Podcast: Mental Illness, Divorce, and Raising a Family

Today Trevor shares an update on his progress over the last few weeks and talks about the discomfort of being open and vulnerable. Then we talk to Amy (13:02), one of the first participants in our Deconstructing Stigma public awareness campaign.

Amy explains how her job as a librarian gave her a sense of control at work when things felt so out of control at home. Amy then talks candidly and emotionally about being married to a man with treatment-resistant depression and the toll that her role as his caregiver took on her and their family.

She also recalls the guilt she felt for worrying about her own well-being while it was her husband who was struggling with mental illness. Although now divorced, Amy and her ex-husband successfully co-parent their teenage son who is also well versed in caring for someone with mental illness.

Episode Transcript

Trevor: All right, I’m back. Mindful Things. Thank you for returning, and for new listeners, thank you for joining us. Quick update: I’m doing a little better. A little better. A little. But that’s good. And if anybody’s been following about the last four or five episodes, definitely on the decline, hit the bottom or what I hope was the bottom. And now I’m on the way back up.

I think I figured out where it came from. I’m not going to go into too much detail because I think it’s stuff that needs to be worked out between myself and my therapist. But actually, I think the trigger came from this podcast. I was talking with somebody. They said something in the interview that I just filed away in my head. It stuck with me, and it was, like, “Oh, that’s interesting, file that away.” And later on, when I had time to reflect on it ... and let’s be honest, when I had time to ruminate on it, and I mentioned this in some previous episodes ... it turned out to be a really, really big breakthrough.

Well, breakthroughs, they’re good things. And sometimes they’re bad things. I mean, it was good that I made this massive realization, and it’s provided me with a lot of answers, and the right answers. This is not something that just satisfies me emotionally. It satisfies my wise mind. I mean, this thing was ... It was an eyeopener for me, a very big one.

The problem is is that it re-contextualized a lot of things. A lot of things, I mean, all the way back to very early childhood. And I started seeing a lot of things in a new context, and it wasn’t really for the better. That’s been really, really hard. Situations that I thought were out of my control turned out to be, upon reflection, in my control. Things that I didn’t think were my fault were certainly my fault. And it got ugly.

And add to that, I was apartment hunting. One apartment fell through, and I had some friends take care of my cat. That was only supposed to be for two weeks. It turned into three months, while I couch-surfed around and just not having a home. Once I finally got an apartment and moved in, I think my mind, my body, it just gave in and was like, “Enough.”

I think I’ve noticed I might be having some blood pressure issues. I don’t know. I’ve been very aware of that lately. I drink water a lot, but I’ve been drinking way more water and trying to get some exercise in and cutting out the cigarettes. I know, can you believe that? Yeah, and the urge is still really bad, so I might have to go get some nicotine gum. But taking the steps to do better, to feel better. I’m feeling a little better.

I don’t know, especially these last two months have been ... They haven’t been fun. And I think I kind of really started to hide inside of myself. I think that I really didn’t have a lot of presence in some of the podcasts. I’m not saying that I phoned it in, but I wasn’t as invested. I was really caught up in this issue and really trying to work through it. I’ve still got a long way to go.

I’ve had some friends check in with me who listen to the podcast. They’re very worried. I’ve gone back and listened to a few of the more recent episodes and my intros, and I cringe. I didn’t realize that I was being that open, that vulnerable. I apologize to those that found it to be TMI or off-putting. But at the same time, I mean, that’s what Deconstructing Stigma is all about. I mean, putting the stuff out there and talking about it. And I’m sorry if you found it uncomfortable, and sure, you’re more than to welcome to turn off the podcast, listen to something else. I get it. But I don’t think that’s the best way to go about this.

If those of us that are a part of this Deconstructing Stigma campaign are going to be open about this and all of its ugly details, I hope that more people will be open to listening to it and maybe processing it. I let it all hang out there the last couple episodes, and I don’t know, I don’t like being that vulnerable. Who does? But it is what it is. I’m trying, trying to put down all the things that I’ve used to shield myself from life, everyday life. And that’s all cognitive distortions anyways. But I’m going to keep doing it, and if it’s off-putting to some of you, I don’t know what to say. I’m doing the best that I can.

