Friday, September 08, 2006

One flesh

Continued from "What's Wrong?"
November 2001 - May 2002

Can illness really make you stop loving a person? I have seen a few marriages break up over the years due to mental illness. Obviously I fully understand that it can be very scary to watch the person you love turn into someone you don’t even know. But surely you must realise that somewhere deep inside the person you love is still there? I understand how circumstances become very different, and they’re not the circumstances you chose, but isn’t every marriage like that to a greater or lesser degree? And I understand how unhappiness with your circumstances can make you want to change them - end them - but can you really stop loving the person you married, just because they’re not well anymore? Can you really see yourself being happy without that person?

Shockingly I had people suggest that I should get on with my own life while my husband was in hospital. People have seemed surprised when they realised that I visited him every day. I had one person tell me that they thought I liked being married to a sick person that I needed to look after. I had a nurse tell me that I would end up resenting my husband for being ill. And I even had a doctor tell me that if I wanted a family I would have to leave my husband. These attitudes are merely symptoms of a world where unconditional love is idealised – as long as you can have everything your own way.

I’m not pretending that I haven’t struggled with coming to terms with my husbands’ illness. Sometimes grieving the loss of how things once were has taken me to a very dark place. Worse than that was watching the man I love suffer in the most indescribable way. I confess, I wanted to end the pain – for him, for me – but I have never wanted to leave him. Why would I? Why would I want to tear myself away from someone I love so much, and allow him to suffer alone? It was hard enough to say goodbye each night, and leave him behind at the hospital. I’d walk out of the door and look back through the little window, and see him sitting there, lonely, and scared. I wanted to protect him – from his own fears and from himself – but I couldn’t do it alone anymore. He had become so suicidal that he needed 24 hour care, and I couldn’t give it.

I remember the night before he first went into hospital so clearly – or rather, the emotions I was feeling. I had done everything I could during the previous 6 months or so to reassure him of my love for him. He was in such a deep depression, and at this point no one knew about the voices. He had changed so much. His smiley eyes had gone. His loving, romantic nature, his sense of humour. My husband had gone. He was just a man, emotionless, expressionless. His medication made him sleep for about 18 – 20 hours a night/day, and he would wet the bed up to 4 times during those hours, because of his medication. I would get him up, wash him down, change the bedding including the duvet cover, and let him get back into bed. It was so degrading for him, a grown man who couldn’t control his bladder. He would apologise for being such a burden, and I would try to reassure him that he wasn’t. I’d cook him a meal and get him up for the evening. I would run him a bath, wash his hair and body, and he would just sit there, motionless. He couldn’t understand why I still loved him and was willing to care for him. I wanted to show him that doing all of these things for someone you love isn’t a burden, and I needed him to understand that my motive was love not duty, so I would do my best to stay cheerful while doing these things and then after bathing him, drying him down, and helping him to dress, I would sit on the floor in front of him and massage his feet as well. He’d look at me confused, and ask “Why are you doing this?” and I’d smile and say “Because I love you”. There were tears, but I had plenty of time for those while he was asleep. It was a very lonely time.

Actually, I'm not sure which was worse, the loneliness from being without him while he slept for so long, or the loneliness from being with a man that didn't resemble my husband at all. No one fully knew or understood what I was going through. It was really a time of grieving, I missed him so much, and at the same time I was having to care for this unresponsive stranger. I knew somewhere deep inside the man I loved was still there, and I never gave up hope that if I kept showing love he would come back. Looking back I know that if I hadn't continually "gone that extra mile" to prove my love for him he would have ended his life.

