I surprised myself and my publisher yesterday by replying to their email saying the book Blessed Union: Breaking the Silence About Mental Illness and Marriage saved my life. For one, over the course of the years researching and writing the book, my marriage was saved by a combination of anti-depressant medications, anti-anxiety medications, CBD oil, individual psychotherapy, marriage counseling, and weekly date nights. Over years of intentional recovery work, our marriage of two people expanded to include a total of nine people (a therapist for each of us, a marriage therapist, a family therapist, a psychiatrist, a general practice doctor, and a regular babysitter). Blessed Union reflects this journey of advocacy and healing for ourselves as individuals and ourselves as a couple.
When the pandemic hit in 2020, I was just completing edits on the manuscript. Nobody knew what the pandemic year would bring, who would die or who would live. As part of my mental health condition of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), I can get caught up in fears about threats (real or imagined) to my health and safety. I began to imagine not surviving the pandemic, fearing death from an invisible and contagious deadly virus or getting injured while protesting in the streets this summer in support of the Black Lives Matter movement as part of the pandemic of racism. I imagined ways the virus and the pepper spray would attack my mind, body, and spirit.
I lost two close family members in 2020, both deaths tragic in their own unique ways. My grandmother who lived just shy of a century died in May. Then, the day before the election, on November 2, my 16 year old niece tragically died, sending shock waves into our family, friends, and wider community. I also feared that I might lose my husband to “the great despair” that comes with serious depression, and I worried this despair might consume us all. I lost nights of sleep to this fear of death coming closer and closer, my own personal pandemic spiral of dying.
I began to ruminate on the possibility that I wouldn’t live to see Blessed Union published. Would the world come to an end before 2021? Would my life come to an end, overcome by sorrow, by loss, by exhaustion, by fear? Not that I had any plans to end my life, but life in a pandemic didn’t seem to care about my plans.
If I shall die before I wake, then at least as of today, Blessed Union has come into the world. I honestly didn’t know if I would make it to see this day. I didn’t know, dear reader, if we would make it. Yet, here I am. Here you are. Today we are alive.
It’s my testimony that there’s power in needing other people. We need other people to hear the stories about the pain we carry. Mental and emotional pain is real and is nothing to be ashamed about. It’s the strong who cry out for help. It’s those we can hear crying out for help that we have the best chance to save.
I want us to be saved from silent suffering, to be saved from isolated despair, to be saved from the burden of holding the trauma of hurting all alone. I want us to survive this life together.