I came out publicly revealing my diagnosis in 2015 after more than twenty years of silence and secrecy. Over the holidays, People Magazine published an article about two men who saved my life. My husband posted the article on Facebook, so many people who didn’t previously know that I have schizophrenia found out.
Since I have come, out one of the most common things for people to say to my husband is something along the lines of how “great” “amazing” or “special” he is. I would be the first to tell you that my husband is all of those things. I am my husband’s biggest fan, and every day we are together I feel like I won the lottery. But I don’t feel that way because he married someone with schizophrenia or because he “stays” with me.
Our marriage is not an act of charity. We have a marriage (two people) not a one-sided caregiving arrangement. We do deal with my symptoms, and I have to admit my husband has become an expert in helping me manage instances of paranoia, panic attacks, fatigue (from medication), etc. Other couples have issues they deal with too. Some fight about money and I don’t think my husband, and I have ever had an argument about our finances in the almost twenty years we have been together. Other couples get mad at one another for their habits, or for their hobbies, and my husband and I laugh at each other for the things other couples might find irritating.
We laugh a lot. And we enjoy each other’s company. We give each other advice and listen to each other’s hopes and dreams. Is our marriage perfect? It is to me. We have had some significant challenges in our marriage, and we have eventually worked through them together. We have gotten better over time at putting each other first, communicating, and not letting little things build up.
So if you hear about someone who is married to a person who has a mental illness, please stop and consider the message you are sending if you say that person is a “saint.” You are saying that a marriage to someone with a mental illness is an extraordinary thing to do and makes that person automatically special. A mental illness doesn’t change the core of who a person is and if the core of a person is kind, smart, funny, and loving, then why wouldn’t someone want to marry that person?
Is someone with cancer or diabetes a burden to their spouse? No. Life happens to all of us, and marriage is for better or worse – in my house there is so much more of the better than there is of the worse.
Wedding rings photo available from Shutterstock