What Happened After My Husband Left the Psych Ward
I said, "Don't move."
He'd already called his mother and father. I told him to stay on the line until I got there. When I arrived home, I was disoriented, in shock. Yet somehow his parents and I got him to the hospital. Then he was placed in an inpatient facility. He would stay two weeks for his suicide attempt.
Matt and I met in 2009, as undergrads at Syracuse. He was sweet, goofy and introverted, always in his head. He was a deep, curious thinker. He wanted to travel, cook, read. But he was also premed, and struggling academically; he'd been feeling depressed. "Maybe this isn't the right time to start dating," he said. I thought, That's ridiculous—let's give this a shot. We did. He switched out of his premed program and seemed better. I thought everything would be fine. I convinced myself it would.
And for a while it was. But after graduation, we moved, and I watched Matt unravel. His sleeping became erratic; I'd find him in bed at 5 P.M., the energy completely sucked out of him. He answered me like a robot, his responses canned; he never generated conversation himself. I was terrified but tried to be supportive. I thought if I did or said or cooked the right thing, got him out of the house—"Come for a walk. Let's get some exercise!"—he'd shake it off. But whatever I did, he remained distant and drained. Finally, I asked his parents to fly him home. "Help me," I said. "I don't have the skills to handle this."
I'd been naïve, thinking Matt's depression was garden-variety moodiness. Maybe I was foolish to stay after that first bout. But I loved him. No way was I leaving. And for the next three years, we were okay. We moved again, to Boston, started grad school, got married. Then, six days after our first anniversary, I found myself rushing him to the hospital.
I visited daily, watched the staff check on Matt every 15 minutes, watched them pass him his meds and wait for him to take them, making sure he did. We walked around the grounds, he in his hospital gown, me trying to be optimistic. But what do you talk about? I'd sit with him in the cafeteria, my heart hurting as I tried to boost his mood.
That's when the anger crept in. I felt lied to, confused: Now you're getting treatment and healing, and I'm here suffering?
More than six months later, all that matters is the fact that Matt is alive. He notices things now, gets things—"I feel checked back in," he says. He's stable after electroconvulsive therapy, which is often used in treatment-resistant cases of depression. There is no cure; no one thing brings you into depression, so no one thing can pull you out. I go to therapy alone, we go as a couple, and Matt goes alone as well as to group sessions. We talk about how he has to tell me how he's feeling. That's what's so scary: All I have to go by is his word.
Does it make me a bad wife to wonder what the balance should be? How often should we talk about the suicide attempt? Any chance we can just be young people chatting about the weekend, the neighbors, our future? Humor helps. Last year, when we were picking out our Christmas card, we saw a template that read "2015: Best Year Ever!" Matt said, "Let's get it—we could include a photo of me in my hospital gown!" We cracked up—and went with another design.
The questions never stop. If I choose to stay with this person I'm legally and morally committed to, what will our life look like in 20, 30 years? And what about children? There's a genetic component to depression, which scares Matt. But I'm not afraid. Everyone has baggage, me included. Worrying about the what-ifs doesn't serve me. So I'm staying in the moment, taking things as they come, embracing the uncertainty. That's all I can do.