In so many ways, things are wildly better than they’ve ever been. And that’s why we’re having big, hard, conversations multiple times a week.
Let me explain.
Until recently, we’ve been smack in the middle of some transition or crisis pretty much all the time. But now no one has died, no one has a new diagnosis, we aren’t moving, no one is switching careers or even jobs, no one is going back to school, and while money isn’t everything we’d like it to be, we’re okay. This is a new state for us, things being stable and reasonably sane. When you’re busy moving, or coping with a new illness or diagnosis, or switching careers, or dealing with someone dying, you just don’t have the resources to dig in to the bigger issues. You’re just trying to survive, day by day.
On top of that, Catharine’s anxiety wasn’t well-controlled until January. Until it was, we had no idea just how much her anxiety, and the meltdowns that went with it, were running the show. Until we weren’t having to manage her being anxious to various degrees every minute of every day, we couldn’t address bigger problems because any attempt brought the anxiety rushing to the fore, and then we had to focus on it.
So it’s because things are going so relatively well that we’re now mired in such difficulties. Thirteen plus years of un- or under-treated mental illness combined with a hell of a lot of transition means there’s a lot of shit to unpack, a lot of patterns to rewrite.
And — I’ll be honest here — sometimes I’d really like to know when we’ll get to the “things are really good” part. Things are so much better than they used to be, and we’re still so far away from what I want things to be like. Some days I feel at peace with that, confident that we’ll get there. Some days my anger that we aren’t there yet turns into despair that we’ll never get there.
As a friend of Catharine’s says, “the only way out is through, and the only way through is art.” So I write.
I write because all those years of anger and frustration and resentment need to come out into the fresh air so they can dissipate. I write because there are so many layers, so many intersecting things, that writing is a key way for me to untangle them. I write because I need to center my own experience for myself.
It’s not that I don’t also express these things to Catharine. I do, and she hears me, and we’re working through it all, slowly. But part of writing is throwing off the shame of having stress in my marriage, of not having a perfect relationship. It’s letting go of being the protector, making sure no one could think anything bad about her. It’s showing up to the messy, complicated, beauty of what healing looks like, for both of us.