I’ve had a lot of people say to me, “I can’t believe you stayed.” Of course this was in reference to the fact that I didn’t leave my husband as he struggled through six years of near-constant suicidal thoughts, five suicide attempts (including one near-death car accident in which he drove into a semi truck on the highway), and a physical, emotional, and spiritual battle second to very few I’ve actually heard. To this day, much of our story has yet to be shared. This is mostly because some of it is still just too hard to talk about, even for an extremely open writer like me. We’re working through it, but it takes time.
My husband and I have been through hell on earth together and we’ve shared a huge amount of our story, so I get the idea that many people hold regarding the fact that I could have just left and been done with it all. It’s all just too much, right?
Or is it?
I’ve heard a lot of people say God only gives you what you can handle. Well, I truly mean no disrespect to you people, but you are absolutely, positively, 100% full of crap. God will always give you more than you can handle; He will never give you more than He can handle.
And that was my “secret” through all of it. Honestly, leaving never even crossed my mind. And I know with all my heart and soul that God took that battle on for me. I’m not strong enough; I would have walked away had He not blessed me with love and respect deeper than any other emotion I’ve ever felt. I learned to turn to Him during the most intense and terrifying time of my life, and I thank God He gave me that strength.
God gave me a gift. He forced me to know that I would be OK . . . with our without my husband alive.
Because Jeremy survived all five of his suicide attempts, I get to choose him over and over, every day. I can’t say mental illness will never murder my husband. I understand the disease better than that. But I can say I’ll be OK no matter what. I can live without my husband, I just don’t want to. So I choose him.
Jeremy has now been free of suicidal thoughts for over three years. He learned how to accept help and we fought together with the help of an enormous support system. From doctors, counselors, nurses, family, and friends, to a social network of mental health supporters, we found that being open and honest was one of the most important factors in healing. Now, we share our story of hope in mental illness with anyone who will listen. And we get to tell you our secret to marriage and mental illness.
All you have to do is ask yourself one question: “Are you both committed to your marriage?”
Yes, I said both. I have found through experience that success in marriage comes down to one word—commitment. Sounds so simple, right? Ha! It’s not. Both parties have to be willing to put in the work for each other.
I’m a fighter. In fact, my husband calls me his firecracker. Ever heard a song by Josh Turner? Part of the lyrics go:
“When I light the fuse,
I gotta get back quick.
You gotta be careful with a dynamite stick.”
Jeremy always said that the first time he heard that song, he knew good ol’ Josh had written it about me. Of course, that’s beyond wrong. But to my husband, it’s my song.
The funny part is, as much as my husband likes to say how strong I am, the bottom line is that I have never met a stronger or more determined fighter in my entire life than my husband. To fight mental illness, in my view, is the ultimate fight. It’s a physical, emotional, and spiritual battle that many of us can never understand. It’s a daily struggle.
Most importantly, it’s a minute-to-minute, second-to-second decision to keep fighting.
Mental illness doesn’t go away, but my husband and I were able to fight it hard enough to find out how to regulate the extremes of the disease. Jeremy chooses every day to take his medications, to see doctors every month, to meet with counselors and pastors daily, and to be completely honest about what his brain is doing and what he is experiencing.
So when we talk commitment, we are talking a willingness to fight, both with and for each other. When Jeremy is weak, I am strong. When I am weak, he is strong. We know we have to be that for each other in order to keep going. Most importantly, we both know, and rely on the fact, that God is 100% the center of our marriage. He is our strength, our refuge, and our reason.
My husband and I took our vows seriously, even if we didn’t entirely know what we were getting ourselves into when we got married. Life has challenged every aspect of those vows.
The truth is this: if Jeremy wasn’t willing to fight his mental illness by accepting help for himself and our marriage, if I hadn’t been willing to fight hard for Jeremy when his brain wouldn’t let him, and if Jeremy and I hadn’t learned how to seek a stronger relationship with our God, mental illness would have taken us down a long time ago.
If you or someone you love is having thoughts of self-harm or suicide, please seek help. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
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