"The truth is, I don't know how to deal with you being depressed and I don't think I can handle it..."
My ex-husband said those words to me after I'd finally gathered up the courage to open up to him about what I was experiencing and how it was affecting me and our marriage. I'd been dealing with different mental health issues since I was a teenager, but the depression was the one that remained a constant in my life. Whether lingering in the background, dormant but ready to pop up like an unwanted relative, or front-and-center making itself well-known to all of those around me, depression has long been a companion of mine and I finally felt safe enough introducing it to my husband.
He couldn't deal with it. Many can't deal with it, but the blow that came with that type of rejection sent me spiraling down in a way that almost broke me. I'd been through so much and was suffering so much-- I needed him and he couldn't be there. Or he wouldn't, I will never really know. In that moment, though, that time in our relationship when I knew we would never be able to repair the bonds we once claimed would be tied forever, I promised to never let another partner know what I was going through, mentally or physically, because I figured most can't handle that type of information.
Image: ylmworkshop via Flickr
I've dated since being divorced, but never anything serious until my current relationship. I've shared some things with him, but that's been mainly because I've committed to opening up and sharing more of who I am with others, primarily via social media and through writing like this, so the courage lingers in our conversations. I've told Him some things I haven't told others, but again, nothing of which I can't handle a swift rejection; I've built up enough strength to accept that my life isn't for everyone to accept and embrace.
Still, I've held onto some of the fear I absorbed after that rejection from my ex-husband, so I had not yet shared a very real fear I've had about my health until recently. I'm going to be undergoing a number of screenings in the near future and figured maybe I should wait to find out what is wrong (if anything) before letting Him know. I didn't want to worry Him unnecessarily and I didn't want to scare Him away from me. My fear was that if I told Him that I might be seriously ill, He might begin to emotionally disconnect from me. I'd had that happen before and I've watched my friends experience similar situations, so I wasn't exactly unjustified in being cautious.
Embracing your own vulnerability and opening up is a crucial step towards achieving personal and relationship maturity. At some point, you have to accept that you're willing to share a significant amount of time with someone, which requires an invitation into your emotional and physical space. As daunting as that may seem, it can also be one of the most transformative experiences you'll ever have. The moment you realize that you no longer have to bear the burdens of life on your own is the greatest sigh of relief. Trusting in someone enough to know that you can share the weight of your fear and not have to go through tough times alone is nothing short of liberating.
I shared my concerns and He made it clear He would be there with me through every step, despite my telling Him it wasn't necessary. I welcome His attentiveness and support, though, which is what is most important. Often, we reject offers of help because we fear what will happen when we come to rely on that help and then it disappears. Isn't the fear of losing that with which we've become the most intimately comfortable and reliant upon what makes breakups the hardest? We alter our ways of being as single people and connect our lives with others in ways that become routine, common, and expected, so when we breakup, we lose huge parts of who have become. It can happen, yes, but we can't live in fear of such devastation. If we do, we never truly open up and give everything that is required to make an intimate relationship successful.
I can breathe a bit easier now that I've shared with Him. I feel safer with Him and stronger in my trust and faith in Him and our relationship. There is a new feeling I'd not experienced in the past couple of years and I realize I've been holding myself from experiencing this freedom for far too long. Fear will damage your relationship if you let it-- why not work harder at making it as whole as possible?