Writing about a personal relationship is hard, made even harder in this case. The decision to do so was not made lightly. I had to overcome my natural unwillingness to look at my life during this period; my own guilt and self-doubt are contributing factors to feeling blamed for the eventual demise of my husband to suicide. I blamed myself for the inability to encourage him enough to seek treatment for what was, looking back, an obvious mental illness that was untreated far too long.
My motivations for writing this book are threefold. Firstly, in doing so, I am finally tackling head-on some major life events that happened to me and my late husband, some of which have never been disclosed outside our marriage. Secondly, if people suffering from a mental illness feel invisible in society, their carers go even more unnoticed; usually they are the ones who cheerfully paint their faces with a smile and continue being strong, the rock of their relationships, until their strength gives out. The thought that someone, somewhere, might benefit from reading what we went through and feeling that much less alone because of it, is a driving factor for me to open up a very difficult chapter of my life. Finally, I still hold a special place in my heart for my late husband who in many ways was a very beautiful person trapped by his past and an illness he didn’t want to accept, who believed his fragility was something to deny. This is his story, and he deserves to have it told by someone who was the closest to him for the last decade of his life.
As this person, I feel privileged to have heard his stories, his version of events growing up, his attitudes and outlooks, what he went through, all those wonderful, funny, sad, tragic, mishmash of events that contributed to his makeup and life. I had an up-close and personal view of someone who battled with, and lost to, a mental illness.
It is also a daunting task because mental illness is still such a taboo subject, despite progress being made since my husband was first treated for a psychotic episode. People who are afflicted by it, live with it, love people who struggle with it, are still made to feel ashamed by both society’s attitudes and also a health system that doesn’t prioritise their needs to the same extent that they would if suffering a life-threatening illness such as heart disease.
People who suffer from these illnesses are made to feel doubly wrong. Both for having the illness in the first place, and then behaving in ways that they sometimes cannot control when they are in its grip, leaving many unable to engage in normal, healthy, active and full lives. My husband was one of those who struggled in this regard, and felt like a failure many times because of it. It makes sufferers less willing and able to fight to get accurate diagnoses in the first place, access ongoing, affordable treatment, and work with professionals to access strategies to help them reintegrate as quickly as possible back into society after a critical event may have taken place. I saw this firsthand.
I hope that readers can look past the drama of the events about to unfold, and see the message underlying each chapter. Denial is never the solution to any problem, large or small. Within any relationship and especially for those who need more care and attention for any aspect of health, burying heads in the sand will only further contribute to the problem and add stress to families and social networks. Seeking help, as early as possible, being open and honest about the pain we are all feeling at one time or another, is the answer.
Love, compassion and acceptance can all start within each and every one of us. If we can all do that within ourselves, this world will achieve the peace we’d like to experience in this generation and for generations to come.
Natasha David was just 31 when her husband died after struggling for many years with mental health problems. The ensuing trauma plunged her into debilitating depression and anxiety. She investigated many routes in her search for recovery, ultimately becoming a certified kinesiologist. Having practiced this and meditation, she’s been able to write the difficult story of her road to recovery. Natasha believes love and compassion can overcome any trauma.
Marrying Bipolar – The highs and lows of loving someone with a mental illness by Natasha David is published by Soul Rocks Books, March 2016.