom posts talking about the importance of soaking up the younger years and cherishing every moment with their babies, because things change ever so quickly. Posts reminding other mothers that before they know it, the helpless little bundle in their arms will be grown and gone, seemingly in the blink of an eye. You wouldn’t expect these posts to get me, but they do. I’m not a mother and have no children in the foreseeable future, but I have a husband who is incredibly mentally ill, and I find myself relating to them in a different way. When I lie in bed at night and can’t sleep because the fear of losing him feels like not only a real possibility but an inevitable future, my thoughts turn to these moms’ sentiments…

Moms talking about memorizing tiny fingers and tiny toes, taking in the sweet features of their baby’s face, and creating a mental snapshot of their precious infant in the quiet, peaceful moments spent together in the middle of the night. As my husband sleeps next to me, I too study his face and try to commit each detail to memory. This is one of the few times he looks somewhat peaceful — his eyebrows relaxed instead of furrowed, his head gently resting instead of hanging heavy, his eyelids hiding the panged look that has become a near constant in his eyes.

I carefully go over each feature again and again. Yes, I fear I’ll lose him some day. That despite my best efforts, one day I’ll receive that dreaded phone call, and look into a face that’s relaxed for a different reason. Muscles gone slack and eyes now lifeless… And while I fear abruptly losing him, having him indefinitely removed from my life forever, I also despair over the more gradual loss that continues to unfold before my eyes. I study his face, but this isn’t the image I want to hold onto for forever, if something were to happen and I really did lose him in the blink of an eye.

His hair is long and unkept, his face scruffy, and the bags beneath his eyes are heavier than they’ve ever been. His lips — that used to kiss me so passionately, and curve up in a mischievous smile whenever he caught my eye from across the room — now stay pressed tightly shut. Few sounds escape those lips but heavy sighs and mumbled, one-word responses. His hands, so big and strong, are often kept in tight fists, the cuticles of his nails bloody and damaged from nervous picking and digging at his skin.

Those hands used to wave about enthusiastically as he talked and told me about this or that. He could talk for hours. Sometimes I used to find myself wondering when it would end. I loved listening to him, but I was busy and had things to do. Now I wish for a glimpse of that excitement again. I wish I had spent less time worrying about the things that needed to be done and more time focusing on the memories to be made. What they say is true, you know. The dishes can wait. The laundry isn’t going anywhere. Nobody’s going to die of a dirty floor.

I try to be as present as I can now (when I’m not lost in my own anxious worries), but the problem is he usually isn’t. He’s lost in a thick fog of depression, a maze of intrusive thoughts, and crashing waves of anxiety. And I find myself relating to these moms who wish they could turn back time, love a little harder, and prioritize a bit better.

As the man I love changes before my eyes, I try to take in and make the most of each new stage. If I were to ever lose him, I’d want to remember as much of him as I can. The good and the bad. Of course, I will try to remember the best parts of him — the way he could always make me laugh, the amusement he’d find when he discovered the perfect sound effect for a song he was learning on his digital keyboard, the baby voice he’d use whenever talking to our dogs, or the way he was so easily distracted by airplanes flying overhead.

But the sweet, innocent, carefree version of my husband continues to fade away, seeming like more of a distant memory. So in these moments, when he sleeps and lies still, I study his face and strain to remember every detail, hoping to lock it into my memory so it never fades away there.”

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Connected In The Deep. You can read more from them on their blogSubmit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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