"Because I Love You" by Philippa King

Many times his Psychiatrist suggested that he go into hospital, but he didn’t want to, and I didn’t want to cause him to doubt my love by making him. His Psychiatrist would ask how I was coping, but she always asked me in front of him, and I had tried so hard to prevent him from feeling like a burden, I didn’t want to admit that I couldn’t cope. I sensed that he often felt suicidal. This was confirmed when his Psychiatrist asked him directly if he ever felt suicidal, and he admitted that he had. She asked him what ways he had considered and he told her, and she also asked if he had made previous attempts and he had. I learnt that he had saved his medication and taken a large dose in one go, with alcohol, and then gone to bed, and I hadn't even noticed. Although inwardly shocked I tried to just put my feelings to one side and show understanding and support. I didn’t want him to feel that he couldn’t turn to me through fear of how I would react. I started watching him more closely, and supervising his medication. Once these suicidal tendencies were out in the open I often asked him how he was feeling, sometimes asking direct questions in the way his Psychiatrist had. He began to trust me more and became more open. One night we were having an honest chat about how he had been feeling and he confided that he had been thinking about waiting until I was asleep before trying to kill himself again. I couldn’t hold my emotions in any longer. I held onto him and sobbed. How could I possibly protect him? I knew then that it was time for him to be admitted, and after seeing me so distraught, he agreed. I hardly slept that night, every sound, every movement my husband made, woke me. We made an emergency appointment the next day to see his Psychiatrist and she had him admitted into the psychiatric ward the same day.

Totally crushed I could only hope that they would find a medication that worked for him soon. I was now taking anti-depressants myself, and was suffering from anxiety. I thought I had reached my limit of what I could cope with, but there was worse to come.

Next: "First Hospital Admission"


N o t t e t e m p o said...

Dear Mr. Mans Wife, I am reading your experiences and I just wanted to say thank you. Greetings, Christine from Germany

Mr Mans Wife said...

Thank you Christine, I appreciate your comment.

Sorry if the posts keep changing but I'm quite new to this and I keep changing my mind about the wording!

I hope to post again soon, but as I'm sure you can imagine I find it quite draining emotionally.

marilyn's shampoo said...

i found this post incredibly moving. i've been married just over a year to a man i adore and i couldn't help imagine myself in your shoes. your love for your husband really is 'true love'

Mr Mans Wife said...

Thank you Marilyn's Shampoo, I appreciate your comments.

To date this was the most difficult post for me to write, and there were many tears.

Thank you for reading.

grrltechie said...

I hope you see this comment, I know it's an old post. I can barely write at this moment for my tears. Because I KNOW. I know how you feel, having been in an almost identical situation. My husband of barely a year spiraled into a severe depression that culminated in multiple hospitalizations, suicide attempts and a diagnosis of disociative disorder (more commonly known as multiple personality disorder). I was urged by more than one to "get on with my life" as well. But like you, I know the man I loved was still in there. I can't type any more, but I would sincerely like to give you a hug and hopefully email you soon.
Thank you for sharing, it means a lot to me.

Mr Mans Wife said...

Thank you so much for commenting Grrltechie. When I read comments such as yours I know I have made the right decision in sharing our story. You’re very welcome to email me any time. I wish you and your husband the very best. (((Hugs)))

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing your story. I am going thru a similar kind of situation where my husband has schizofrenia but he is not ready to accept it. He got treated once and stopped medications and ever since not willing to visit a doctor. Some times I feel so lonely in this because I cannot share with anyone. Seeing this gave me the chance to vent my feeling and make me feel lighter. Thanks so much and take care of your self.

anon said...

Hi christine, really appreciate your post. My boyfriend has schizophrenia and we have been together a year. He chose to stop taking his meds 6 months ago and I have never witnessed him having positive symptoms. The past week or so i believe he has been and he's scared and upset. He wont talk to me or tell anyone whats going on or how to support him because he's scared of going back to hospital (he was admitted twice, around 3 years ago). I love him so much, we are both 22. I'm scared for him and what our future entails. I dont think I could do what you have forever and i feel horriable admitting that. Am I wrong?

wildflower said...