On today’s episode, we have an individual who goes by the name of Amy. That’s it. Amy. No last name. Going a little incognito here. The reason is is because Amy, while she’s in therapy, which you’ll find out in the interview, she does not battle a mental illness. However, she was married to somebody who suffers from not only a mental illness, but treatment-resistant depression. That’s one that just breaks my heart.

I’m not treatment-resistant, and everyday life feels like hell. Somebody who’s treatment-resistant, that’s rough. That just sounds horrific. And she talked about what it was like to enter a relationship with him, to have a son with him, to have a family. We’re leaving his name out of the podcast out of respect, and we decided to leave her last name out as well.

When this podcast was first pitched to me, I was very, very uncomfortable with it, very uncomfortable, because I heard Amy’s story, and I absolutely empathized and sympathized and completely understand why their relationship ended and why they had to go their own separate ways.

What I was afraid of is that it would still feed into the stigma, my own stigma, that people with mental illness are not worthy of love. That is something that I tell myself every day. I mean, that’s why I’ve completely bailed on dating, completely. I’m open to a relationship, but I don’t seek them out. I don’t ask anyone out. If I find somebody attractive, if we’re even having a connection, I just don’t bother. I’m going through a period right now where I think of myself and my mental illness as a liability for other people. It’s a terrible way to think, but that’s where I’m at right now, and I’m trying to move past it.

So I know that’s being hypocritical. Here I am living that life, but at the same time, I was afraid of actually interviewing somebody where .... We’re not conveying that message. But I was just scared that that message, that somebody would walk away with that message. Isn’t it ironic how I could go on to this podcast and say that, “Well, if you’re sick and if you think that you’re not worthy of love, that’s not fair to yourself,” and then, boom, here I am, living my life that same way.

Yeah, I mean, that doesn’t make it ironic. That makes me a hypocrite, and I apologize. I know that that’s not true. But I know it in my mind, in my wise mind. But in my heart, in my feelings ... That is part of my mental illness, is my feelings have such a grip on me. My feelings, they tell me something different. And when it’s so powerful and so loud, it tends to overtake logic or things that are just facts. It’s really hard.

So I wanted to give everybody a heads-up. That’s not what we’re doing. But at the same time, I do think it’s important that spouses of mentally ill people have a voice, whether it works out or whether it doesn’t. I do think that that’s important. I do think they need to be heard, their struggle, their thoughts, the everyday approach to that relationship, especially raising a family. I mean, what do you tell your child?

Well, we go through a lot of that with Amy. I expressed to her my fears about doing this podcast, and I’m glad that we talked about that. But I just wanted to let you guys know what you’re getting into. I’m not saying that those of us who are sick are not worthy of love. We are. But we also need to be open to hearing from the other side. And that’s what we did with Amy, and I hope you enjoy the interview. I certainly got a lot out of it. It gave me a lot to think about. It gave me even more to think about. That’s always what I need, more things to fill my crazy brain and let it rattle on even louder into the dark night. Yay for me.

And on a personal note, I hope you’re all doing well out there. I do. I hope you’re all doing well. Is everybody doing well? You’re doing well? Buddy, you okay? Excuse me, you doing all right? Hey, you over there, you’re not even looking me in the eye. And I get it. I promised a little eye contact too. You okay? Are you okay? If you’re not, you need to talk to somebody, you’re number one priority. Doesn’t have to be a therapist. Could be a friend, could be a loved one, family member. But you should talk it out.

Take that first step. It’s not that hard. That’s a lie. It’s really hard. But you got to take that first step. Set your pride to the side. I just wanted to let that little rhyme just kind of hang there. Put your pride to the side and talk. Let it out. You’ll feel better. And if you don’t, you’ll at least ... You’ll have a better idea of which direction or which path you need to take. Anyway, this is Amy here on Mindful Things. I hope you enjoy.

Amy: I did a quick radio show in our town on the access channel.

Trevor: Oh, yeah?

Amy: Yeah. It was very brief. It was about two hours.

Trevor: What was it about?

Amy: A project the library was working on.

Trevor: Yeah? You work for a library?

Amy: Mm-hmm.

Trevor: What do you do?

Amy: I’m the assistant director.

Trevor: Oh, yeah?

Amy: Yep.

Trevor: How long have you been there?

Amy: I’ve been there 17 years.

Trevor: Mm-hmm.

Amy: And assistant director for five.

