I loved my wife but didn't know how to show it. I tried to show it, tried to be the man she deserved. I tried to be the man she believed in but fell short because I didn't believe in myself. I fell short into a bottle because it's the only way I thought I could find peace. I over indulged in any and everything that made me feel good for a moment because I felt bad from the time I woke up till the moment I went to sleep because I'd never fallen in love with me. And my wife bore the brunt of my lack of self love because I claimed to love her but how could I love her when I didn't love me?
How can you love someone when you don't love yourself? I'd sit up all night repeating the question as if the answer wasn't staring me right in my face. I blamed everyone else for my failures, took no responsibility for my actions or my behavior, battled with addiction and all the pitfalls that come with it, and was more than happy to bring misery to everyone in my presence for my own benefit. All that mattered was me feeling good, but I never felt good so nothing anyone did for me mattered to me. I was depressed and needed help but reluctant to get it because getting help means you're crazy right?
When Nicole and I first got engaged everyone I knew, from relatives to friends asked her, "You know Richard is crazy right?" And we'd all just laugh it off as if it was normal. And maybe crazy for me was normal, but no one ever encouraged me to seek help. I kept telling myself I didn't need therapy. I'm educated, I work, I'm married, don't have any children, I have my life 'together' right?
Around a year ago my wife walked into my office and found me trying to hang myself. She called the police and I was placed under a medical hold. I was released later that evening under the recommendation I go to counseling, but their recommendation meant nothing. Nicole's mandate meant everything. She told me she couldn't watch me kill myself, and I understood what she meant. What woman wants to see the man she loves give up on himself? So I went to counseling for the wrong reasons, I should have gone years earlier for myself. Probably sometime back in high school, people had been calling me crazy for almost 20 years. I wonder how much better my marriage would have been if I'd done it earlier, but I've learned better than to think that way. I have to appreciate the growth in my life now and let go of the dysfunction in the past.
Our seventh wedding anniversary just passed recently. We didn't exchange gifts, didn't really celebrate. We went to brunch and enjoyed ourselves. Came home and fell asleep like an old married couple. Nicole reached over as we layed in bed and kissed me. (Sweetest kiss ever!) She said the past year had truly been the best one in our marriage. We'd argued less, I seemed to be happier, more focused and dedicated to my goals. I told her thank you for loving me long enough for me to understand I needed to love myself. I went to counseling for the wrong reasons but like my therapist said, sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you realize the value in getting help. I needed help, and in some way will probably always need it, and I'm alright with that.
To all those struggling with spouses battling through issues with addiction and/or depression, keep your faith. Understand that they do love you, but it's almost impossible for them to show it until they learn to love themselves. Encourage them to get help, and if it comes to that point? Be ready to walk away to ensure your own safety. I pray for all those struggling to make it through another day. Stay strong. Love yourself. You're worth it. Don't be afraid to get help, we all need it sometimes. Lord knows I did and I'm thankful I finally went and got it.
Richard Lawrence, Young, black and married