Marriage is hard. Marriage with children is challenging. Marriage with PPD is formidable.
Think back to your dating years. Now imagine you arrange a date with a guy who has everything. He’s handsome, smart, funny, caring. He loves cats and doing dishes. He washes his hands after using the restroom. He compulsively buys presents – can’t help himself. He picks you up, you drive to a restaurant on the beach, and find the perfect table for watching the sunset. And then a loud man drags a chair over to your table and plops down in-between you and your date. He blows cigarette smoke in your face as he introduces himself as Horace. He talks over you and your date all evening, spitting chunks of food as he complains about every possible detail. When you get up to use the restroom, he takes it as an insult and spends the rest of the evening sulking. You finally ask your date who this man is and he tells you that Horace goes everywhere with him – they are rarely apart. At times during dinner, your date seems to waver between being annoyed with Horace’s antics, trying to shut him up, and egging him on. One thing is for sure. . . if you see your date again, you’re going to be spending time with Horace, too.
Would you go on a second date? I mean, you really like this guy. But Horace? Who has time for him? He makes spending time with your man nearly impossible and even seems to change who he is entirely at times.
Sometimes I think that’s how my husband feels. I KNOW he loves me. I know he believes in me – in us – and the life we are creating together. But he’s fed up with Velma*. I used to take his frustration with my anxiety personally and felt like he was angry with me. In my defensive state, I would argue about how hard I was trying and tell him he wasn’t being supportive enough. But I’ve come to understand that he’s entitled to be angry. . . I’m angry. I hate having an anxiety disorder and on my worst days, I want to whine and scream like a child about it.
My husband just wants the partner he married. He wants me – just me – with no Velma standing at my side, whispering that I’m not good enough and tricking me into starting an argument over something silly. He wants to have fun with the woman he fell in love with over ten years ago. He wants me to be happy.
It’s relatively easy for me to say this and take responsibility for giving his feelings respect because he is the definition of support. He takes the kids on weekend mornings so I can catch up on sleep. He is standing behind my decision to postpone the mood stabilizer so I can continue to nurse the baby. He gently reminds me to take my medication if I’m feeling overwhelmed, and he adjusts plans to meet my needs. We are a team this time.
His anger? Isn’t AT me. It’s FOR me. For us. And thought it may hurt some days, I have to afford his feelings the same respect he gives mine, and support him as he processes them. After all, marriage is hard enough already with two kids. We don’t need Velma’s lies about his frustration to make it any more difficult.
*Velma is the nickname the online PPD community has give to depression and anxiety. We frequently tag our tweets about PPD with #velmasucks or #velmaisabitch or (my favorite) #velmaisalyingho. It’s a way to signal that we’re struggling and that we know that our mental illness is a separate entity from ourselves.