Trevor: When are we going to start accepting that books are terrible for the environment and that we need to burn all of them—

Amy: Oh. Right. Yeah, hopefully, never.

Trevor: ... to stay warm?

Amy: Yeah. Hopefully never.

Trevor: Well, how do you feel about digital books?

Amy: I feel good about them. They help a lot of people who wouldn’t be able to read otherwise because they have ... People with arthritis find it much easier to hold certain e-readers.

Trevor: Mm-hmm.

Amy: People with eye issues, sight issues, you can enlarge or reduce text size.

Trevor: Mm-hmm.

Amy: So it works. It works for some people with—

Trevor: So I’m going to ask again. How do you really feel about digital? Because I’ve never met a librarian that has had a nice thing to say about digital—

Amy: Really?

Trevor: Yeah. Well, of course, we’re kind of kidding—

Amy: Yeah, yeah, yeah. No, I do. It is not my favorite way to read. I will read that way if I have to.

Trevor: Right.

Amy: It’s not my favorite.

Trevor: But don’t ... I’m just playing devil’s advocate—

Amy: Yeah. Please.

Trevor: Don’t books ... They just take up so much space.

Amy: Yes.

Trevor: And they take up so much paper.

Amy: Mm-hmm.

Trevor: And I do understand that digital has its own carbon footprint.

Amy: Mm-hmm Mm-hmm.

Trevor: But how long do you see libraries being around? And I understand that we may even move to the whole digital world, but I understand that some books will be kept and protected as not relics, but pieces of history and stuff like that.

Amy: Yeah, treasures—

Trevor: Yeah—

Amy: I mean, there’s a big difference. I think people confuse museums and libraries sometimes or archives and libraries—

Trevor: Mm-hmm.

Amy: As a public library, we have limited space, and we can’t keep every book anyone’s ever checked out of the library. So we have to make sure the books that are on our shelves are books that people want to take out and not books that we’re just storing. We’re not a storage facility.

Trevor: Mm-hmm. Do you find that people that work at libraries have a certain personality trait?

Amy: It used to be that way.

Trevor: Yeah? How did it used to be that way? Describe it to me.

Amy: A lot of rule-followers.

Trevor: Really?

Amy: Yeah. A lot of very strict—

Trevor: You got to keep that Dewey Decimal System in check, you know.

Amy: ... conservative—

Trevor: Yeah.

Amy: ... shushing at the proper way to behave in the library. But—

Trevor: So are libraries, are they louder now?

Amy: They’re much louder now.

Trevor: Really?

Amy: They’re not loud. It is a struggle we have. We try to—community hub, and people come there for lots of reasons other than to read. It’s a tricky balance to give people the quiet space that they need and also the community space they need to socialize.

Trevor: Do you have quiet rooms?

Amy: Yes.

Trevor: That’s great.

Amy: Not enough, but—

Trevor: Not enough?

Amy: ... a couple.

Trevor: Do people use quiet rooms or the library as a workspace?

Amy: Yes—

Trevor: Sometimes I have to do that. I was like, “I’m working from home. I’m not getting any work done.”

Amy: Yep—

Trevor: “There’s movies there. There’s video games there. There’s too many distractions.”

Amy: Yes.

Trevor: And I would go to the library.

Amy: A lot.

Trevor: Yeah. I’d go to the library and then be distracted by the big Blu-ray and video game collection—

Amy: Yeah. Yeah, you have to go right past it. You have to go right past it. Don’t look.

Trevor: How long have you been at the library?

Amy: 17 years.

Trevor: Wow. That’s awesome.

Amy: I started out in the kids’ room, then became ... started a new position as a teen librarian there. And then from there, I went to administration.

Trevor: Yeah. And has funding from the town ... I assume it comes from the town, not from the state, or both?

Amy: It’s a combination.

Trevor: It’s a combination? Has funding stayed consistent, or you see—

Amy: No.

Trevor: Can you elaborate on that?

Amy: It’s tight. It’s always tight. It was a huge cut in 2008 that we all still talk about all these years later.

Trevor: Where did that cut come from?

Amy: Honestly, I was so new to the field I couldn’t tell you exactly. I just know that we lost 14 positions in our building—

Trevor: 14?

Amy: ... including our MIS. We had one MIS guy.

Trevor: MIS?

Amy: For the computers.

Trevor: Oh, he’s an IT guy?—

Amy: IT, yes.

