Come Back to Me

***This was written and published with MJ’s permission.***

I hate this dance we do.

It starts with something small. Something barely noticeable. Sometimes it even masks itself as something positive. Like maybe you suddenly decided to clean the house from top to bottom. To the untrained eye that’s a good thing. But this isn’t my first rodeo and I know better. I know this was a compulsion you couldn’t control. An imperative mandated by the demons that echoes through the corridors of your mind until you comply. It would be fine if you wanted to make the house sparkle, but that’s not the case. You HAD to do it.

I try to shake it off by rationalizing that at least it wasn’t something harmful. Like the time I came home from work and noticed your swollen hand. You told me you got so angry you just started punching the bedroom door. Nothing specific caused your anger. Which is scary. And I won’t even get into the senseless arguments we have on an increasing basis.

The meds are losing their effectiveness. You know it and I know it. But neither of us want to admit it. This is, perhaps, the most insidious part of your condition. It’s certainly the most unfair. You work so hard to get things under control and find the right balance of medications. So many medications. It takes months and requires perfect precision.

“A little of this in the morning, the other pill at night. That’s not working? OK, let’s switch the morning and evening pills. Still not quite right? Take this pill two hours after the other ones and see if that balances things out? No? OK, let’s introduce this medication in 200 milligrams. If that doesn’t work, we’ll up the dosage. What? You can’t sleep at night because you’re wired? OK, let’s cut that back to 250 milligrams and here, let’s try this medication.”

It’s all trial and error and it’s all exhausting. While the doctors play with dosages and pill bottles until they find something that works, you’re lost. Not literally. I mean you’re still here in the house with me. But you’re not really you. Not by a longshot.

You’re an irritable, worn-out shell of the woman I love. You’re angry and picking fights despite my pleas to steer clear of them. Unfortunately you need a patient, understanding man. I am neither of those things. I’m argumentative and your nonsensical rants don’t compute in my black and white world. I know you’re wrong—hell, I think you even know you’re wrong—yet you keep coming at me.

You’re mad at me for meaningless things of little to no consequence. You’re mad at me for not letting you lie to your doctors. You just finished screaming at me because I don’t want to spend money we don’t have on converting the crib to a full-sized bed, as Will already has a twin bed. We don’t talk anymore, we battle.

And I know I should just take it and let it crash against me and wash over me like a rock against the tide. But I can’t. I’m not wired that way. The catch-22 is that I’ve begged you to be honest with me. To open up and tell me what you’re thinking. But when you do I’m horrified and hurt by the things that come out.

You want to leave. You don’t think you’re any good. You think we’d be better off without you. You consider harming yourself. You want to run away and disappear because you’re CERTAIN everyone is judging you. That particular paranoia floods your mind and heart to the point it becomes your truth, and no amount of proof to the contrary can convince you otherwise.

But the most troubling part is you no longer want help, because help means doing the dance all over again.

Hell, I can’t blame you. To have to feel like this every few years is torture. You spend months finding the exact balance of medication that allows you to function on a daily basis. Not to make you feel great, mind you. Just enough to get by. I can’t imagine hoping that the best case scenario is that my mood will stabilize at slightly below average.

If we get lucky, the meds work for awhile and that’s nice. It was a couple years this last time. But then it stops working and the demons return. Suddenly you have to start from scratch. And the upcoming months to find the right mix of meds might as well be an eternity.

And yes, I know life off the meds is enticing because you actually feel better. At least at first. But even though you feel like Superwoman off the medication it’s fleeting. You can’t live life in fast forward because you will crash, leading to life in slow motion. And I think we both remember how awful that is.

So we enter the fray once again. Not because we want to, but because we have to. It isn’t fun and I hate it. You REALLY hate it. But it’s important because I love you and I need you here with me. And Will needs you too. You’re his mom. You make this family tick and without you everything grinds to a halt.

