I’m lying awake in the middle of the night, pissed off and tired as I stare at my bedroom ceiling. I’ve got a wicked sinus infection wreaking havoc on my face holes, my period is annoyingly in full effect, and the incessant wakings of tiny humans in my house have led to next-level exhaustion.
But this time, it isn’t my daughter or son keeping me up.
Curled in fetal position on his side of the bed, my husband Matt has been snoring at a volume intended only for wild animals in the woods. In the five years that I’ve known and loved him, I’ve found a host of ways to keep his nostril sounds from bursting my eardrums. I usually just re-position him or gently pinch-squeeze his nose, but neither is working at the moment. So, I reluctantly employ my most humiliating tactic.
I try in vain to snuggle my husband into some peace and quiet.
While this method works wonders for Matt’s snoring, it always leaves me feeling embarrassingly lonely. I’m a stage-five clinger by nature, and my hubby is a lone grizzly bear. I’ve learned many times the hard way that when I show any signs of mid-sleep affection, Matt will predictably growl, push my hands off of him, and sleepily creep to the edge of the bed.
As soon as his back is facing me, I hear it. The sound of welcome silence envelops the bedroom. However, I’m laying there feeling far from victorious. Because now I’m sprawled out like a fucking fool, desperate for the “little spoon” moment I just won’t get. This is usually when I’d barrage my introverted husband with a 10-minute monologue about why I need him to go out of his comfort zone in our marriage, but it’s too goddamn late for that.
There will be no more sleep for me tonight.
I wish I could say that Matt’s and my opposing qualities end here, and that we’re totes soulmates who sweetly finish each others’ sentences while binge-watching the exact same Netflix shows. But I’d be completely lying to you.
The fact is, while I’m persistently trying to push broccoli on my toddler, my husband is happy letting her eat directly out of the Ritz cracker box. When I’m in the mood for a thoughtful indie drama, Matt is jonesing for the “John Wick” trilogy (no offense, Keanu). We’re terrible at fighting, because I want everything fixed ASAP and Matt takes three days to process most information. Whereas I could spend hours dancing the night away with my BFFs, my spouse is perfectly at ease staying home long enough for no one to notice if he died.
And let’s just say that on some days, my obsessive neat-freak self uses the show “Hoarders” to motivate me to clean. On other days, all I have to do is stare at the endless assortment of action figures Matt stretches across our bed, or the trail of sock breadcrumbs he leaves on our floors.
My husband and I are polar opposites — and it’s as infuriating as it is comical.
While all of these quirks certainly make us seem like a new reboot of “The Odd Couple,” there is one particular area that has required a ton of vulnerability to navigate. Two years ago, Matt revealed to me that he’s been living with ADHD since he was a preteen. And a year later, I was diagnosed with complex PTSD. Having opposing mental health disorders is a frustrating comedy of errors, to say the least. And while we’re definitely getting the hang of it all — yay, therapy! — we both still have a lot of growing to do.
One of Matt’s ADHD symptoms is forgetting important stuff like doctor’s appointments, tax deadlines, and insurance payments. And one of my PTSD symptoms is to overly manage every single aspect of our household, including Matt. These may seem like frustrating, but minor, issues in our relationship, but they are actually a painful part of a larger struggle for both of us.
My partner’s occasionally scattered, distracted mind has caused him to feel so much shame in his life. He had a principal who bullied him, a school system that refused to adapt to the way his mind worked, and romantic partners who chose ridicule over compassion. This caused Matt to lock his diagnosis deep inside and push through for many years to seem like someone who didn’t have ADHD. But time and again, the disorder kept popping back into his life, and grew more prevalent once we had kids.
Since my PTSD was born out of childhood trauma, I’ve spent a long time trying to control my environment and manage the emotions of those around me. At a young age, I became conditioned to achieve highly, people please, and constantly attempt perfection. All the while, shame has been living rent-free inside of my mind, and the list of limiting beliefs have only multiplied since I was a kid. When Matt met me, I was choosing radical optimism and restrictive eating as poorly placed band-aids over my wounds. And I had no fucking clue I had PTSD.
In a strange way, my husband and I have both been existing in very different pressure cookers. Coming to terms with this truth has helped us find a common ground we didn’t know we had. As opposing as we may be in so many ways, our shared mental health struggles have had the powerful result of uniting us, when they very well could have separated us. In fact, they almost did tear us apart — until we realized we were fighting a similar battle and could face it together.
This past year, Matt also showed me a love like no other when he agreed to temporarily move us closer to his family, so we could get much needed support. After my complex PTSD diagnosis, we both realized the toll it was taking to live in a city on one income and juggle all of the demands of a growing family with my failing mental health. Matt quit a sweet job directing a cool animated show and put his television career on pause for us. His generosity and loyalty in committing to our collective well-being has blown me away.
Since the day I met him, my husband has chosen me over and over again. And when my mental health disorder convinces me that he no longer loves me as I am, Matt skillfully manages to kick PTSD’s ass. He’s always showing up, always trying to understand me, and always my biggest fan. Even though he expresses himself so much differently than I do, my husband’s hands are always steadily holding mine.
I may never get used to seeing my spouse spend decades wearing shirts he refuses to retire, or be patient every single time he forgets to call our kid’s preschool. And oh my good GOD, THE SOCKS. But after this year, I’m beginning to think that maybe I could benefit from finally eating some Ritz crackers straight out of the box.
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