Marrying Someone Challenged with a Mental Illness is Not a Charity Affair

I sometimes get asked if I KNEW Chuck had mental illness before I said my “I do’s”.  Yes.  I did.  I was very aware…I certainly was not gagged and bound up the altar.

It was spring when Chuck made his entrance into my life.  Chuck revealed the so-called skeletons pretty much after the first few dates.  The skeleton being that he had been diagnosed with mental illness for several years.  I was grateful for letting me into his world.  He had told me some of his experiences, the fact he was on medication and he was ok as long as he took them. And that nicely bubble wrapped up things for me.

Then I have been also asked me WHY did I marry him? But why not?  Is marrying someone challenged with mental illness, something ‘normal’ people don’t do?   The fact that I was considering marrying this guy, did it reveal more about me than I was caring to find out? 

Some that do speak up and ask, (and I am grateful that they ask by the way), say to me, I am pretty, intelligent and have a lot going for me!  In other words, what’s the missing link in marrying this guy?

OOOOKKKKKK.  I finally was getting this marrying and mental illness thing.  My marrying a man with mental illness was a last ditch, desperate act to fill the desolate portions of my otherwise empty heart, right?  Something that one only does before depressing the panic ‘left on shelf’ button, right?  Wrong and wrong!

Or perhaps, is it that I felt sorry for Chuck?  Yeah…I felt so very sorry that I would sign my already contented life on a marriage certificate because I am Mother Theresa’s grand-daughter, (the one that no one knows about)?  Not really, and no I am not Mother Theresa’s grand-daughter either.

Marrying someone challenged with mental illness is not a charity affair.  You are not going to get red carpet awards because you have done so.  And that number on the marriage certificate is not a charity number, by the way. 

Yes, many people look at me today with heroic admiration… and no doubt, there is a courage element.  But is that not so when you are marrying anyone that has been diagnosed with a chronic illness, be it mental or otherwise? 

 And before I go on, I am not making light that I did not have my moments.  Thank God, I had a mum who seemed prepared to send her daughter to the gallows (as some may think reading this). Yes a mum that almost literally pushed me into making that hesitant leap of marrying Chuck.  Just when I was ready to change my identity and send myself to exile on a space ship, having come face to face with the reality of things the very first time!

I married Chuck for the right reasons.  Like everyone.  Not because marrying someone with mental illness is my favourite pastime, or that I was desperate, or Chuck told me the details in Russian. But because I loved a warm, kind, loving and the most gentle man I had ever met.  Chuck was not the disease he had been diagnosed with.  The name that was signed on our marriage certificate was not "Mental Illness". 

Admittedly, there were moments of overcharged resentment when I felt like a caregiver more than a wife. But you get that for comparing your life to 'Joe Bloggs' when you do not know what Joe and his spouse are dealing with.  Of course, there were times when my worn out emotions were on protest.  . 

Yet show me a couple that does not have issues or challenges that they deal with, or have dealt with!  Even if you have the fairy tale, happy ever after marriage now, no one knows the future.  There are challenges that may lie ahead. For me, my challenge came as part of the marriage package before the ink had even dried.  The disease may have been a burden but Chuck was not.

 After a good few years of marriage, I have no regrets for marrying the man of my dreams.  Yes I said ‘dreams’.  He had the happy ending of defying the odds of mental illness when the psychiatrist gave him a clean bill of health four years after we met.  OK, the psychiatrist mumbled something along the lines that love and security had played some part in that achievement.  But when all is said and done, this would not have been our personal story of hope, had it all been nothing but a charity affair. 

The truth is Chuck deserved the best like everyone else.  Chuck did not need charity from the person lying next to him at night. 

Chuck deserved love. And thank God he got it.  And I did too.

You can read more about Zoe and Chucks story in their book, Defying The Odds