Some years ago, there was an enormous marketing campaign around the Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus publications. The book, its many companion volumes and spinoffs, and underlying “philosophy” if you will, permeated pop culture. I never read one word of any of it, but I understood that “men and women are different” was the guiding tenet. During the Mars/Venus zenith, I was married to someone who treated me worse than I’d imagined a human husband could or would, and I recall having that original Mars/Venus book on my nightstand. I remember thinking that maybe if I read the book, I’d salvage something out of the marriage, you know, I’d “make it work.” Bah. That book was probably still on the nightstand when I left, its binding never so much as cracked. “Making it work” meant saving myself, literally and figuratively, so I left. Saving me was the wisest, hardest thing I’ve ever done.
When I say that music and songs save me, I sometimes mean that quite literally too–
The bravest thing I’ve ever done
Was to run away and hide
But not this time, not this time
And the weakest thing I’ve ever done
Was to stay right by your side
Just like this time, and every time
I couldn’t tell you I was happy when you were gone
So I lied and said that I missed you when we were apart
I couldn’t tell you, so I had to lead you on
But I didn’t mean to break your heart
And if I always seem distracted
Like my mind’s somewhere else
That’s because it’s true, yes it’s true
I digress. I’m not going to revisit my first marriage or the Mars/Venus texts any further, but the interplanetary distance between X and Y analogy leapt to mind this weekend. Men and women are different. There’s a news flash right there, people, and you don’t need a book to know it.
My husband has little idea how hard our son’s MD diagnosis has hit me. While I’m grateful that it seems to affect my husband’s day-to-day functioning a billionfold less than it’s affected mine, sometimes I feel we are out of sync. It’s not that I think he doesn’t care; I’m not sure he’s even aware that I’m dancing as fast as I can as I sit like a lump crushing candy or firing off sassy messages on my phone. The things that get me moving out of bed–my friendships, music, concerts, cracking wise, writing this blog–he doesn’t get those things the way I do. He doesn’t get Ulta retail therapy. He doesn’t get that our house is a physical fucking disaster area, and I want to care, but wanting doesn’t make it so. Wanting doesn’t produce drive in me these days. He doesn’t get me right now, and it hurts.
Guess what? I don’t get him either. A full year into our after, we haven’t much talked about it. I talk about it ALL THE TIME, as you know, dear readers. This forum is where my conversations land. I don’t actually talk-talk about it often with the only other person on the planet as invested in this as me. WE don’t talk about it, and what a shocking, sad realization it was to have. Shame on me. My husband’s survival strategies and mental health mechanisms are not the same as mine. I thought he was fine. I was actually a little–I don’t know what, jealous?, not quite that–that he was lucky to be handling the diagnosis so much better than I was. I was so wrong. He’s handling it differently, that’s all. He’s wounded too, and I knew that he was, really I did. I’m somewhat egocentric, but I am not that terrible an observer or wife to think he was all “whatevs.”
Between work and work around the house and baseball and school council duties and piano lessons and sleepovers and paying the bills and doing laundry and shopping for groceries and homework and orthodontist appointments and, and, and, and. . . I committed a heinous marriage crime: I made assumptions and I took my husband for granted. I assumed that since he doesn’t talk about it that he was just fine (you know how I hate the word “just” in some contexts). There are days I see my husband between 5:45-6:40 AM and again around 9:00 at night. This is not an unusual family status when children are involved in activities, I get that. I didn’t think there was anything you could do about it though, that it just is. But it just can’t. It shouldn’t be a ha-ha joke to say “See you tonight if I’m still awake” with any degree of regularity.
But for the first few months after, I (think I) have presented myself as a fully-functional person. I look quite the same on the outside, but I hurt inside. I physically ache some days when I close my eyes and stay still. This is not some analogous picture painted with words: Some days my insides HURT when I think about it. And now I hurt because my husband hurts, and I’d do anything for him not to. I’d take it all for us both if I could, I would. Some days the thought of going to work is so overwhelming, I can’t even. Yet I do. Some days I get to work, and I don’t talk because I can’t, because what I really want is to idle and/or cry myself into unconsciousness; not talking seems a more acceptable workplace solution. Some days the line between keeping my shit together and plummeting down that rabbit hole is but a hairsbreadth, and I can feel an external force wrench me–two fists bunched up in my shirt yanking me forward out of my chair, and shoving me down, down. Yet I get up.
Maybe I’m ready to admit I’m in over my head. But if I keep getting up, and (I think) I’m still laughing and singing on the outside, and I’m still an engaged, aware parent, am I truly DSM-V depressed? Maybe? Probably not? I think what is paramount right now, today is to be more tuned in, maybe more willing to ask and actually hear the answer to the hardest question I know right now: “How are you?”