It Likely Wasn’t Love

If love doesn’t empower you when the going gets tough then it likely isn’t love.

There’s a reason wedding vows often feature the lines “In sickness and in health, for richer, for poorer.” Those are vows I took, twice. The first time, I was a 19 year-old student still wet behind the ears and entered into a short-lived union with a man to whom I was little more than a live sex toy.

I got married again in 2013, by then a full-fledged adult fully conversant with the vagaries of human relationships. Or so I thought, because nothing could have prepared me for what happened next and I still don’t understand it. As I continue to rebuild a life word by word after major depressive disorder incapacitated me for five years, some questions need asking.

Did depression render me unlovable? Why I was left holding my own hand?

Depression felled me shortly after I got married. But because, on the surface, I had everything going for me, I didn’t identify it right away. All I knew is that there was a persistent malaise that seemed to intensify with time as I became more and more paralyzed.

When I realized what it was, it had contaminated everything.

Including my marriage.

Like a ray of sunshine, true love is or it isn’t.

You feel its warmth on your skin and it makes you blink when you look up, regardless of whether the object of your affection is physically by your side. There’s no faking true love even though many people see it when it isn’t there because it is what most of us yearn for.

Few of us dream of going through life solo, without anyone to share our daily reality with. To most of us, loneliness is reductive and even stunting; for many, single doesn’t feel strong, single feels loveless. And when there’s no one around to encourage or support you, you may never achieve your full potential, no matter how driven you may be.

Or if you manage to get going against all odds, you’ll eventually crash and burn when you realize no one cares.

To us humans, there’s nothing more life-affirming than to love and be loved. And we’ll make innumerable sacrifices for this to happen, including sacrificing what makes us who we are.

You should never erase yourself in the name of love.

But I did just that then went on to spend five years believing depression had disappeared me. Self-delusion is a hard drug. As I seek to understand the genesis of my illness, I can no longer ignore that its advent coincides with my getting married and immigrating to the US.

While America kept me sick as I could never afford therapy co-pays despite having insurance, why was I left to hold my own hand throughout?

Some answers may forever elude me.

Understanding the unraveling of a relationship requires all parties to get involved. I can’t do all the excavating and digging alone, only my side. In this particular case, I may well be the only one aware that there’s an issue, which baffles me even more. If you saw your partner decline and lose the will to live, what would you do? Would you just let them be and fight for their life alone?

During the years I was so incapacitated my writing voice went missing and I couldn’t function, I did break down physically a few times. Although most of that period is a blur, I recall collapsing onto the floor in violent sobbing fits, terrified I’d die without ever seeing my family again. Back then, I devoted an inordinate amount of time to figuring out how I could expedite the process because there was nothing to live for anymore and being alive was a constant source of unbearable pain.

What I don’t recall is being comforted, because I wasn’t. Instead, my breaking down was just one more embarrassment, one more thing to dismiss.

After the cultural assets I brought into our marriage failed to elicit interest, my sense of self started disappearing.

From vocation to languages, love and curiosity made me who I was but none of that registered or mattered anymore. As a result, I went missing in my head for over five years.

My being unable to earn a living because I was so unwell soon became a source of resentment in my household as my husband saw me as lazy, not sick. Even when I recovered my writing voice, my efforts didn’t count as efforts and my work didn’t count as real work either.

In America, human worth is often measured in dollars so a freelancer setting out and earning cents remains a zero in capitalistic terms.

Love is as love does.

How do you explain apathy within the context of a marriage? And without self-combusting with shame, how do you explain to anyone that the one person who is supposed to love you didn’t love you enough to comfort you?

Granted, I wasn’t thrown out on the street nor forced into a divorce. There was always a roof over my head and some food in the pantry, somehow, even though power and internet would get cut off on occasion and we were threatened with eviction once.

Whether this was love or duty, I don’t know. I can only speak for myself and try to parse how I experienced those years under the yoke of major depressive disorder.

Is it my illness that made me feel unlovable and worthless, or my marriage? And what if they were one and the same thing?

My illness and the last few years are a burden that still has the power to crush me if I dwell on the past so I seldom do. I can’t afford to because stage 4 cancer keeps trying to kill my stepmom and my parents need me by their side in Europe. They can falter but I can’t.

Being here is my one job and I told my husband as much. I’ve been largely going it alone, which I had prepared myself for so as not to leave any room for surprise, disappointment, or abandonment. Moral support has been minimal, communication is an afterthought, but because I expected nothing I’m doing just fine.

Then again, perhaps I’m being too harsh on someone who did his best under very trying circumstances for years; I have no idea but I have to be fair and allow for that.

All I know is that two lonelinesses in parallel do not a fulfilling or indeed any kind of relationship make.

A relationship should broaden your horizons and expand your life, not shrink it; a relationship should help you grow, not make you wither away.

If love doesn’t empower you when the going gets tough then it likely isn’t love.

💛 If you enjoyed these words, please consider supporting my work with a modest cup of coffee. It’s cheaper than 🍽 and it keeps me warm. Merci! 🐱

The human condition is not a pathology・👋ASingularStory[at]gmail・ ☕️

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