I met my husband in 1995 when we were 14 years old. I was always drawn to him. He was so magnetic, mysteriously moody and laid back in a way that I could never be. We saw each other around here and there through the years, but crossed paths again the summer of 2001. In the first month that we were dating, Nate told me that he had been diagnosed with depression, that he had been on medication, but wasn’t taking it anymore because he felt good. This was my first encounter with anyone admitting mental illness to me…I didn’t even know it was mental illness. It didn’t change anything for me, because I was falling in love with this guy and I was hooked. He stayed in Indiana for college while I went to school in South Carolina. We did the long distance dating thing for 2 years, and had some ups and downs. But we learned we didn’t want to live life without each other.
So, in 2003 we were married. We moved to rural Kentucky for 2 years, then moved to Chicago for just under 2 years in a very diverse neighborhood called Rogers Park. I became pregnant, we outgrew our 1 bedroom condo when our first son was born. Doors opened and we moved back to our hometown in Indiana. Our parents were excited, I was excited, but Nate started becoming depressed, unhappy, and irritable. I thought it was because his dreams were being stomped on. Or that our family dynamic had changed with adding Brody. We were also living with my parents for about 6 months…which we were grateful for, but we just needed our own space. Nate continued working on his coursework and eventually his dissertation work. In 2009 we experienced a loss, I had miscarried, which devastated both me and Nate. Three months later, I became pregnant again. Camden was born, life was crazy busy, but we trudged along. Nate finished his dissertation, then successfully defended his dissertation and became Dr. Nathan Crawford.
By this time the depression decided to reappear on a completely different scale. Nate went back to the doctor, and was prescribed medicine (Nate actually started taking meds before Camden was born), we thought everything would be tied up and get back to normal. At this point, we had a little surprise and our third son, Ryder, was born. Life continues to be challenging. Years go on, and Nate’s medicine is increased, but nothing is working. Nate finally admits to me, for the first time in our relationship that he has been having suicidal thoughts. I take it ok, but I am scared. How do you handle this information? What do you say? I wear my emotions on my sleeve, so I can only imagine what my face looked like. Things continue to not get any better. I pray. I pray. I pray some more. I am tired. I’m tired of living life with this other person. This person that is NOT Nate. I mention going to counseling. It isn’t received as well as I had hoped. Things continue to not get any better. I gather strength to have a very serious conversation. It’s either go talk to someone, or this relationship cannot continue. Something had to give. It was like I saw my Nate for a moment, he woke up. Nate went and talked to someone.
The next few months were like a whirlwind. In addition to the counselor, Nate was referred to a psychiatrist and diagnosed with bipolar 2 disorder with depression and anxiety. I felt like a weight was lifted. It was as if everything made sense. In the past 4 years medications have been adjusted, we have had continued therapy and there have also been moments where I feel like the disease is taking over our lives: but, listen, this is where my FAITH has kicked in and we come out stronger. I have no doubt that certain people have come into our lives at the exact moment that we needed them to to help us get through. There have been multiple times where I am encouraged by the most random things and people. I know that I am never alone. I feel the presence of God at times with such clarity that it blows my mind and brings me to my knees with humbleness.
I want to encourage caregivers to those with mental illness to keep fighting for your relationship! Whether that be with your partner, child, parent or friend. Don’t give up on love. Society in general needs to be educated about mental illness, those afflicted need to have an outlet to turn to and not feel ashamed, and caregivers like I need encouragement to keep on keeping on. Our relationship is not easy, and seriously what relationship is? I guess you have to decide what is worth fighting for? Nate and I are a team, we are in this together. I love him with all of my heart.