Mental Illness and the Difficult Marriage and yes, Robin

I haven’t posted for some time and resisted even writing this.

This week Robin Williams died. He struggled with a mental illness. Some say it was depression and other’s say bi-polar. Either way, he struggled and gave into the darkness and the light he shared with the world has been snuffed.

Robin was married three times. Three. From what I understand, all three women loved him. He had children who adored him. All of these individuals knew his struggles with addictions and depression. They all cared.

Yet I heard someone blame his wife for Robin’s suicide because she was not in the bedroom with him that night.

Wait. Excuse me? Did you have a front row seat to the pain of that marriage? Did you walk with his wife through the heights and depths of what Robin struggled with in his mind and soul?

No. You didn’t.

Especially if Robin was bi-polar, the fact that his wife was still there, married to him, says volumes about her love and devotion. They could have shared a room and he could have shot himself in the garage. When someone makes the decision to kill themselves (and yes, it is a decision even if they feel they have no other choice), it is not the fault of the people left.

When I began to realize that the pain of my marriage wasn’t all my fault, that my husband was really ill with who knows what, I was scared. As I made changes in my behavior and stopped feeding into his insanity, he grew worse in some ways. I spoke to my pastor, almost asking permission to seek to be healthy. He affirmed I needed to be healthy for my own sake, my kids and my ministry.

“So if my husband kills himself, it’s not my fault. Right?”

He nodded. If my husband reacted to my pursuit of psychological health, by killing himself, that was his deal. Not mine. I had no culpability in it whatsoever. He is an adult and responsible before God for his choices in the way he treats his wife, and in how he lives his life.

My husband is still alive. I still struggle. Should he die I wouldn’t be like Robin’s wife, claiming to have lost my best friend.

I have great admiration for spouses who stick with a husband or wife who struggles with bi-polar disorder. It can make a marriage difficult and rational thought can be hard to find during certain aspects of this illness. I’m not saying my husband is bipolar. He’s not been diagnosed. He’s mentally unhealthy though and many would agree with me on that. It’s not just a disgruntled wife’s complaint.

It’s a verbally and emotionally abused wife’s truth. And the fact is, mental illness can manifest itself in abuse of others. Not always and it doesn’t have to be tolerated.

So please pray for his wife and children as they move forward with his gaping hole in their lives. I’m sure that while they wished for Robin’s freedom from the pain he struggled with, this would never have been on their list of choices as to how that would come about.

And if you are struggling with a spouse with mental illness–you are not alone. Get help and support from a therapist or a support group. You don’t have to navigate this journey alone or let yourself become a victim of the illness either.

And if you’re hurting . . . maybe this song by Rich Mullins, one of my favorites, will be a blessing to you.

Blessings to you,

Lilly Grace