My chest hurt, so to be safe, I did a quick body scan to make sure I wasn’t having a heart attack. No arm pain. No back pain. No shoulder pain. No indigestion. This was definitely a sad and pulsing ache, mid chest and not an actual cardiac situation. At least that is what I hoped.
“What do you do when you have a pain in your solar plexus that won’t go away?” I texted my crew, my female support network who would understand my pain even though their life circumstances were different.
My cell phone buzzed with practical responses to provide me relief from a feeling they knew all too well. One’s son took his own life, another was dumped by the love of her life and a third just lost her life partner to pancreatic cancer. We were quite a club. Or maybe we were just women in our 50’s and 60‘s learning how to survive, despite the tragedies and challenges thrown our way.
My price of admission to the club was a husband with severe depression and anxiety. So severe that he is in a short term residential facility to heal while I get coached by people who love me to take care of myself.
A friend from Tennessee who had gone through a painful divorce said to me with her twang, “the shit fairy has landed on your lawn and just won’t leave, will she?”
No she will not.
Taking care of myself isn’t easy because this is not a fairy tale and I am not sure of the ending. I met my husband 28 years ago and while our relationship was far from perfect I thought we were a good balance. Me clever; him smart. Me – introverted, sensitive, and competitive. Him – extroverted, easy going and kind. It worked for many years, but as it turns out, mental illness doesn’t really care about these attributes in its attack on the brain.
I am not sure what is left of our marriage. I am buoyed and saddened by small glimmers of my husband’s kind nature, telling me that he’s still in there somewhere.
“Want a bite of my cookie?”
“I brought you some coffee.”
“I’m sorry if I upset you.”
The brain is an organ. It needs to be treated just like the heart, pancreas or kidney
The brain is an organ. Stay in the present.
I put this mantra on repeat as I trudge into the unknown future of my marriage.
Ultimately I chose my own cocktail, consisting of a new therapist, something to help me sleep and thrice daily walks with my dog Lucy. Lucy and I currently have a very transactional relationship; I feed her, we walk until she poops and then we come home. There are not a lot of snuggles and she keeps to herself otherwise. I think she misses him too.
On my last walk with Lucy I ran into my ditzy, chatty neighbor Francine who I usually take pains to avoid. She looked up from her gardening, flagged me down and matter of factly told me that her boyfriend died from Covid in March. I expressed my shock and sorrow and she asked about my husband, who always had more patience for Francine than I. After I described the situation, without missing a beat she said, “Come over for a strong drink. We need to talk.”
Apparently the shit fairy had landed on Francine’s lawn too, so I reluctantly agreed. Afterall, pain is pain and who knows more about that than the shit fairy?