Trevor: Yeah, yeah.

Amy: An IT guy. We have staff computers, we have public computers, we have catalogue computers.

Trevor: Mm-hmm.

Amy: We’re still feeling the repercussions of that.

Trevor: Yeah.

Amy: But librarians, more and more, they’re becoming people who think outside the box, and they will do what they can with what little they have, which has its plusses and minuses.

Trevor: Do you carry video games?

Amy: Yes.

Trevor: Was it a controversy when you started carrying video games?

Amy: We worried about a controversy, but there wasn’t one.

Trevor: Yeah.

Amy: We started out with kid things and E ratings and for the most popular systems. And they were so popular that we expanded the collection to include more systems and then also do the adult stuff.

Trevor: And did you find that the video games were a gateway to books? Or were people just coming in and getting the video games?

Amy: It’s a gateway to the library. I couldn’t tell you book-wise.

Trevor: Mm-hmm? Well, then it’s good that it’s a gateway to the library—

Amy: But it’s in the library—

Trevor: Yeah, that’s good.

Amy: And there are some true stereotypes that like during the week, most families that come in are with women: moms or daycare providers or grandmothers. However, on the weekends, it’s a lot more male caretakers. And they are so excited, like—

Trevor: About—

Amy: About the video games—about movies. They didn’t know libraries carried movies, and it opens their perception of what happens at a library, and they’re more willing to spend time there, I think, versus just another errand to check off the list, “The kids need new books.”

Trevor: I play games. But I mean, I watch a lot of film. A lot of film—

Amy: Mm-hmm—

Trevor: A lot of foreign films. And what I have found with libraries is that with certain films that are available on Blu-ray or DVD, distribution rights are usually only for a set period of time. So a movie’s available, and then suddenly it’s gone. What’s great, I find, about libraries is that I’ve found films that are out of print.

Amy: Mm-hmm.

Trevor: And that’s great. I mean, one of my all-time favorite films ... and it’s a famous film among film-lovers ... is a film by Jacques Tati called “Playtime.” It’s out of print. I just saw it in the theater last month.

Amy: Mm-hmm.

Trevor: But it’s out of print. It’s ridiculous. But I can find it at the library.

Amy: Absolutely. They have all those levels of, we can look in our system. We can look across the state. We can look across the country.

Trevor: Yeah.

Amy: It’s great.

Trevor: That’s great. So you love your job?

Amy: I do.

Trevor: Did you find that your job was like, I don’t know, a place where you could hide from problems at home?

Amy: I found my job to be a place where I had more control over what was happening. So I guess in that sense it was a haven. Yeah, I was in charge of programming. If I was having a stressful time at home, I could come in and arrange my day to do more patron interaction and do more one-on-one, the stuff that I enjoy, the relationship-building. Or if I was really struggling to keep my emotions in check, I could set up a project where I was in the stacks looking at books and looking at information or spreadsheets. So again, I could control that, versus at home I didn’t know what was coming day to day.

Trevor: Did you ever watch the show “Parks and Recreation”?

Amy: Yes.

Trevor: Yes. And the scenes where Leslie Knope would talk about her love for spreadsheets and organization?

Amy: Yes.

Trevor: Is that what you’d got going on?

Amy: No.

Trevor: No—

Amy: No.

My staff definitely sees a connection between me and Leslie.

Trevor: Oh yeah?—

Amy: I get that a lot—

Trevor: They’ve said that?—

Amy: Oh yeah, a lot—

Trevor: There is actually a book bag. Somebody has it here. And the book bag on the side says, “What would Leslie Knope do?”

Amy: Yes.

Trevor: You need that book bag.

Amy: Yes, I do.

Trevor: Yeah. Mm-hmm.

Amy: She also loves waffles, and I really love waffles—

Trevor: Yes, me too.

Amy: Yes.

Trevor: On the night of the finale, I had a friend over. The finale was at 10, and I had waffles ready to go at 10pm—

Amy: Yes. So yeah, but you learn what you need and find a way to get it. I guess I had that luxury at work.

Trevor: I was surprised by your answer. I find it very revealing. I assumed, which isn’t a good thing to do ... I assumed that you were going to say, “Oh yeah, work is great. I can go there. I’ve got friends. I’ve got a support system. I can ...” But you said, “No, I go to work to get some control back.”

Amy: Mm-hmm.

