What do you get when you cross someone who is neurologically atypical with someone with mood disorders? The answer is (of course) that the possibilities are endless. But the answer I live is: a best-friendship of many years, a marriage that makes love songs seem real, a partnership based on trust and grown by support.
One of the hardest things about living with mental illness, cognitive impairment or neurological difference is the impact these things have on human relationships. Many differences make forming those deep bonds we need to survive so much more difficult. And that can be terrifying.
I remember spending many years wondering if there was “someone for me”. I feared I would be too much, “too difficult”, too burdensome for any relationship to last. I feared I was fundamentally unlovable– or at least unsuitable for any kind of long term partnership. I feared that the differences that made me the special, unique, perfectly imperfect person I am also destined me to live this life Alone.
But it wasn’t true.
And in moments of strength, I could appreciate all those who walked with me- close friends, family members, even co-workers who made me laugh. I valued these connections. But something felt missing. I wanted the closeness of partnership, I wanted to find my “one”.
In moments of darkness, I leaned on an ever-present God. I lamented to an ever-present God. I cried to, screamed at, and buried my head under pillows with- an ever present God.
And then one day, a little spark within my heart told me to go on a blind date a coworker had been trying to send me on for months (on paper it had seemed like a Terrible match). It was my husband.
Life has changed a lot since we shared that first pizza. We’ve learned about each other and learned about ourselves. It took me a long time to begin to trust that I would not be too much. It took Alex some time to share his own burdens with vulnerability. We’ve had fights. And we’ve had forgiveness.
We’ve misunderstood each other’s mental health challenges. And we’ve had forgiveness. We’ve had no idea how to best support one another through an especially hard day. But we’ve tried (and we’ve had forgiveness).
Our own struggles may have made maintaining the health of our relationship more difficult, but I believe our commitment to one other through these struggles has made our relationship even more enduring.
It is through each other’s brokenness that together we are made strong.
Mabel Laird earned her B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Maine and M.Div from Regent University in Virginia. Between those, she enlisted in the Navy and served for 12 years. While serving, she heard her call to ministry. Her last station was in Virginia Beach, where she met and fell in love with her husband Alex. They were married a little over a year later and have since welcomed her daughter (4) and son (2) (as well as two very patient dogs, both 7). Mabel serves as the pastor of Alfred Parish Church in Alfred, Maine, as well as a chaplain for Spiritual Care Services of Maine and for the Sanford Police Department. She also currently serves as the Vice Moderator for the York Association of the Maine Conference and on the board of the UCC’s Mental Health Network. In her free time, Mabel enjoys happy hours in the woods.