By Linzy Farmerie-Mogielski, Content Editor of BroglieBox
12 min read
It is totally wild to think that this will be the 11th Valentine’s Day that I have spent with my husband, Tony. I wish I had a time machine (not only to avoid my 30th birthday this year) but to go back and tell myself about what lied ahead. And, even more honestly, to warn myself about how hard things were about to get.
Smack dab in the middle of those 11 years, I was diagnosed with perfectionist-driven generalized anxiety disorder and clinical depression. At first, it didn’t majorly affect my relationship with Tony. We weren’t married yet, but still both in school. And at the time, I figured that my anxiety was just an extension of how academically and socially overbooked I was as an overachiever. So, in my head, there was a light at the end of my diagnosis tunnel – graduation.
News flash: Trying to escape or outrun your current situation might change the status of your mental health. But it does not guarantee that it will be for the better.
2015 was a very exciting time – I had just earned my Master’s degree, gotten married to my best friend, and moved into a beautiful new home. But things quickly started to play out much differently than what I had expected. My degree had not landed me the full-time with benefits dream job, instead I was juggling several part-time and freelance jobs. Self-inflicted guilt started to rob me of the honeymoon joy in our marriage. I felt like I was not “pulling my weight” financially, and on top of it, I never saw Tony because I worked all the time. On my days off, I rarely got out of bed. I would cry for hours in pure exhaustion of how I felt. There were days I snapped, screamed, and threw things. I was at a breaking point. And well, my husband didn’t “get it.”
For years, I told myself two different stories:
|I was the problem…||He was the problem…|
|I am broken and crazy. He deserves better.||He never says or does the right thing when I’m upset.|
|I am unlovable like this and he is going to leave me.||He shuts down because he doesn’t care enough to help me.|
|I’m annoying, too much work, and he is going to resent me.||He is oblivious to how I feel and that is a sign of how little he loves me.|
|I’m a mess undeserving of love. He fell in love with “fun” me.||If he just tried harder, etc.|
Major Disclaimer: None of the stories I was telling myself were true. In fact, I want to be so clear that my husband NEVER said or did anything to aid in creating these stories. He simply had not been exposed to mental health struggles before and neither him nor I immediately recognized that as a reason for his quietness. He felt helpless and heartbroken watching me struggle. He was overwhelmed and didn’t have resources. He too, felt alone in his own right. And that’s the thing about mental health – it is isolating. You feel like you are totally alone and that no one will understand you.
If I had that time machine, I would have told “college Linzy and Tony” that mental health is a team sport. That even though I have anxiety/depression and my husband doesn’t, but we could both fight it. Getting good at a sport takes practice, teamwork, and dedication over time – it’s all about being open minded and trying. In marriage, it is rarely if ever, a 50/50 game. Fair and evenly distributed work just doesn’t always exist. Some days, I’m doing 40% and he might have to pick up that other 60%. And some days he’s at 20% and I’m 80%. But we are a team that always strives together for that 100%.. (I swear I know real math, guys.) But seriously…
Some action steps that we needed to help us better communicate through my mental illness:
|My “To Do” List||His “To Do” List||Our “To Do” List|
|Take ownership of my health plan by talking to my doctors and constantly assessing my needs (medication, doctor relationships, etc).||Research the side effects and symptoms of my diagnosis to destigmatize and become more familiar.||We made a “Panic Box” for my panic attacks that had a designated place in our home. It contained items including: my as-needed panic medication, a list of breathing and grounding techniques, fidget tools, a soft/weighted blanket, emergency numbers just in case, and a to-do list for Tony: put our cat away, turn off all things causing noise (tv/radio), dim lights, get cup of water, etc.|
|Participate in regular therapy sessions. Recognize that my husband is NOT my therapist.||Encourage and hold me accountable to go to therapy. Recognize that he can be supportive, yet not enable me.||Talk about my action steps/wins/breakthroughs in therapy.|
|Identify my triggers and tell my husband so that he is aware of potential obstacles.||Learn to be patient with my growth and triggers. Practice active listening and understanding.||Be open and honest with other couples who deal with the same struggles. We are not alone!|
|Communicate when I need alone time and actually take it.||Respect and protect the alone time that I need.||Encourage healthy habits: food, exercise, sleep, self-care time together, etc.|
|Using “I feel” statements and “thank you” statements. (“I feel like we had a miscommunication” / “Thank you for listening to me talk about this, it is important to me.”||Try to “fix” me and understand that I might not want advice. I might just need someone to listen or hug.||Using “I feel” statements and “thank you” statements. Not always jumping to “fix” things. Being okay in the unresolved/unknown.|
|Practice mindfulness by slowing my reaction to a situation (practicing breathing or counting before snapping back in an argument/being more thoughtful in my response).||Giving me space and time to cool down.||Hold hands while arguing or going through something difficult. I am not the problem. He is not the problem. We are together fighting the problem.|
Every couple on this planet is radically different. My marriage is by no means a standard. I simply share our story in hope that it encourages others. Know that it is a daily choice and commitment to maintain mental health and that it can be so much easier if you let someone in. Tony and I needed to choose to grow together and fight alongside each other. In setting some of these action steps into motion, we have grown to love each other more deeply than ever. When I am crying and my husband doesn’t have any words, I can see the empathy in his eyes – it is beyond words. What matters most is that he is looking, he is holding my hand, he is trying just as hard as I am. He might not understand me all of the time, but he still tries, and that is love. Just like I have to try too, to love myself. When it comes to the ebbs and flows of mental health, we win some, we lose some… but we are always a team and that is the most meaningful win.
Based in Pittsburgh PA, Linzy Farmerie-Mogielski has battled high functioning anxiety and clinical depression for most of her adult life and has found life-changing freedom and community in breaking stigmas. As an advocate for change, she speaks at events encouraging others to seek appropriate care and practice radical self-love. Through sharing her story, her superpowers have become approachability, vulnerability, and transparency! In addition to mental health, she is passionate about ministry, travel, art, and coffee! Linzy is also a member of the BroglieBox team and is Content Editor of the BroglieBlog. You can follow her on instagram at @bonjourlinzy
Stories, tips, and resources from others who have experience with anxiety can be found below:
The What, Why, And How Of Perfectionism
Taking Medicine Does Not Mean Something Is “Wrong” With You
How to Cancel Plans Without Feeling Guilty and Hurting Feelings
Tips to Manage Anxiety Around Work
How to Transition to Seeing Your Therapist Online
5 Ways to Feel Less Anxious When You’re a Sensitive Person