Trevor: So control is important to you.

Amy: Yes—

Trevor: Yeah. Yeah. And let’s back up. Did you grow up in an environment that was out of control?

Amy: No. No, my—

Trevor: You were kind of hesitant there.

Amy: I grew up in a family of four kids. It was pretty chaotic, but—

Trevor: It sounds a little out of control.

Amy: ... my mom was one of six kids, one of the older daughters. So she really kept things moving. Actually, it’s interesting, because I didn’t like that control. I definitely felt like, “I’m my own person. I don’t need you telling me what to do all the time.”

Trevor: My mom, very, very much, very, very controlling.

Amy: Mm-hmm.

Trevor: And I love her death. She’s a blast.

Amy: Mm-hmm.

Trevor: But that was one of her things that made growing up a little difficult.

Amy: Mm-hmm.

Trevor: I turned out the same way.

Amy: Right. I mean, in a way.

Trevor: I just turned out the exact same way. It’s annoying.

Amy: Yeah.

Trevor: Yeah.

Amy: I would say I’m not a controlling person. I’m pretty easygoing. I am pretty willing to listen to lots of different perspectives.

Trevor: Mm-hmm.

Amy: However, that complete loss of control that mental illness brings into your life is so scary. You need a respite—

Trevor: Mm-hmm. Your ex had a severe mental illness.

Amy: Mm-hmm.

Trevor: I remember in the pre-interview you said he didn’t show any ... He showed signs, but nothing that wasn’t manageable.

Amy: Mm-hmm.

Trevor: Do you think that you were maybe attracted to the potential chaos?

Amy: I don’t think so. When we were getting together I had no idea what mental illness was. I hadn’t experienced it at all. And also, when someone says to you, “I’ve suffered from depression,” unless you’ve actually seen someone suffer from depression or experienced it yourself—

Trevor: Oh yeah.

Amy: ... you don’t know what that means.

Trevor: Yeah, it’s way—

Amy: You picture somebody sad and crying, maybe—

Trevor: Right.

Amy: And you’re like, “Well, that’s fine.”

Trevor: Right.

Amy: You don’t know. So, I didn’t know what ... I mean, people ask me that a lot, like, “Did you know what you were getting into?” Or they say, “If you had to do it all over again, knowing what you know ...?”

Trevor: Mm-hmm.

Amy: I don’t think that’s an easy question to answer.

Trevor: Right. One of my favorite comedians ... I think I’ve mentioned this on the podcast before ... Patton Oswalt, made a joke. But I think he was actually kind of being serious. And when you think about it outside of the joke, it definitely sounds like depression. But he made a joke like, “Oh, my depression manifests itself in a way where I just wear my robe for three days, and I just watch “The Princess Bride” on repeat for three days.”

Amy: Mm-hmm.

Trevor: Okay, got some laugh from the crowds. But then when you think about, yeah, I mean, that is ... If you are seeing somebody do that for 72 straight hours, that can be unnerving.

Amy: Mm-hmm.

Trevor: And I’ve done stuff like that.

Amy: Mm-hmm.

Trevor: Absolutely. I’ll sit in my pajamas and watch some of the most depressing cinema you’ve ever met, because I don’t want to feel better. I want to feel worse. Because I’m so low that I think, “A, this bad place is my comfort zone, because this is where I’ve always been. And making it worse makes it more pure and real.” It’s ridiculous thinking. And I just stay there. I’ve gotten far better about it. But it used to be really bad.

Amy: I’ve seen and heard from a lot of people who do something similar. And as someone who’s not been through that, I do think, “How does that make it better?” But I know that in the moment, it does.

Trevor: No, I disagree with that.

Amy: Yeah?

Trevor: Yeah—

Amy: Mm-hmm—

Trevor: I don’t think it makes it better. I think it because—

Amy: Tolerable, maybe ...?

Trevor: No.

Amy: No?

Trevor: No. It’s self-harm. It’s psychological self-harm.

Amy: Mm-hmm.

Trevor: And I may think I may feel better from it. I may get a dopamine hit because my brain may be wired to give myself dopamine surges when I’m in a real shitty way.

Amy: Mm-hmm.

Trevor: But yeah, I don’t ... Nothing good comes from it. And then when you see somebody watch you, like they come in the room and they see this, and then they just quietly walk backwards—

Amy: Like the wide eyes and—

Trevor: Yeah. And they just quietly ... They don’t say anything.

