Here’s our love story: We met online initially, then after a few weeks of online communication, we decided to meet up in person at a yoga studio. Following a Friday night candlelight flow session, he invited me out for some sushi. That’s how I first met and started dating my husband.
This narrative is an acceptable modern day love story. It’s the kind of thing making the rounds right now as part of the “Valentine’s Day Challenge.” Most of these stories on my social media feed are heartwarming and stick to the norms of acceptability. But I began to wonder how I could fold and bend myself into a typical love story narrative.
The reason why I wrote the new book Blessed Union: Breaking The Silence About Mental Illness And Marriage is because it can feel awfully lonely being in a partnership that doesn’t fit the culture’s definition of “happily ever after.” Sure, we’ve got a love story, but it’s different. When there are mental health challenges within a blessed union, the #ValentinesDayChallege questions feel like a mockery of all the hard work. Who cries more, who falls asleep first, who loses their temper…when serious depression, anxiety, addiction, and PTSD are part of the marriage, these questions mean something else.
What about when crying turns to sobbing at the profound triggering of childhood neglect?
What about when the depression is so bad that sleeping is the only thing that makes living possible?
What about anxiety attacks that explode like dynamite?
I’m grateful we are now starting to create public spaces for Real Talk About Real Marriage as we did last week with this powerful panel of mental health experts. We are making room for all of our love stories: the happy ones, the sad ones, the manic ones, the tragic ones, the complex ones, and the hard ones. Telling our true stories will help bring healing and help end the stigma and shame of mental illness.
For this #ValentinesDayChallenge, remember the challenges are real and plentiful for many of us living with mental health challenges as we try our best to love ourselves and our sweethearts, but it’s not always a cute social media story and photo we feel like sharing.
Today I celebrate the kind of love that holds you when you’re triggered by trauma, holds vigil by the bedside, and holds onto hope while the emotional storm passes through. I celebrate the deep love of oneself and the love that compels us to create wide concentric circles of support. On this Valentine’s Day, I want to thank all the people who make our love story possible: the therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors, spiritual directors, doctors, support groups, friends, and family. Most of all, I want to thank my Valentine for 17 years together and 15 years of marriage, our blessed union.