Today’s prompt was actually, “A family member you dislike”, but that’s a hot topic that I’d really rather not get into. I mean, I could nearly wax poetic on the subject and use broad examples of the types of traits certain family members have that make me crazy, but I don’t really want to get into that.
What I really want to talk about is that it’s my husband’s birthday!
I could wax poetic in totally different ways over the Main Man in my life, about how it seems like we’ve been together so much longer than only four years – and only in the very best ways – but there’s something specific that I want to share.
I am so proud of my husband, it’s hard sometimes to put it into words.
We talk a lot on the internet about how happiness is a state of mind, how it’s a choice, how it’s a thing that you achieve when things just come together right in your life, but that’s not true for some people. I mean, yeah, it’s about choices, but sometimes certain circumstances have a way of making those choices much harder to accomplish.
For anyone who knew Craig while he was growing up (and, really, anytime in the last 30-plus years), you know that he had some anger issues. He was prone to fits, he behaved in a manner of someone who’d been severely traumatized (even though, to the best of his knowledge, he never was), and he was volatile. He was also an amazing human who showed enormous compassion at times, and he’s always been funny, he doesn’t take himself too seriously, he lives his passion and is passionate about his livelihood…
And last year, I wasn’t sure that he would live to see this birthday.
I stuck with the first years of our marriage because I could see the amazing human in there – the one that I fell hopelessly in love with – despite the mood swings and bouts of depression that bordered on flat-out abusive at times. I do not characterize those events as purely abusive because there was no actual malice involved, he was reacting to something way outside of either of us. I nearly left a few times, he tried to toss me out a few times, and for some bizarre reason, I stuck with it.
I could see the pain and conflict in his eyes. I knew that he wasn’t actually asking me to leave, he was begging me to go – not because he didn’t love me but exactly because he loved me, and he felt powerless to not hurt me. In fact, when I first proposed to him, he stated clearly that he was hesitant because he didn’t want to hurt me anymore. I told him then (as I’ll tell anyone now), you can’t help but hurt each other at some point, that’s part of being in a relationship. What you can do is try your best to figure out what lets you hurt them, apologize, try not to do it again, dig in and find out more about yourself.
Last year, the fits were getting worse, lasting longer, and there were days and then weeks at a time where his bright mirthsome eyes were dull and dead and angry. I couldn’t see the love in them anymore, only pain and heartache. I am confident enough in myself to know that it wasn’t me – I was still doing everything in my power to be the best partner I could be, to be tolerant and helpful, to maintain a “normal” for him to live in while he worked through whatever – but whatever was eating him was getting down to the crucial parts of his soul.
He fell apart in the worst way.
I wasn’t worried – I was terrified.
I’d found my perfect partner, and I felt powerless to help him, because even if you have the most effective medicine in the world at your fingertips, you can’t make someone take it.
He didn’t think he was worthy of feeling better. He didn’t know what happy felt like anymore. He didn’t believe that he deserved to live, let alone to be loved.
And then, he did the bravest, most important thing in his entire life.
He got help.
It wasn’t easy at all. It was grueling, undoing so many years of negative reinforcement. It was hard to look at himself and acknowledge the difference between who he actually was as a human and who the monster was that acted on his behalf. He had to face down his demons and wrestle them into submission. He consciously forced himself to make the choice every single day to be a better person, to not let Bad Voice speak for him, to not believe what Bad Voice said. He told me about all the moments where he realized he could catch himself, he could stop himself from slipping down into the hole again.
And my heart swells with pride every time he talks about it.
There were many nights – way too many nights – when I’d cry myself to sleep, crushed under the fear and worry and stress of having to live with the evil doppelganger of the man I adore. I will not pretend that I was staunchly by his side the whole way through – hell no, I was ready to pack my shit, I did pack my shit, more than once – but there was always this voice inside, this constant reminder, that there was a beautiful man in there, and that love and patience and maybe sometimes being a tough-as-nails broad might let him feel safe enough to come out.
I don’t know how much of the time I spent fighting and talking and waiting had to do with his actual decision, but I’d like to think that it made the transition easier. It’s hard to come out of the darkness if you don’t have a light to find your way, right?
But I didn’t do the hard work. My incredible husband, my best friend in the world, my love and companion, Craig – he did the hard work, and he still does it every day.
Most of the time, he listens to his voice and is kinder to all of the kids. He helps out when asked, he buys thoughtful little gifts, he snuggles on the couch, he seeks out love and attention instead of waiting until someone notices he wants to be held. He’s gotten back into rock climbing sometimes, and he’s run TWO 10Ks in the last few months. He has a healthy fruit smoothie every morning, he takes his vitamins, he walks the dog… and some days, he slips a little, and he can tell, and then he pulls himself back up.
Those are the days when I am most proud of him.
I love you so much, baby. Happy birthday!