My husband is great at so many things, but after eight years of marriage and 12 total years being together, communication is still not his strong suit. Guys just aren’t wired like women. In our relationship, I have always been the one with a more strong willed, type A, OCD personality. If something is on my mind, I am not afraid to talk about it. Yes, it can be difficult to ask for help, but my husband is my person, and he, more than anyone, is who I have gone to in my weakest moments for support.
Looking back, I have suffered from anxiety most of my life, but it wasn’t until I had two babies in 13 months that it went into overdrive. Even then, it took me almost four years to truly get the help (and medicine) I needed to control my emotions and feelings. So much happened in those four years of becoming new parents: we moved across the country, got new jobs, changed jobs. Our calendars were too full and a lot of times our wallets were too empty. Life was…overwhelming. During all of this, my husband seemed like he was handling it all much better than me. He was calm, supportive, and patient. He was everything I wasn’t, and honestly, it makes me sad to think that I never took the time to ask him how he was really feeling. I am sure I asked, and I am sure he said he was fine like always, and got back to helping me do laundry and dishes and bath time.
In November of 2019, I quit my part-time job and accepted a new full-time job — a real big girl job, one with benefits and a 401k and all the fancy things that corporate America has to offer. Six months before that, my husband had been laid off, and while he was still working to make ends meet, he hadn’t had much luck or time to look for something else. When I told him I had been offered the new job, I instantly saw the weight of the world lift off his shoulders.
Shortly after I started my new job, my husband was also offered a new opportunity that he couldn’t turn down. We were finally getting back on our feet. Our girls were potty trained and watching movies on the couch. We started to see the light. Everything felt like it was finally getting back to normal.
Then some skeletons came out of the closet.
Yes, gasp! My perfect social media marriage wasn’t so perfect after all. Nothing too juicy, but a series of events led us to realize that my husband finally admitting that he needed help with his anxiety did not make him weak, but actually made him incredibly strong. It wasn’t that he didn’t want or need help, but feeling the pressure of having two young kids, a full-time job, and tons of extracurricular stuff doesn’t discriminate against men. It started as small things like losing his patience with the kids or drinking a little too much a little too often. Also, when guys get together I don’t think they sit around and share as much as girls often do. I think they end up feeling really alone, when really, they are suffering more than they think.
Like my husband, I think many men feel the need to comply with societal norms of being strong and masculine.
It is harder for them to ask for help especially when they are under a huge amount of pressure to support their families too. In researching for this post, I found a statistic that said four times as many men than women die by suicide. We need to start normalizing mental health for EVERYone. Life right now is so challenging for so many; we really are experiencing unprecedented times.
It’s been a few months since my husband started his mental health journey. He has communicated to me that he sees the most difference in his patience with things. He said it’s also allowed him to set realistic expectations, and understand the process of meeting those expectations better. It has allowed us to be open, honest, and vulnerable with each other. It has allowed for us to take a step back and reevaluate what and who we spend our time on.