My wife is in there somewhere and I want her back. I know it might only be for a year, maybe even less before we have to do this again. But it’s worth it. You’re worth it. It’s not fair that you’re saddled with this battle against yourself while your own mind tries to trick you and lead you astray, but this is the hand we’ve been dealt. And we’ll fight this battle again and again. However many times it takes. Because I miss your smile. The playful flicker in your eyes. And I’d beg, borrow and steal for the return of your laugh.

I miss my wife but she will come back to me. She has to.

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35 thoughts on “Come Back to Me

  1. Tears are streaming down my face. The love you have for your wife is overwhelming.

  2. Aaron, you may be the most selfless man that I know and your love for MJ is beyond recognition it is pure joy and bliss to see the love in your writing.

  3. Slader: Thanks but I’m no saint. Not even close. I’m not nearly patient enough and my stances on these types of disorders has not historically been good. I just never understood them and I basically told her to rub some dirt on it and walk it off. That’s changed over the years but it certainly didn’t help in the beginning.

    She’s the selfless one, trying to hold it together for herself and me and Will.
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  4. Hugs. You may not be patient etc but you’re something because you’re still there. I hope less help soon.

  5. It’s wonderful to see “in sickness and in health” in action and that you’ve come to a place of acceptance and understanding about MJ’s illness. My best wishes to her… I have a mental illness and I understand the struggle.

  6. Aw, man.

    It’s just wrong, how much the world has thrown at you guys.

    Hope they find the right balance for her. Soon. And, in doing so, find the balance for the both of you.

  7. Thank you for writing this. I’ve been through the medicine cycle with my mom for decades. You expressed what I feel about how awful the ups and downs with the medication are. (She actually had almost a decade of mostly good days on one medicine, but we’re still working on a new cocktail.) I appreciate your honesty and wish you luck with your patience as I know that patience is sometimes hard to find. All the best to your wife on her continued search for what works.

  8. Family is the place you go where they love you, take you in, then ask how they can help – in that order. What MJ has that many others do not is true love with her husband, a son who worships her, and family on both sides that love her will do what is necessary to help. but in the end it is her courage, here love, and her strength that will get her through it. She is right, I have judged her – and I have judged her to be the toughest, strongest and bravest person I know. We all love her and are here for her – and for you and Will. I have faith in MJ and in you. Hell, if it was easy anyone could do it.

  9. Coming from a family in which my dad struggles with this very thing, my mother and sister have anxiety disorders, and my husband has a history of depression and has OCD, I completely empathize with this.

    I am on the verge of tears. You are a wonderful man for being able to put things in perspective and being there for her. I hope she gets through it soon.

  10. I wasn’t able to read the whole post, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to not completely break down before my husband left out for work.

    I want to say that everything is sunshine and roses and that she’ll pull through it, and she may in time, but until then – it sucks. Not just for you, but for her too. She knows you’re being affected by it, she knows Will is being affected. If I can take liberties and assume she’s a lot like me, this post sounds like something my husband would likely write about me if he blogged, because I hear it all.the.time. For me it’s like trying to climb out of a hole that’s nothing more than a fishnet stocking that’s been stuffed with a balloon and I’m inside the balloon. I can see all these rays of light and great possibilities and know the support is there, but there’s an thin layer blocking my ability to actually grasp those things and that translucent layer is frustrating. It takes a lot of practice to be able to figure out how to grasp onto the support offered of the stocking, to get a leg up to the next rung, then lots of work to be able to fully grasp that next bit.

    I can’t offer words of advice or whatever to help her get free of the balloon or how you can help her climb out of it. I can only say that even though my husband and I have our ‘stupid little insignificant’ arguments, blow-ups, etc over “nothing” it does reassure me that he does care and I do try to practice making the efforts he asks me to make to get back to where he remembers me being with myself. I’ll do well for a while, but I really suck at it. I have a hard time trusting myself, that I am actually feeling the way I do feel and it’s not just a side effect of the medications or just a front I’m putting on to everyone and then it cycles back in there. For me it’s nothing that anyone can directly help me out of or do for me or whatever…I can say this or that or the other thing will make me feel better, and it may, for a little while, but those things never seem to be consistent or long lasting and then I’m seeking the next thing to experiment with to see if it’ll help.