I'm dating a schizophrenic man and we are discussing marriage. I have never loved someone the way that I love him. I completely relate to post "one flesh" because that's how I feel with him. I know he went through the bed wetting phase during his last hospitalization before we were dating so I wasn't around for it, but if I was I would have been there washing him and changing his bed just as you did. Even if marrying him means a life filled some very hard times, I want to be there to love him through it. My concern and my families huge concern is that I have a son and they are worried how my marrying this man will effect him in the future. My boyfriend loves my son and my son thinks he's the bees knees, But I know when my boyfriend (future husband) gets sick again in the future, it will be really hard on my son to understand and deal with. My family is also concerned that my son will be teased because he'll have a schizophrenic step dad. They don't understand why I would choose to be with someone who will make me and my sons life harder. Because of this my family refuses to support our relationship in anyway. They want me to end it. I don't want to. Do you think my families concerns and the way they are handling them is appropriate? any advice what I should do?

Mr Mans Wife said...

Hi there Wildflower,

I think it's wonderful that you have met a man that you and your son love so much! :) And I think you already know the answer to your question :)

1. If you already feel like you are one flesh, then you know that leaving him will cause all three of you more pain than staying with him.
2. Yes, marrying him could mean some hard times, but I truly believe that all marriages have hard times, illness or not.
3. Your boyfriend/future husband may not suffer any more major relapses, so your son may not have to deal with it. If he does, then being open with children is usually the best way, and he will be lucky enough to grow up without being taught to be prejudiced against people with mental health problems.
4. Will your son's school friends know that his step Dad has Schizophrenia? Only our close friends and family know about Mr Man's condition. A lot of people know he has been ill, but they don't usually pry.
and finally...
5. How does anyone know if your life will be harder? If you have found a man who you love and who makes you and your son happy, surely that would make life easier?

The only drawback is that losing the support of your family can be very hard, in any circumstance. But hopefully they will see in time that you are all happy and that no harm has come to your son, and then maybe they could learn to accept him for who he is rather than what he suffers, just as you have. :)

I hope this helps. Best wishes for you and your family :)

wildflower said...

Thank you so much for your reply Mr. mans wife. I really appreciate that you took the time to write it. It feels good knowing there's someone out there in a similar boat as me who understands. My man and I are going ring shopping this week. In good times and in bad I'm ready to jump in with both feet :)

Wild flower

Mr Superman's wife said...

Mr Man's wife,
I loved my hero and married some stranger...who is suffering from severe depression..and the marriage is on a long distant relationship now because i got scared of living together and ran away on the pretext of my job. I just began reading your blog today...and I think I really understand what you are going through..although I don't think I am capable enough to do anything but cry in loneliness.

C said...

Thank you for your blog. I'm just starting from the beginning now but my boyfriend of almost 5 years was diagnosed with schizophrenia earlier this year and so far I can relate to everything you are saying. One thing you said that really hit close to home was this: 'Why would I want to tear myself away from someone I love so much, and allow him to suffer alone?' I've been meeting with a therapist for my own benefit and it's like you've found the words I was feeling but didn't know how to express.

I look forward to reading the rest of your blog and I wish the best for both of you.

Mr Mans Wife said...

Congratulations Wildflower!

Mr Superman's Wife, I am so sorry to hear that you are both struggling so much. Is your Superman getting treatment? Get some support for yourself as well. It's harder to support someone when you are doing it alone. Speak to your GP about support services in your area. I hope things improve soon.

Hello C, welcome to my blog. I'm glad you are finding it helpful. Best wishes for you and your boyfriend.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Man's wife,

Thanks a lot for posting your experiences. It provides a lot of support to other people in similar situation. It is beautiful to see through this and other posts of yours how much you and your husband love each other and how much you want to take care of your husband with all heart and soul.

I want to understand if you would feel the same way, if there were some already existing relationship problems. I have been married for about six months and my husband was diagnosed with schizophrenia a month back. We were having some relationship trouble and now due to his condition he blames me for everything. Even though I loved him from the core of my heart, it is difficult to maintain that compassion with him having hate spells for me and providing negligible emotional support. Just wanted to understand how would you feel in such a situation and maybe help guide me.