My husband and I had an argument today. Argument #3,186. Really, though, there are only 2 arguments: you won’t do what I say and... I forget the other one. I can’t say that we fight often but when we do they can be doozies. We have never raised our hands to each other. We have, however, raised our hands to several unfortunate, inanimate objects around the house. Today nothing was thrown in anger. Instead, my depression kicked in.
I have suffered from depression since I was 12. It is suffering. It’s hard to describe the bleakness that makes it seem like someone pulled the plug on every good thing you ever had. It’s a withering feeling-that this world would be better off without me in it, that nothing good ever happens, that nothing will ever change. “Why is this still happening to me?” I cry. I spent years, my whole 3rd decade practically, in therapy, so that I wouldn’t be 42 and sitting on the floor crying.
Because that’s where I am: sitting on the hall floor, crying hysterically, while my husband is trying to be mad at me. Moments like this, he doesn’t quite know what to do with me. A minute ago we were having a heated debate, now I am a soppy, pathetic mess. He tries logic: “My children don’t love me.” I wail. “Yes, they do. Look how happy they are to see you when you come home.” He tries honesty: “You must be thinking, ‘Oh, here we go again.’” “Yes, that is what I’m thinking right now.” It seems so trite to put it on paper. I’d shame us both if I told you some of the thoughts that I think are true when I’m depressed. At 17 I broke up with a perfectly nice guy because I was convinced that being around me would contaminate him. I thought I was broken. Occasionally, I still do.
It’s hard to convey this to anyone. It’s especially hard to convey it to my husband, my best friend, when I would REALLY like for him to understand what is happening to me and if at all possible not act like an ass or do anything that might set me off, which is really unfair because criticizing my inability to handle criticism will usually make me laugh, 99% of the time, except for when it makes me curl up in the fetal position and question my right to exist. “You don’t understand what this is like!” I yell.
So my husband gets down on the floor next to me and doesn’t do anything. I relax enough that I can start to talk about the things that haunt me, things no one else knows about me but him. Although he doesn’t get depressed, he’s had his own dark thoughts, his pervasive worries. In 12 years neither of us has been scared away, neither has said, “What the hell are you talking about?” Once or twice we may have come close, but he didn’t and I didn’t and here we are. When my little one asks about our wedding rings, I tell her they are a symbol of a promise we made to each other, to never leave.
So I like to think that love, as I understand it, as I first understood it when my husband sat down on the floor with me, that love is an action word. Funny, I’ve had other relationships where we never fought. We were happy right up until we broke up. I really thought I loved some of those people. I certainly said I love you. Some of them even “understood” me better than my husband, but they’re not here and he is.
I think I’ve finally started to know love as a woman, not as a wounded child. Love isn’t something you want, it’s something you do. It’s why my dad, who never said he loved me, showed up for every play, every junior varsity game, every swim meet. It’s why I let the girls sleep with me when they are sick, even thought it guarantees I’ll be next. Because love is about being there, even when you don’t want to, even when you think you can’t. Now I understand that love is about not walking out: not on my husband, not on my kids, not on myself.
“All right,” I say to him, “I’m done crying.”
“For good?” He asks hopefully.
“For now.” He sighs, but hey, it’s a start.