Tumultuous times, hopeful times

I keep wondering when my life will stop feeling so tumultuous.

That’s not always a bad feeling, I might add. For example, diving head first into entrepreneurship and immersing myself in all of the materials from Marie Forleo’s B-School program has been wonderful — even though I do feel like I’m under water some of the time. OK, a lot of the time. But I’m forging ahead with a new business and continuing to learn as I work through the program.

But the other area of my life that’s still very wobbly is my marriage. I’ve written before that my husband of nearly 16 years was recently diagnosed with dysthymia, a form of long-term depression. This diagnosis was a relief, because for years I’ve known something was wrong and couldn’t convince him of it. When he sought treatment a couple of years ago, it was woefully inadequate — but again, he wouldn’t listen to me when I told him he needed to see a psychiatrist, not just his internist.

In January, he finally made the decision on his own to seek help.

Since he started treatment, he has shown some progress in understanding what, in fact, has happened to him: that he has been ill for as many as 20+ years, and it has taken a huge toll on his life and every aspect of it. He doesn’t yet fully grasp this situation, but the enormity is beginning to dawn on him. As a result, he’s talking more to me about what’s going on with him, which is great, and he has an excellent psychologist who’s helping him.

But as a consequence, I am now learning more about what his life has been like with me for the past however many years.

I’ve been shocked by it.

All this time I thought that I was building a marriage, I really have been building nothing. He has not felt anything except sadness or, literally, nothing, for many, many years. No love for me. No engagement in our relationship. Nothing.

And all this time, I took on the burden of our problems, thinking that my past history of domestic violence and PTSD was the reason for our marriage breaking down. That wasn’t true at all. Yes, they played some small role in our relationship, but overall it was minor. Somehow I knew that that was the truth, but I was so conditioned to take the blame, I did it readily.

After I finished my own therapy for PTSD/trauma, I realized that, in fact, I was not the one causing problems. But still, my husband wouldn’t listen to me.

That’s where I’m stuck right now. I’ve learned a lot about what has been happening inside his depressed mind all these years, and I know I’ll learn even more as the weeks go on. What I can’t get past is that he watched me suffer, listened to my pleas, and he still continued to deny that he had any problems or that he could do anything to help. He told me he would say to himself, “There’s nothing wrong with me. I’m fine.” By doing that over a period of 10+ years, he destroyed any trust I have in him.

I know that these tumultuous times will lead to learning on my part. One thing I’ve learned, and have been doing, is that I need to be straight with him. I’ve openly expressed my anger and resentment at being treated so shabbily. He, in turn, is realizing that he needs to work very hard to earn back my trust. One way he’s doing that is by listening, as best he can these days, to my anger and not shutting down, which is what he would have done in the past. So for the first time in years, I actually feel a ray of hope that our marriage can be turned around. I saw a glimpse of him as a partner this past week, someone who could listen and respond to me appropriately.

There’s still a long way to go. His treatment process is so new, that I won’t really know for several more months if it’s going to help with our relationship. But I had no hope before. Now, I do.

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