    Bottomline: It sucks. It sucks for you, it sucks for Will, it sucks for her, it sucks for everyone else as well. She knows it sucks. She logically knows her actions, moods, etc are counterproductive to everyone’s happiness and peace, but it’s misfiring between the logistics and the applications. She’s scared and hurting and the more she tries to put on the happy face and make things appear to be all roses and sunshine the worse the bottom layers get. She’s trying to live up to this pedestal but emotionally doesn’t want to be there. She wants to be scared and cry under the covers all day and be held and not have to explain the whys or have to be sympathetic/empathetic to someone else and all they’re going through. She wants to scream and cuss and hit things without fear of negative judgment and just free her mind of all the raw emotions that are coursing through and be selfish about it. But doesn’t know how because that stupid logic crap takes over and gets in the way.

    And really…I know I say she, but only because easier to for me to put it that way, to express how I feel. It’s taken me a lot of practice to be able to analyze myself, outside of myself…it’s helped some, but it still sucks. I really don’t know what you can do to help her or even what she can do to help herself. It could also be that I’m just rambling because I can hear my own husband’s lamentations in your words and it’s painful while being relieving to hear that I’m not the only one who is stuck in a mental hell the equivalency of a hamster ball…always going somewhere but unable to get free.
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  11. Dealing with the ongoing struggles of mental health is a nightmare. Being in MJ’s place, I know the struggles of medications, the misery of waiting to see if it will be effective, the frustration of trying to figure out the correct dosage and the constant fears and worries that it is not working and that it will be another few weeks before you can try something else that MAY help. I would never wish it upon anyone. In dealing with all of the internal struggles, I often get even more upset in knowing what I am putting Mike through and how helpless he feels. Being there and wanting to help is the biggest thing you can do! You don’t need to understand why it is happening or what is going on (I’m sure MJ can’t even tell you herself!) but just knowing that someone out there is rooting for you and loving you despite being crazy (my word) makes all the difference!!

  12. This brought tears to my eyes. As someone in your wife’s place, I’d die for this kind of love and understanding from my husband. She’s so so very lucky to have you in her life and as a partner.

    Don’t give up on her. She will come back. Trust that deep down, she so desperately wants to.

    Thank you for this.
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  13. The passion of your words are incredibly powerful. I cannot begin to fathom what you and your family has endured, but I definitely keep you in thoughts and prayers for a happy – a lengthy happy – outcome. Stay strong and take care of your family … which you do an incredible job of.

  14. My husband calls my illness a “Moving Target”. It changes constantly. Meds change constantly. It’s hard to have hope when your Dr.’s are saying “try this…” and not, “Here, this will make it better”. For the past 9 years we’ve been shooting at the target. The past year the meds have helped-much more than ever. I’m trying not to think about when they will stop working. I just plow through. Some days it feels like something is shoving me backwards-I just keep plowing through. I have a husband and a son who need me-just like I need them. I’m going to show your post to my husband. Maybe seeing it through the eyes of another husband will help. Thank you so much for your honesty.

  15. I needed this. I needed to hear what the other side is like. I was diagnosed with postpartum depression and anxiety which tuned into a diagnosis of bipolar 2. In three years my soul has transformed in so many ways and yet my husband stands behind me 100%. I know that this illness is not my fault but I still take great blame for all the things that have gone wrong. It’s terrible to feel like a burden; like life would be so much better for him and my son if I weren’t in it messing it up…
    Like I said, thank you so much for writing this. My heart and soul needed this so badly today.
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  16. THANK YOU for this post…my ex-husband didn’t change his meds for more than a decade, claiming everything was fine even though his “crashes” as we called them went from a couple of weeks every 9 – 10 months, to a couple of weeks per month. The lack of his self-care was part of the downward spiral of our marriage (I’m no saint…I contributed to it as well). I’m glad he’s found a meds combination now that seems to be working (for now), even though it took the end of our marriage for him to seek help.
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  17. Aaron, I so want to hug you.Thank you for “the other side” of the struggle.I wish I could talk to you personally.I miss my old friend.It is hard to find her, through you all these years later to find her in so much pain.I myself battle demons that sound similar to MJ’s in this case.But as you know, no two situations are the same.Please keep the positivity going.Some days it is all we’ve got.I am between meds right now and have met the fleeting stage you mentioned.So off we go again with the trial and error fase.No fun at all.I,too am blessed with a supportive husband.Without whom this would be far worse.Thanks for continuing to share and for hanging in there.I remember that smile and the sparkle in MJ’s eyes.You are right.So worth it!

