Updated: Jan 14, 2022
Reflecting back over the past fourteen years of my relationship with Ashley, I have many fond memories of the good times, but I used to try and forget our struggles. I have come to realize that our struggles have brought us closer together and made us feel more connected. For a long time, I believed that it was a weakness to be open and honest about your emotions. What I have come to realize is that the only way to make lasting change is to acknowledge the situation and to be honest with yourself before you can work together to improve.
Initially, I didn’t realize, or possibly was in denial, that Ashley was struggling with mental health issues. I am not sure if it was my inclination towards optimism or the fact that I wanted to believe everything would be fine. If we just made it through the day, everything would be better tomorrow. Unfortunately, I have learned that this is not something that you can wish away, ignore, or pretend doesn’t exist. Avoidance of a problem never makes any situation better in a long-term relationship, especially when you are talking about mental health. What I have come to acknowledge is that dealing with mental health issues is a daily fight. It is a fight that can’t be fought alone. Once the situation became clear, I made the mistake of thinking I could “fix it” with enough time. I have always been someone who sees a problem and then believes that there is a solution to fix said problem. It’s the engineer in me. Mental health issues don’t have a one-size-fits-all approach or simple ‘quick fix’ solution. Everyone struggles with different things, and it’s not always easy to tell when someone is struggling because they may continue forward as if there is nothing wrong. What I have slowly come to understand is that the most important thing you can do is be patient, listen, and acknowledge their feelings. I have to suppress the need to “fix” the problem and instead just listen and validate the feelings that Ashley expresses. The “fix it” approach has led to many more arguments or increased the anxiety and stress that was already present.
As I am typing this, I keep trying to point out the one thing you can’t do is solve mental disease struggles. I wish there was an easy solution, but I think that the most important thing is to acknowledge that this is an ongoing fight. Being supportive, listening, and working together to make it through each day is the only recipe for success. I strive every day to be a better listener and be the best support I can be for Ashley. She has always been my strongest advocate, best friend, and partner. It is my goal to be the same for her and to fight with her. Dealing with mental disease is like marriage. It is a long-term commitment that requires continual work and effort. I have accepted that it is something that will always be a part of our lives and relationship.
Through our journey I have learned a lot about myself and my own insecurities. I too have issues I struggle with related to mental health. I have recently begun going to therapy to talk and work through some of my own issues. I have a lot of self doubt, which makes me continually push myself to improve. While this isn’t always a bad thing, like anything, moderation is crucial. I question myself: am I a good father, husband, friend, or employee? I have only begun to understand what causes my anxiety and what I can do to control it, and I’m working towards not letting it affect me and, more importantly, my family. I know that without Ashley being so open and willing to be vulnerable by sharing her feelings and experiences, I would never have been willing to reciprocate. Her passion for helping others and openness have given me the courage to be truthful about my feelings and apprehensions.
I don’t know where our journey will take us next, but I am confident that the foundation we have built is solid and will allow us to continue to grow and achieve together.