Tomorrow, Shaun will enter the outpatient psychiatric program at our local hospital for anxiety. He’ll go from 9am-3pm, for as long as it takes to make him better. I’ve been thinking all week about how to post this: how can I tell you, gentle readers, about what it’s like to be married to a man with significant anxiety? How can I present it in a way that is true to our experience, but doesn’t hurt Shaun, or minimize (or overstate) the impact of his illness? In my head, I kept returning to this form, which I’ve used once before, about what it’s like to teach. In some ways it's a copout, but I don't know any other way to say these things. I’m glad to answer questions, and I’ll probably write more about this, especially considering our current journey. For now, this is the best I can offer.
This is the way you cross your fingers before you get out of bed and pray today is a good day. This is the way you hope the diarrhea will stop, and if it doesn’t stop his therapist will be available sometime today. This is the way you hold his head in your lap, and brush his hair back from his forehead, as he weeps and begs you to help him, even though you don’t know how. This is the way you call his doctors over and over and beg them to help. This is the way you cook toast and scrambled eggs and rice and buy bananas and applesauce and Gatorade so as to not upset his tender belly. This is the way you drive him to the ER or the walk-in clinic, again. This is the way you choose your words carefully in front of the daughter you share, so she doesn’t learn more than she needs to about anxiety and illness and how terribly afraid you are most of the time lately. This is the way you change the sheets on the bed, again and again and again. This is the way you tell your colleagues at work that no, he’s not better, and no, thanks, you don’t want to talk about it. This is the way you call his family and tell them, as gently as you know how, that he is still sick, that you don’t know when he will be better, and that yes, you’re all trying very hard, and no, there’s not much they can do. This is the way you hire a professional organizer, and go to marriage therapy, and do anything you can think of to ease his fears, and this is the way you sometimes feel none of it matters. This is the way you miss class after class when you need to be teaching. This is the way you think and rethink who will pick up your daughter from school, and who will stay with her until you can get home, in case he’s not well enough to parent today. This is the way you try to remember how things were before he entered this most recent spell, and try to believe, everyday, that things will go back to that semi-normalcy again even though it seems this will never end. This is the way that you take deep breaths, and try to ignore the nightmares, and talk to the people who love you just to hear them say “I’m sorry it’s so hard right now. I hope it will get better,” because there is nothing else to say. This is the way, in the end, that you love him, as well as you know how.