  18. WOW. This was so hard and so heavy… and so real. You sound exactly like my Dad speaking about my Mom… until he finally wore out and she refused to take her meds.
    The hope that still remains in your voice is amazing. And it lifed my heart a LOT.
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  19. I wish I had some nugget of wisdom to ease your stress for a moment, but I have worked so many patients stuck in the revolving door that is mental illness…it is just so hard for caregivers. I hope you are finding the time to take care of you too. That’s important too…
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  20. There are no words I can think of to say. I’ve got no advice for you. I can only wish you the best. But you already have that because you have each other.

  21. Hi, I am new to your blog and just read this post. I’ve never left a comment like this before, but felt compelled to do so now. Your words were very powerful and I’d like to echo many of the comments made by others. But I also feel it is necessary to commend MJ for having the strength and courage to allow you to print this. She must be an incredible woman, which would make you both very fortunate for what you have found in each other. Thank you both for your honesty.

  22. Hey Aaron, Sorry I’m so late to the party. Just read this and have to say that your words bring to light EVERYTHING anyone dealing with mental illness feels. My daughter is 14, and we have been on the medication roller coaster for over 8 years now. My heart breaks when I see the meds begin to stop working. I know she will fight for her normal, but we cry that we have to fight again. MJ needs you in her corner, orneriness and all. You bring truth to her world and lift her up when she can’t do it herself. The love you share is obvious and amazing. You are not alone, and the entire community of fighters is pulling for you both.

    Blessings to you all.

  23. This is such a sad but accurate story. I know because my son has Bi Polar. His wife is so understanding and loving but i know she cannot go through it all again. A single family member may have the diagnosis of Bi Polar but the entire family and any loyal friends suffer the illness.

  24. This is my first visit to your blog. I’m reading this from the other side, from MJ’s, as we head once more into the fray of ‘tweaking’ meds.

    Like MJ, I have a wonderful husband. Joel is endlessly patient and holds everything together when I cannot. The support of a wonderful husband is invaluable.

    I think he deserves so much better. This is so *not* what he signed on for. I have Bipolar2/Depression/Anxiety Disorder as well as 5 chronic illnesses, the latest of which has left me almost legally blind (permanantly). And still, he holds it together.

    So my question. Who looks after him? Who looks after you? I try to look after him but I want him to have more. I want to know you have someone else too, just to talk to, vent to, talk about nothing with.

    Thank you. On behalf of all of us MJs out there. Thank You.
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  25. My brother has recently started dating a lovely girl. he is 38. He ruins every relationship he has because of his mood swings, depression, whatever it is, he won’t get diagnosed. It has taken it’s toll on our family watching him just about get through life. I watch his delight at meeting this girl and if it looks like its going to work, part of me just wants to tell her to ‘run’ while she has a chance. I feel I want to warn her of the life she will lead, as I have seen my mother go through it with my father. I know it’s wrong, but she is young and happy now, and that wont last if she stays with my lovely, but very hard work brother.

    Your story is so familiar, good on on you for writing about it…

  26. Thank you all for your kind words, but also for sharing your own stories. If anything, I think the start of a discussion is always a positive thing. All the best to all of you.
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  27. She wants to scream and cuss and hit things without fear of negative judgment and just free her mind of all the raw emotions that are coursing through and be selfish about it. THANK YOU for this post…my ex-husband didn’t change his meds for more than a decade, claiming everything was fine even though his “crashes” as we called them went from a couple of weeks every 9 – 10 months, to a couple of weeks per month. you’re in my thoughts.
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