This post is about me, the author of this blog.
I’ve lived with mental illness most (all?) of my life. For me, the primary illness has been depression, but in recent years anxiety has taken centre-stage.
At time of writing this, I’m 41 years old and I live with my wife and our two beautiful children who are ‘prep’ primary school and kinder aged respectively. Without a doubt, being a parent is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Nothing could have prepared me for the ongoing challenge of being responsible – jointly, of course – for the life and upbringing of other human beings.
One event stands out for me when it comes to reflecting on the pressures of being parent. My wife and I were attending a ‘class’ for parents-to-be at a nearby hospital. The course was offered to try and give first-time parents some ‘heads-up’ on what is involved in the birthing process, how the male partner might be able to help the mother and what sorts of techniques will be supportive and so forth. Well, what I remember clearly about this class is that I stormed out of the class in a real huff.
As I recall, I’d already felt anxiety (dread?) build up about the impending arrival of our first-born – our son. So I was already nervous and anxious and at one point during the class, the lady giving the instruction said something like “Don’t be anxious, you’ll make the mother anxious and it’ll all go wrong”. I’m paraphrasing the woman — it’s been several years since, but the gist was ‘stay chilled’.
I remember feeling attacked by this line of reasoning. I knew in my heart of hearts that I was exactly, precisely the sort of person this woman would have most assuredly wanted kept away from a mother, from a birth; whatever it was. I was sure (at least at the time) that I was definitely going to fuck up the upcoming birth by being anxious, by being me (to a certain extent). I felt angry, targeted. I think I said something that was audible, maybe ‘Oh fuck this shit’ and then I got up (leaving my wife seated) and I walked out…
I don’t recall whether the teacher said anything and to be honest, I was too preoccupied with my own tortuous logic that saw me storm out rather than confront any deep psychological well of issues that needed closer inspection and dedicated time and treatment.
I sat somewhere and eventually my wife came and saw me. I think she left shortly after me – quite embarrassed by what I’d done. I’m sorry I did that to her, even now thinking back on it.
Why am I mentioning this event that happened nearly 6 years ago? Because my rage … or outrage was something that I’d previously considered to be out of character for me. I’d never thought of myself as some saint, or someone with high morals or ethics or anything particularly kind, but I’d also never thought of myself as unhinged, as unstable and prone to upset to a degree that will see me leave a public event in a bout of anger. This was something dark and new and it was happening on the cusp of taking on the most demanding and most urgent of duties of my life. In short, this did not bode well.
And as time has shown, it did not bode well, indeed.
Metaphorically, I’ve accumulated a large number of wounds to my person of the past years. I’ve been hurt and I’ve hurt others. I’ve lied … so much. I’ve been amoral, I’ve been unethical. I’ve been presented with choice after choice in my recent life and I’ve chosen poorly sufficiently often that my life now has a sort of inertia towards negative outcomes. It’s not something I’m imagining – the choices I’ve made in my life in response to stress, anxiety, depression, heck just sometimes wanting life to be a source of FUN — it’s made others distrustful of me. That’s a tough on to undo. People don’t just CTRL+Z and suddenly put aside the ways you’ve wronged them.
I’m gonna skip over a whole bunch of shit and acknowledge that I’m writing this post now because a bit earlier I was in tears, crying (sooking, as my wife might say) at the computer. I’d just finished cooking some crappy dinner and as usual I was apparently pissing my wife off with my anxious routine, wanting the house tidied up when I got home from work and apparently just whinging about everything, at least according to my wife. At one point during the dinner prep I hurt myself accidentally – something minor, a cut on some furniture and yelled out in pain. My wife responded ‘Oh what is it NOW?!’. She’s reacted like that before when I’ve hurt myself. It’s hard to know where to begin to analyze this, but the bottom line is this: She’s sick to death of me. She’s sick of my whinging, of my anxiety, of my continual desire to clean up, to sweep, vacuum. When I insist I’m a good father, she points out that I shout at the children and at her and make her stressed just by my returning home. Sometimes she just wants me gone … tonight I’ll oblige – going to my Uncle and Aunties home nearby — just for some space —
In short, even without spelling out any specifics, I’ve clearly let people down. I’ve hurt my family and especially hurt my wife. I’ve pissed her off. I’ve made her regret marrying me. I’ve made her regret whole years of her life. Arguments with my wife sometimes seem like a contest, where I’m trying to muster a reasoned argument and every time I lose. My wife is much stronger than I am, in so many ways. She’s able to get up and do things, even when she doesn’t want to. She sets plans and sticks to them. She sets bedtime alarms and gets up when they go off, instead of abusing the ‘snooze’ button as I’m likely to do. She’s able to compartmentalize her anger and disgust with her husband whilst perfectly easily cuddling our beautiful children. I’m both scared of her (for her ability to hurt me psychologically and emotionally) and amazed by her. And I still love her.
She no longer has any love for me. That was destroyed by multiple acts of break of trust by me, deep disappointments that cut deep into the things she valued. While I’ve shed many tears of my regrets, many professed to her, they don’t change things, at least not for her. And how can I blame her? If the tables were turned and I was married to a person who had the sorts of mental issues I have, who added these layers of challenge to so many daily interactions, who had broken trust in such fundamental ways and had so many times promised to ‘fix it up’ only to fail again – how would I NOT have already given up on that person?
So, I’m aware of my issues and the legacy of pain I’ve caused. I cannot undo what I’ve done and expect to be seen in the same light as before. But I can surely help mend fences, start to show my children what it means to crawl out from under a hole and start to truly be an adult to look up to. And of course, for my love of my wife – even now that it’s unrequited; I must change.
I’ve started this change in recent weeks – it’s been both counselling and medical in nature. I’m apart to start a new round in this treatment and it’ll be in the form of medicine given monthly. It’s apparently got wonderful efficacy at the sorts of anxiety I suffer from and I’m really looking forward to commencing that new stage.
And so, here’s a little countdown. For me, for anyone. Thank you for reading.
hours minutes seconds
My recovery – new treatment commences!