MARRIAGE,

MISSION &

MENTAL

HEALTH

Honest reflections about marriage and mission work when dealing with the anxiety and depression

  • Charlie Clayton

The Black Wind - Charlie's response



The day feels quite light. Not too many stresses. Not too many demands. I think I can cope with today. Family seems OK, kids are playing nicely. Abby seems in a good mood - great, I can relax a little. Maybe life isn't all that bad.


I even have a moment of clarity knowing that actually I stress too much about things that aren't even going to happen. Why not just try and enjoy the day. Well today, maybe I will!

"Can I have a quick word Charlie?" comes the loving voice from my wife.


"Yes of course, what is it?" I answer calmly and nicely, knowing that Abby wouldn't do anything to spoil this wonderful day and positive feeling that I have by bringing anything negative up with me. [dark wind starts to stir]


"I just need to talk about something that happened this morning. I think the way you responded to [insert situation here] wasn't OK. I know your struggling, but it came across quite strong."


"OK, I understand" hoping that was it. You're not actually going to spoil this moment of feeling good [that you know nothing about but I expect you to somehow know] are you?[dark mist closing in]


"I know you were struggling earlier, but I need to know you understand what I'm saying so that I won't be concerned the rest of the day that it might happen again", comes the loving, gentle reply.


WITHOUT THE DARK WIND


A simple sentence here would resolve everything. Something like "I understand that my reaction wasn't OK. Was it when I [insert reaction here]? I was struggling a bit and I'm sorry for how my reaction impacted you / the kids. Are you OK? I will be more aware of this today."


"Thanks for understanding and your apology. I was hurt but am reassured now about what happened and that the day will be OK. Great. Lets' go and enjoy the day. Would you like a cup of tea?" responds a visibly relieved wife, feeling loved and reassured.


WITH THE DARK WIND


Before I have chance to respond, the dark wind kicks in. Like a dark curtain it covers my face and clouds my mind. This is no longer a normal, loving conversation between husband and wife. It's too late. What could have ended gently and loving now takes a turn. There is no going back.


INTERNAL: Why the f**k is she bring this up with me? I was having such a lovely morning for once. No stresses, feeling quite light, looking forward to spending time with the family. But now, now it's all ruined. Stupid woman. She knows better than to lay this on you. She knows my struggles. Why has she now spoiled the day? Why can't you just leave it? Why did you need to mention it? Why do you ever have to bring up any negative behaviour? I am just trying to cope.


Body tenses up, face changes. It's time for fight or flight. Let's choose fight first.


"I heard you,I said" - emotions now entering shutdown mode. I want this to end quickly.


"But, I'm not sure you have as you haven't even asked what it actually was I'm bringing up with you" comes the tentative reply. Abby wanting to resolve a minor conflict easily and lovingly, but starting to notice my change in response.


"What do you want from me Abby? I have said I understand. Can't you just leave it? You have said what is needed. Why are you going on?", comes the more sharp response.


Start to involuntarily rub my head. Stress levels in my brain are rising fast. Body is engaged, mind is sharpened. Jaw clenching increasing in speed. Breathing starts to shorten and increase in velocity.


"I know you're struggling, but it doesn't mean I can't discuss something with you if it has impacted our relationship or the kids", Abby replies now realising this isn't going anywhere, but reaching out, hoping that there is still a chance to salvage.


DARK WIND. OK this isn't working. We need to change tack. Lets use one of your favourite lines.


1. You are too sensitive. [It's your fault] You need to allow a lot more to pass by. [You're so uptight]. You have no grace [You are not really living out your Christian walk in this area].


2. I reacted like this because you did [a situation that I have twisted] first [your fault]


I let fly with both of them. Maybe the combo will make this really go away


"That's not fair" answers Abby, starting to show signs of hurt. "I know that I have things to work on but we are talking about your response at the moment, not mine. I am happy to discuss these things if you want to afterwards." Abby still trying to bring this to a good conclusion.


DARK WIND: A longer conversation?? No that back-fired. OK try another approach.


"Don't you know how I struggle? [I'm the victim] Why would you even bring this up? [You are selfish] I am just trying to cope and here you are adding stresses into my day. [self self self] If you really understood then you wouldn't bring anything up. [It's your fault you don't understand me]"


(Being depressed is not selfish. You are genuinely trying to cope with life. But the outworking can often cause unintentional selfishness as your needs trump everyone else's. It is a difficult (sometime impossible) balance of care and challenge.)


DARK WIND: OK come back from that one then...


"Why would you turn this around on me? I know you are struggling but it doesn't mean you don't have impact. And this was meant to be a quick conversation which has now changed into something much bigger. I do everything to try and help you, I have put my own emotions and desires on hold many times to help you." Anger rises from Abby, she starts to lose control of the conversation.


DARK WIND: OK now she is justifying herself and worked up. That one worked. The conversation has been shifted off me dealing with my crap and putting it on Abby. Now there is a lot of confusion which means we have lost sight of the original argument.


Abby starts to cry.


DARK WIND: Oh no, that went too far, now the situation will go on for much longer. This means the day is now ruined. It's all ruined. Even if we resolve verbally, there will be a distancing for most of the day. There goes my moment of feeling good for a few minutes. Selfish woman.


I fully shut down my emotions. I have to if I am not to be broken and shocked by the sight of my wife in tears.


"Why are you crying? I didn't say anything bad. I just don't understand what is happening and how it is turned this way." I reply coldly.


GLIMPSE IN THE DARKNESS


I come to my senses. I have done it again. 'Fight' has worked to protect my own emotions, but it's gone too far. I sit frozen, across from my crushed wife. I want to reach out, but know that I am so shut down that my body wont move and my emotions are too closed now to offer any genuine response. I see the damage I have done, but don't know what to do about it, how to resolve. How to salvage another break in the relationship. I want to give the world to Abby, for her to feel protected, loved, safe, cherished and desired. I want our house to be peaceful. I want this situation to stop.


DARK WIND KICKS BACK IN


DARK WIND: There is no way we can handle this level of emotion. You need to leave the situation, but not by storming off. It needs a good response, and a good reason to do it..


"Look I'm sorry for what I did this morning. Now the kids are waiting [guilt for bringing this up when we could be playing with the children] we need to go and sort them [legitimate, unarguable point]. Is there anything else you would like to talk about? [I know she is too upset for this and the answer will be no]."


And there I go. Leaving the situation without a genuine apology for the original hurt (never mind all the rest) and to go and enjoy time with the kids whilst leaving their mother in tears.


BLACK WIND LEAVES


I look back in the lounge and see Abby left upset, the original damage still unresolved, but minor compared to the new hurt incurred in the conversation. She now has to go and somehow love and engage with her husband, who has just left her in tears, and pretend everything is great in front of the kids.


"I am devastated that she is upset, but don't know how to communicate this to her or comfort her", I think to myself. "I hope things can get better."


Crushed and gathering her strength for the day, Abby slowly gets up to join in with us all.


"I wonder when this will ever end", thinks Abby


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Even though Abby and I have talked many things through, writing this blog has still come as a shock to me of the impact I had on Abby. At no time did I intend to make her upset or argue in this way, or be selfish and hurtful. My intention was actually the opposite, but the outworking of depression and anxiety in my life masked this.

If the above situation resonates, then there is hope. But there is also a journey to be taken.







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