Saturday, March 15, 2014

A Happier Version of Him

It started in September--maybe earlier, I'm not sure. The downward spiral is a slow one: a spiral, not a steep drop. Although the car accident definitely played a steep part in bringing his spirits down.

My husband was having a hard time with life. Work was new and slow and the people unknown. He's not particularly good at making friends. The car accident injured both of us, totaled his sporty car, and resulted in his having to commute in my Honda Fit, which is too small for him.

The car accident was a part of a larger problem: we don't feel safe on the roads in Virginia: the drivers are terrible, irrational, unpredictable, and distracted. And this is coming from two people who have driven through LA plenty of times; LA is a breeze compared to driving in Virginia.

Then there was the debt from moving out here. My husband's company only paid us a small amount of what it cost. We lived in a 500 sq-ft apartment and got rid of half the furniture before moving; but what was left still cost in the thousands to move the 4000 miles out here.

And we were far away from where his heart calls home. His family and his friends, spread out across California...but now they were all much much farther. The friends whom he shared life with, the band of brothers who had inhabited the apartment called "The Stable," were getting jobs and getting married and we weren't a part of it any more.

It all worked to bring his spirits down. Not a temporary down that goes away when you stop thinking about it, but the kind that makes it hard to smile even when life does you a good turn. The kind of down that sticks with you for a while and makes all of life look bleak.

I knew why it was going on. I understood. Being the stubborn person I am, his down-ness just made me more determined to like Virginia and not be depressed. Where everything else was dismal for him, I wanted to be the one cheerful thing that was still around.

But just because his depression didn't affect me emotionally doesn't mean I didn't feel it. It was harder to connect with him. We didn't go for dates as often, and when we did, I felt like I was talking to a wall. He's already half as talkative as I am, but add a down spirit and he had practically nothing to say.

How was work? Same-old. How are your friends? Far away. Why don't you call someone? Time difference, or some other excuse. Why don't you play a video game and shoot people to get off steam? Meh.

It wasn't fear or anger that I felt during those was missing him.

I missed the man who I knew, who laughed a lot and told the best jokes and smiled at me if he so much as glanced at me. I missed the happy, full human being I married. I knew he was in there, but I couldn't get to him. It saddened me to know there was nothing I could do make him, the one person I love most, happy again.

I just had to wait it out.

I didn't have to wait for years and years. Just months and months, but of course, I didn't know how long I'd be waiting. I just continued to be myself. To seek my own growth. To read. To write. To go to church. To love him like I always and still did/do.

I continued to treat him like normal. I knew the normal man was under there somewhere. We went to church on Sundays and ate dinner together every night. I kept trying to get him to talk, and if he were grumpy with me too many days in a row, I would put my conflict-solving face on and tackle the issue head-on like we always do. (We are a duke-it-out-and-hug-thirty-minutes-later kind of people.)

I don't know when he started to come back.

I know that serving at church definitely helped. He loves doing stuff for other people, whether in the limelight or out of it. And he loves technology. As soon as he started serving as the sound guy for the church services, he began to find himself again.

Starting a ministry to fight sex trafficking helped too. And so did starting a ministry to get young people connected. Serving.

Music was another thing. You would expect some things of my husband: engineer, sportsman. But you might not realize he's a damn good musician. As time went on, he began to pick up his guitar more and more, in those little times when there's nothing to do. Worship songs, always worship songs. He began playing piano again, something he hadn't done for months. He and I began working on a song together: him playing, me singing. The music gave him purpose, I think, and was a way of getting off stress in a constructive way, giving it to God in praise.

Slowly he came back. He started smiling. Laughing. Telling jokes. His recent dark pessimism turned into his old snide sarcasm. He would look at me with love in his eyes and smile that special smile that only comes out for me. I missed that smile.

And just like that, he was home again. I noticed it one week, and the next I could hardly have told the difference between the man I was watching and the man I married a year and a half ago. Some months of waiting, of wondering, of watching, and he came back, all by himself.

This isn't a grand story of rescue, or of suffering under trial, or of how to heal from depression. I've told you before that I don't know how to get out of depression. When it hits, there's nothing for it but to stand together or not at all.

When one falls down, his friend can help him up, right? Or at least stand guard over him until he can stand up on his own. A show of dependent autonomy.

Sometimes, the best and only defense against that tide of black of thought is to not do anything. Don't treat the person as any different; don't baby them and don't bludgeon them. Just let them be. Some downward spirals just happen, and there's nothing we can do but wait out the time. Time may not heal all wounds, but it's good at healing some of them.

This story is shared with the full permission of my hubs. 
Word count: 1,095.