Thank You, Zeke

Zeke and I wrote our own vows for our wedding. It was the only secret we kept from each other until the big day. We gave each other a rough estimate of length so I wouldn’t be stuck saying a few sentences in response to his paragraphs, but that was it. I will always remember the words Zeke said to me that day. He stood in front of our closest friends and family and promised to love me for the rest of his life. He vowed many things, but perhaps the part that meant the most to me was the way he addressed my struggle with mental illness. He didn’t shy away from words like “depression” “anxiety” and “suicide.” He spoke them, out loud, and still stood proud and happy to be my husband. He talked about the way he would help me fight and would fight for me on the days that were too hard. I said a similar thing in response, even though we hadn’t planned it at all. Zeke and I have never been afraid of talking about the hard things and sometimes that gets us in trouble. But that day, it was exactly what I needed. And every single day after, he has been exactly what I needed.

We are coming up on a whole year of marriage in May and I can not believe how fast it has flown by. People say the first year of marriage is the hardest and I hope that’s true because we sure do have an easy road ahead if it is. All joking aside, this year has been one of the most amazing years of my life. Marriage is the greatest adventure out there. I get to wake up next to my best friend every single day. I have someone who smells my morning breath and still wants to kiss me at night. I have someone who is always there to laugh at my lame jokes and narrate my cat’s life with me. I will never have to watch an episode of Leverage alone again. I am weird and he is more weird and it’s wonderful living with someone that weird.

Marriage is wonderful. This past year has been wonderful. Mental illness is not wonderful. Living with depression and anxiety is not wonderful. Having to love someone who struggles with depression and anxiety is not wonderful. It means you get pushed away – a lot. It means you get yelled at for things that are not your fault by a girl who feels trapped in her head. It means you have to work extra hard to keep your spouse alive and fighting for a life she doesn’t want to live some days. It means you have to go the extra mile every single day, even when you are exhausted, and often without thanks. Zeke vowed that he would love me in the midst of all of it and he has spent every day making good on that promise. Every morning, he renews his vows to me by loving me at my worst. I don’t know how it feels to be him in this relationship. I don’t know what it’s like to watch my partner fall apart, but I know it can’t be easy trying to keep them together.

So, today, I’d like to say thank you, Zeke.

Thank you for loving your depressed wife. Thank you for running a bath and lighting candles and filling the apartment with worship music when you know I haven’t had the strength to shower in days. Thank you for cooking me dinner for the third night in a row when you get home from a 16-hour shift because you know I probably forgot to eat. Thank you for ordering me food at work when you’re away. Thank you for cleaning the apartment without complaint when my laundry piles up so much you can’t walk through the bedroom door. Thank you for holding me when you come home to a wife lying on the couch covered in a puddle of tears. Thank you for calling me to remind me to go outside before the sun sets. Thank you for doing yoga with me in the mornings even though you hate it. Thank you for letting me yell at you more often than I should. Thank you for making me get out of bed even when I’m yelling at you for it.

Thank you for loving your anxious wife. Thank you for texting me when you get to work. Every day. Thank you for checking to make sure the door is locked. Every night. Thank you for finding a phone to call me with when you don’t have phone service somewhere (thanks, T-Mobile). Thank you for talking me through every worst-case scenario until three in the morning. Thank you for asking questions for me. Thank you for making calls for me. Thank you for answering my phone when I don’t know the caller. Thank you for texting people behind my back when I don’t know how to talk to them. Thank you for pushing me to order my own food.

Thank you for loving your wife who is having a good day. Thank you for being goofy with me. Thank you for laughing at my Galileo joke for the 700th time. Thank you for looking me like the sun when I find the strength to smile. Thank you for going on ridiculous adventures with me, even when you work early in the morning. Thank you for going to the zoo with me 6,000 times. Thank you for riding roller coasters you really, really don’t want to ride. Thank you for letting me dream and for watching the Disney DVD with me at least once a month. Thank you for tactfully talking me down from buying the cheap plane tickets I found for tomorrow to (insert location here). Thank you for saving your pennies and budgeting out money for our adventure fund when you know it’s secretly just a Disney World fund.  Thank you for letting me wrestle you when I have too much energy. Thank you for laughing with me. Every day.

