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Him and I : Mental Illness in Relationships

Him and I[1]

People often think that being in love borderlines on having a mental illness. I don't know if that is true, but I know what it is like to be half of a couple who both struggle with it every day. And thanks to the pandemic, I have had a lot of time to reflect on not only my mental disorders but also my husbands'.

My husband and I have been together for twenty years. Yup, we are that couple. The ones who got together in high school and then climbed our way through the muck and the mire that is adolescence and then crashed head-on into sobering adulthood.

I had to come to terms with my mental disorders after my father committed suicide in 2011. Still, my husband was not ready to consider his until about a few years into our marriage after losing his job. My husband has ADHD with bouts of anxiety. He goes from having a hard time focusing to being so focused on something you can't tear him away from it.

When he tried to go back to school and earn a college degree, he had no choice but to acknowledge that his problem had a name. He was struggling in his classes, and it got so bad that he started having panic attacks when he sat down at our dining room table to do his work. I had never seen him so anxious. I had to say something that I had suspected for a long time. I sat down next to him, grabbed his clenched fist, and I slowly worked his fingers open until he finally looked down at our joined hands and then back up to me.

"Do you want to talk about seeing a doctor for this, now?" He sighed, and ever so quietly, agreed with me. I had been trying to draw his attention to the fact that something was wrong for few months before the anxiety attack that finally cracked the camel's back. I took many psychology courses when I was an undergrad in a rather pointless attempt to understand my father's outlandish behavior and his inability to see how his behavior affected others. So, I sifted through those memories of all the possible disorders that may have been flying under everyone's radar when my husband was young and carried over into adulthood.

Then, I remembered childhood developmental disorders. Next, it was just a matter of connecting some very misunderstood dots that make up my husband's personality. It's not just him having the inability to focus, but there are times when his level focus is so intense it fits into the spectrum of one of my top ten favorite words; it is simply phantasmagorical[2]. He can sit for hours watching video after video on YouTube on a subject that he has taken a liking to as of late. They range from everything to historical and crime documentaries to game theories. Occasionally, he goes on these TV advertisement kicks where he watches commercials from a specific time or follows the evolution of one particular brand that fascinates him or holds some sentimental symbolism. And, he retains all of this information and can bring it up in any conversation he wants without really trying that hard to do so. The same thing happens when he plays video games.

Now, I have heard many female friends and students complain about their significant other's rather significant addiction to video games. And their complaints are different than what I have experienced with him. My husband isn't what you call a "gamer." He doesn't do it to be part of a team or to socialize. He does it to experience the story fully. And when I say fully, I mean fully. He will remember every main storyline, character, and side quest. Then, he will watch videos on the game, but not on how to cheat. He watches every video that may be related to the game he is heavily invested in at any given time. He will watch videos that apply and examine the actual psychology and science behind certain games in specific genres.

Sometimes he becomes too connected. There have been many occasions where I have seen him take it very personally when any of his favorite characters die or betray him. Also, I noticed he retreated more into these games when his anxiety started to crop up during his first few college semesters.

There is a misconception that adults and children who have ADHD can't focus and easily distracted by "sparkly things." That is not so. They are just naturally drawn to activities or things that they enjoy and provide them instant positive feedback.

My husband may have had a hard time starting his journey in academia, but what amazes me is everything else that he can do. If there is something he wants to fix around the house, he will research it, watch videos, and not quit until he has exhausted every avenue before calling in a professional. I have seen him install and fix a wide range of bathroom fixtures, bidets, and he has even replaced an entire toilet by himself. I have seen him fix screen doors, electrical sockets, door locks, refrigerators, water heaters, dryers, and highly complicated furniture that needed a lot more self-assembly than the box suggested. These are things I would never even consider trying to fix or attempt to do on my own. And, it's not just our appliances and household fixtures because he will help his friends and his family members assemble, dissemble, paint, install, or rewire whatever might cause them to pay a very unaffordable and inconvenient service charge. Also, he can do complicated math in his head that I would struggle to do, even with the assistance of a calculator. When he was younger, his mother had him tested, and he scored a 128, which was two points shy of being a genius for his age group.

Last year, thanks to the pandemic, I have had a lot of time to really get to know my husband. This year I am determined to have more patience with him and see all the awesome qualities that have somehow been sewn and soldered together to create a very multifaceted being. Plus, I know that this patience and understanding goal is not one-sided.

He has had to learn how to deal with days where I am so despondent that pulling myself out of bed and doing practical tasks, like brushing my teeth and bathing, seems like an existential joke/exercise in futility. Then, there are days where I cry over every minor inconvenience that dares to crop up and complicate my life. Oh, and let's not forget the days where I have full-blown panic attacks out of my intense fear of Covid-19, financial issues, and things that are not even remotely logical or possible. Still, I am 100% sure these inconceivable events will happen at any given moment of every single day.

I don't know what the future has planned for us, but I am glad to see he is reassessing his academic goals to include the possibility of trade schools, training programs, and apprenticeships. Even though I am very quick and somewhat addicted to seeing the world as nothing but a meth-addicted manifestation of Murphy's Law, I know there is one constant in my life, and that is him. So, like G-Easy and Hasley so accurately described…

To my lover, I'd never lie He said "be true," I swear I'll try In the end, it's him and I He's out his head, I'm out my mind We got that love, the crazy kind I am his, and he is mine In the end, it's him and I, him and I

[1] A song performed by G-Easy and Hasley from the album The Beautiful and The Damned. [2] Phantasmagorical describes something with a dreamlike, fantastical, unreal, deceptive, or shifting appearance, like an optical illusion.


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