My Ex-Husband Needs Psychiatric Treatment and Asked Me For Help

Evie M.

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Note: I’ve received permission to write about this sensitive subject from the parties involved.

For my entire marriage, I begged my ex-husband to take better care of his mental health. But, being a black man in America, in his words, “they don’t talk about this stuff in their community.”

Now, with the COVID-19 pandemic creating change across the globe, everyone has adopted a sense of urgency. In other words, we’re all getting our shit together, or at least trying.

Which can be the only reason he dared to call me.

It takes a lot of balls for a man to call his pissed-off ex-wife for help. The one he dumped in a grocery store parking lot before stepping out with a female co-worker.

I can respect the courage it took, but the simple pleasure of turning him down is what kept me from sending him to voicemail. But the conversation didn’t turn out as I expected.

An embarrassing phone call

When he asked for my help, I hadn’t spoken to him since before the quarantine. At first, we were friends after our divorce, but even though we got along well, this arrangement worked out as you might expect.
The last he’d heard of me, I was sobbing in the background as my sister begged him on the phone to reconsider divorcing me.

Earlier that day, my husband had sent me a meme we used to enjoy; and I grew emotional due to a combination of PMS and too much weed. My sister tried to help and instead made everything worse by groveling to him on my behalf.

“She doesn’t want kids, I do,” I heard him explain with a laugh. “Sis, say we get back together, and then what? Ten years down the road, the same problems will come up, all the crying and panicking. I have to go, Sarah and I are late for dinner.”

They hung up, and I swallowed my sickness, laughing it off. My husband wasn’t wrong, but he showed a complete lack of care for my mental illness diagnosed long before we married.

I’ve been diagnosed with anxiety and depression. These illnesses made him uncomfortable throughout our entire relationship. I could tell from the way he’d stiffen each time I struggled. Though we had many issues, there’s a definite, scientific connection between divorce and mental illness. It can place an impossible strain on a once loving union, because of misinformation. Deon had no clue what happened when my anxiety took me somewhere else, made my eyes change.

With his ring on my finger, he fought as hard as he could to help me. Still, a person can only take so much before they must move on, especially someone also fighting a battle of their own.

The quarantine changes everything

Then, on March 13th, the state of emergency was declared. All none essential employees are to remain indoors in Virginia. My husband found himself amongst those told to self-quarantine.

When he called me, I didn’t recognize his new number.

“I got a Cricket Wireless phone,” he told me once I picked up, and he explained. “You know, one of those pay as you go things. I had to sell the iPhone you bought me.”

He didn’t even bother with pleasantries. His voice sounded tired, like when he used to drive all night for Lyft to move out of our old marital home about six months ago. He had given it up right before we signed our papers, scoring a new job in his home state.

“What’s up?” I asked, stepping outside to smoke a bowl. The cicadas chirped in the stillness as I puffed.

“I hate to be an inconvenience, but I need your help with something.”

“Oh yeah? Tell me,” I said, savoring the moment before I destroyed my ex-husband with my privilege. “Do you want money? I mean, I can try and ask my dad, but he’s — ”

“No, no, it’s not that.”

“Oh. It’s okay, you know, are you sure?”

Remembering he’s a new veteran with a desk job, I wondered if pride kept him from the truth.

My family’s super comfortable and often extravagant lifestyle unnerved my simple ex-husband. He grew up in a Virginian suburb, with a decent school down the street and a meal on his table each night.

Not really a rich girl

He enjoyed a normal childhood and could get by on little money. But the paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle is precarious, and this epidemic threatens those working hourly jobs to feed themselves, their children, to pay debts.

My point is: this isn’t a tea party for a good chunk of the world. But, the walls of my sister’s Virginian McMansion shielded me well from this reality. I chose to have my Draco Malfoy moment with my husband because hurt people want to hurt people, too. But it never came.

“I need you to write a letter; I understand if you don’t want to…I just need some help is all, we all do.”

Behind my anger, I understood his fright. Though I live in a temporary paradise, the money isn’t mine; I’m just lucky. I, too, have been out there hustling, delivering food via the DoorDash app to the quarantined public in my sister’s Lexus.

I have fears along with all the rest and the state of the world for the average person is unsettling, and I’m now no exception.

I listened to him on that call. Swallowing my pride and showing empathy to this man I once called my husband.

“Oh,” I said, clearing my throat, unsure of how to react to the tears I heard in his voice. “What’s it for, D?”

“It’s for my…my mental health; all the relief and stuff. I need psychiatric treatment.”

Well-being is crucial in a time of crisis, and beyond

I almost choked. he had never spoken the words “mental health” in our six years together.

“I need evidence of my poor mental health for the VA. I’m filing a claim, and I was hoping you could help. I get it if you won’t, but…this is urgent.”

My husband didn’t need to say the word “urgent” for me to know this. Married to the man for six years, I understood him better than he imagined. Even before I started to work on my mental health struggles, for years, I tried to help him with his. But my battle must’ve frightened him to the point he couldn’t deal with his mental health issues.

His career didn’t help improve his mind either. During our time in the Air Force, my husband faced horrendous working hours, low moral and tons of red tape for career moves. Even during tech school, the night I sent him a heart-shaped pizza, he never called to thank me. I felt like an asshole for pouting once he told me they’d found the remains of a young airman in a dorm room, and everyone went on lockdown.

Another year, at our first and last base, another young man froze to death during a brutal winter. Word said, he stayed guarding a plane because he feared desertion charges and hoped help would come. This person was a friend of my husband’s.

Often, on his off days, he’d spend the time sleeping, and then getting together with friends to game and crack disturbing suicide jokes.

“It’s just how we cope,” he’d say.

And then, one sunny afternoon on a walk, he told me, with the same casual tone he used to mention a cloud earlier, something horrifying.

“I have to take my physical training (PT) test tomorrow. Don’t freak out if I’m in a cast; I found a way to get out of it.”

His “way out of it,” I later learned, involved shattering his leg or arm in his car door.

When I pushed for help, he ran and hasn’t faced his fears until now.
My point is: this is not a healthy mind; the man needs treatment and evaluation. And by writing one letter, I had the chance to get him help.

Forgiveness

I sighed. “I’ll do it.”

“Really?”

“Oh, yeah, sure. Get me the details of what it needs to say and when you need it by.”

“I’m sorry for the inconvenience; I’m not sure how I can repay you.”

He cleared his throat as he struggled to maintain his manliness, though I find a man commuting to his health to be a good show of his strength. Sticking this sensitive matter in his face would help no one in the end.

“First off, stop being so formal. And second, can you find that weird Super Mario video we used to love? The one of they guy going into the pipe with all the sound effects?”

“Oh geez, I forgot about that one. I’ll keep an eye out. Thanks, Evie.”

“Wait, you’re safe, right? You have my number.”

“I am, and I do. Thanks.”

And then we went our separate ways.

We all need a kinder world

The complicated dynamic between an ex and empathy can challenge anyone to evaluate how powerful kindness and forgiveness can be. It shouldn’t take a pandemic to take care of ourselves, though this is what it took for my husband ealize he needed help. And that’s why I’m about to write the best-damned letter for him that I can.

A kinder world is what we all need right now, so I’ll give him a pass for now. I have a feeling he understands what he did, and I’m happy with this. The good karma I earned for life after quarantine isn’t bad, either.

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