Dear silent sufferer,
We know who we are. We are the confused, the battered, the beaten down, the beautiful soul living inside our spouse’s tornado.
From the start, the shidduch seemed perfect. It seemed like we found the perfect soulmate. Then, suddenly, everything changed. It was as if, at the drop of a hat, we went from being the greatest person in the world to the worst scum of the earth. Our head is spinning because we can’t figure out what we did that could possibly warrant such an intense response.
We’ve endured emotional, physical, and mental abuse for a long time, absorbing it into our very being as if that was our job and lot in life. We do our very best to come to Shul and work with a smile, while on the inside, we are screaming. We are in tremendous pain, but no one can know.
We don’t want to harm our children to a future of bad shidduchim, and we don’t want to tarnish our name, so we suffer silently, even our family doesn’t truly understand.
The well-meaning institutions we have in place know little about the weather in our house, so they innocently urge us to be nicer, more emotional, and to be more understanding. We try to explain that our world can become chaos in an instant and based on nothing. It can become violent, and it can become intense. They hear us with skepticism; they claim we must have done something, and we “search our actions” like a good chossid does.
So we look and we look and we look, but it’s not erev Pesach and there is no chametz to be found. Then we start to question our own sense of reality: am I who I think I am? Am I really a good person? Perhaps I am the evil scum of the earth she says I am?
At some point, it dawns on us that this is not normal, and we are not actually the problem. We scour Google for a diagnosis until we land on one that sounds too familiar. Then we gleefully tell our spouse that we think we know what’s wrong!
The response is a smear campaign against us. It can and often does include police, child protective services and unknowledgeable relatives. We try to convince our loved one to get help, but they gaslight. “YOU are the problem, not me!” we’re told.
Our misery tightens around us like a noose around our neck. We can’t breathe with all this drama. There is no safe space for us. When we walk into our home, we never know if it’s Wonderland or Afghanistan. It seems like there is no hope for us. We contemplate ugly and dark things because we have become a living corpse that is thrown around like a rag doll at someone else’s whims.
If this sounds familiar, I am here to tell you a few things:
1. You are not alone! I can’t stress that enough. There are other silent sufferers like you who are experiencing a degree of the same.
2. There is hope! We don’t know whether our loved one will ever get better, but we can individuate ourselves and leave the cyclops of the mental tornado. We can strengthen ourselves so that our loved one might want to catch up and better themselves. When we take care of ourselves, we can come home and be able to handle any situation that is thrown at us. If we come home broken, it is much harder to be who we need to be when the time calls for it.
3. It’s a long road. This won’t be solved with a single phone call, meeting or medication. It’s a road with many pitfalls, starts and stops, failures and successes. Remember who you are, what you care about most and don’t get dragged down by the day-to-day struggle.
From an advocate and fellow silent sufferer who remains anonymous for obvious reasons
P.S. This was written as gender-neutral because both men and women deal with mental health issues. Men who want to discuss their situation confidentially can email me: [email protected]