One month ago today, my partner Rich and I stood under a big tent during the loveliest late-summer rain storm and did a really wonderful thing: We got married.
Our wedding was beautiful and special and fun and silly — all the things we had hoped it would be during the months of planning. We stood under the alter in front of our friends and family, and I promised all the typical things you promise in your wedding vows — to love him and support him and take care of him when he’s sick, etc.
But there was one thing I added that wasn’t so typical: that I would take care of myself and my mental health, too.
It wasn’t surprising to Rich that I included this in my vows. Mental health — both mine and his — has played an important role in our four-year-long relationship.
Rich and I started dating my junior year of college, about seven months after I was sexually assaulted. At this time, I hadn’t told anyone about my rape and was struggling greatly (and quietly) with PTSD and depression. I remember thinking I never would be able to say out loud what had happened to me.
And then, one night when we were hanging out shortly before we became “official,” I said it. I couldn’t believe it and certainly hadn’t planned it. It was like this part of me had been waiting for the right person to come along — someone who I absolutely knew wouldn’t judge or doubt me — and then there he was.
My recovery has been a big part of our relationship. It’s taken a lot of work over the last few years for me to get to a place where I could walk down the aisle without this big traumatic cloud hovering over me. And Rich has been there for every step of it — finding new therapists, upping my medicine dosage, learning new coping mechanisms to deal with my intense anxiety, dealing with terrible nightmares every single night.
We talk about my mental health as casually as we talk about what we’re having for dinner. I tell him when I’m having bad days (happy to say they’re pretty few-and-far between now) or when something triggers me or when I need a little more support than usual.
We talk about his mental health, too. It’s not easy to be the spouse of a sexual assault survivor and he’s had to learn his own coping mechanisms. But we talk about it and we work through it. There’s absolutely no stigma in our relationship; that’s one of the things I love most about it
So it made perfect sense for me to talk about my mental health in my vows. Here’s how it went:
“I vow to always make you coffee when I’m the first one up on Sunday. When you’re telling me a joke or about a bad day, I vow to listen to you — and actually listen, not just kind of listen but really I’m watching Netflix. I vow to take care of you when you’re sick. I vow to bug you to go to the dentist regularly, no matter how annoying it is. I vow to do my very best to cheer you up when you’re feeling down. And just like I promise to take care of you, I promise to take care of myself, too. I promise to go to my therapy appointments and take my medicine and write in my journal and practice self-care and love myself as much as you love me. I promise this because I know that the health of our relationship is only as strong as our individual health, so I vow to hold up my end of the bargain as best as I can.”
I’ve been doing really well for the last two years. I found a therapist I adore and my medicine is working like it should. But our marriage will (hopefully!) be long and I know there will be days when I’m not doing so great. There will be days when it’s easier to stay in bed then get up and write what I’m feeling in my journal. There will days when recovery seems out of reach and I want to throw in the towel.
But I’ll do my best to keep fighting. I’ll do it because I love my husband. And I’ll do it because I love myself, too.
Later, on our way to our Alaskan honeymoon, I asked Rich what his favorite part of the wedding was. He said it was the part about mental health in my vows.
I’m so lucky he’s my husband.