Thank you for loving your wife. Thank you for loving me for me, no matter where I am. Thank you for not letting me stay there. Thank you for calling me out on my bull. Thank you for yelling back. Thank you for pushing me forward. Thank you for making me get help. Thank you for urging me to take my meds. Thank you for driving me to counselors appointments. Thank you for not being mad at me when I quit going to counseling. Thank you for making me go back to counseling. Thank you for knowing what you signed up for and not running the other way when you saw me coming down the aisle. Thank you for always, always making me laugh. Thank you for being a feminist. Thank you for getting angry with me about the things I get angry about. Thank you for supporting me in my passions. Thank you for making me go to church. Thank you for praying for me. Thank you for leading me closer to Christ.

Thank you for loving me unconditionally and without hesitation. Every day.

This marriage thing is the best thing I have ever been a part of. I love you more than words could ever say.

Thank you.

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No, I’m Not Doing Well (And, Maybe, Neither Are You)

A few days ago, my beloved dog, Nali, passed away. She was the greatest dog I have ever known. I don’t like dogs, but I loved her with all my heart. On Sunday, she stopped eating and my parents let me know they were taking her to the vet. On Monday, the vet told us she had a tumor and was bleeding internally. We decided to put her down on Tuesday. Monday night, I worked until 9:30 and drove to Ann Arbor to say goodbye in case she didn’t make it through the night. I drove home that night, worked 8:30-3:30 the next day, and then drove back up to say goodbye as we put her down. It was awful and truly one of the hardest things I have ever had to experience.

I work as a manager at a retail store, so my job is to be happy – even when everyone around me isn’t. Even when customers are screaming at me, even when my life is falling apart, even when I’m not sure how I’m going to make it through the day – I have to stand, smiling and unshaken. And that’s okay. It’s my job and it’s a lot of other peoples’ jobs and most days it doesn’t bother me. I knew what I was signing up for when I took this job. On Monday and Tuesday, my job was almost impossible.

I ask everyone that walks in how they are doing, and if they ask how I’m doing in response, I’ll always say that I’m doing well. I say it with a smile. Even when I literally just came out of the back with snot running out my nose and tears streaming down my face. I wipe it away, smile, and say I’m doing just fine. And the people I ask do the same thing.

This doesn’t just happen at work. It happens at church, too. It happens in the grocery store. It happens when I get drinks with my friends. It happens when I’m filling my tank. It happens on my social media posts. It happens everywhere, every day, with every person I interact with. We say we’re doing well and I’m doing well and you’re doing well and it’s one huge load of crap. We’re lying – to each other, and to ourselves. Because maybe if we say it enough times, it will start to be true. And maybe if we say it enough times, we won’t feel bad about lying anymore. Maybe we won’t feel bad about not asking again anymore, either. Because we’re selfish and we’re scared and we don’t want to know about other people’s problems and we don’t want to share our own.

If I learned anything (and I learned a whole lot) during my time as an intern at TWLOHA, it’s that people need other people. It’s that we aren’t meant to do this life thing alone. It’s that we are all broken people and we are meant to hold each other in our brokenness and we are meant to carry each other’s burdens. And that all sounds wonderful and beautifully poetic until stuff gets real and your dog is dying or your finances are falling apart or you’re getting a divorce or your kids are addicted to drugs or your dad is turning into an alcoholic or, or, or… and you have to start actually relying on other people to carry that stuff. Relying on other people is hard. And being the person someone else relies on is hard, too. But it’s necessary. If we don’t start relying on each other and being honest, we’re just going to keep falling apart. We’re not going to make it without the help of one another, and we can’t help each other until we start telling the truth.

Today, a man came into my store and I asked how he was doing. He looked at me and said, “I’m doing well… Well, actually I’m not. But that’s just what we say, isn’t it?” And I smiled. Not because I was happy that this guy was having a crappy day, but because this guy was the first person to honestly answer that question. It was a breath of fresh air. So, in honor of that random stranger who was brave enough to tell me the truth, I’d like to step out and do some truth-telling of my own:

I’m not doing well. I haven’t been in quite some time. It’s not because my dog died. I miss my dog, I do. But it’s not because my dog died. It’s because I have to live with an illness that takes over my mind and steals my joy and that’s a hard thing to fight every day. So, no, I’m not doing well. But I’m making it through. I’m working on myself and I’m working on viewing myself as a work in progress. I’m spending more time with my Jesus and that helps a lot. I’m going to start looking for a counselor again, and I’m going to ask Zeke to help me remember to take my meds. I’m not okay, and I can’t even say that I’m getting there, because I don’t feel like I am. But I’m still fighting. I’m still here, and I’m not planning on going anywhere soon. I’m victorious, even though I don’t feel like it.

And I’m working on being honest. But no, I’m not doing well.