Amy: Mm-hmm.

Trevor: And they just turn around, and they walk out. I mean, that’s rough. That’s very, very rough.

Amy: Mm-hmm.

Trevor: How far were you into your relationship when you first got a glimpse of ... I mean, you get a glimpse of it, but I’m talking about “the one” where you’re like, “This looks almost alien to me. I’ve never seen anything like this.”

Amy: We had been married for two years.

Trevor: Mm-hmm.

Amy: So it was a long time before I saw it.

Trevor: Mm-hmm. What did it look like?

Amy: A lot of bickering when we hadn’t been typically bickerers. We were parents of an infant. The first time I was told, sat down, and said, “I need to go to a hospital.”

Trevor: Wait, what? Why did you have to go to a hospital?—

Amy: My ex had sat me down and said, “I need to go to the hospital.”—

Trevor: Oh, he. He, yeah. Oh, oh, oh.

Amy: And I knew that things were stressful, and I knew that, but I didn’t realize that it was because of the stress he was under and what he was feeling inside. And talking about it later, he also didn’t want to be the one to say all of the ... I mean, beside we had all these things going on. We had a new house. We had a new baby. We were starting our lives. He didn’t want to add stress. Yeah, right. And it’s so odd that the things you do—

Trevor: I laugh—

Amy: ... to make things better, make things worse. You can’t win—

Trevor: I’m so sorry to the audience members that I la ... I laugh because how many times have I said that bullshit. And at the time, it is genuinely sincere. It’s delusional, but—

Amy: But sincere.

Trevor: ... it’s genuinely sincere. It’s like, “No, I don’t want to cause anymore hell.” It wasn’t in the beginning, but later on, as my mental illness and I became better friends, I was aware of what it was doing to other people. And well, A, I couldn’t stop it.

Amy: Mm-hmm.

Trevor: I could build skills to try and catch it. It didn’t always work. But I was aware of what it was doing to other people. And yeah, you say things like that. “Well, I don’t want to add any more, well, harm to it.” Too late. It’s too late.

Amy: Yeah.

Trevor: It’s tough.

Amy: Yeah, it is tough, which I think is where Deconstructing Stigma really helps, that you can say to people who have been through it how tough it is, I think—

Trevor: Mm-hmm. Have you met other DS participants that—

Amy: Yes. Yeah.

Trevor: And were you able to connect on that level?

Amy: Yes.

Trevor: Did you meet other spouses of DS members?

Amy: No.

Trevor: No? So, you’re kind of a lone wolf in all of this, huh?—

Amy: Yeah. Yeah, I’m an outlier.

Trevor: Yeah.

Amy: Which was hard, especially doing this podcast, a little difficult. I just felt like when people listen to podcasts, they’re looking for answers, or they want an expert. And I certainly don’t feel like I am in that position. But I also feel like there’s other people like me out there who haven’t heard their story before.

Trevor: Yeah, there’s no answers here.

Amy: Yeah.

Trevor: And I feel bad for any of the listeners who are coming to this seeking answers.

Amy: Mm-hmm.

Trevor: A, I get it. I’ve done that plenty of times.

Amy: Mm-hmm.

Trevor: B, I think it’s possible that you will find answers. But it’ll be your own personal journey. They’re not going to be any that I’m providing, mostly because I still have a boatload of questions left, and I’m seeking my own answers. Yeah, so I can get that concern. You’re in this situation ... Well, you’ve gotten out of this situation.

Amy: Mm-hmm.

Trevor: You’re moving on with life, but somebody down the road might learn about you.

Amy: Mm-hmm.

Trevor: You learned about this podcast coming for answers, and you don’t have any answers yourself, it sounds like.

Amy: No—

Trevor: No.

Amy: But I think that we’ve made progress as a family.

Trevor: Well, you’re divorced now.

Amy: Yes, but we co-parent a son.

Trevor: And was that an arrangement you guys made outside of the court?

Amy: Yes.

Trevor: Yeah.

Amy: And our son is 15, so he spent pretty much all of his life learning about mental illness and coming to McLean. We learned a lot about how you explain that to a kid. And there weren’t resources. I mean, and you’re talking to a librarian, right? I look stuff up.

Trevor: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

Amy: I’m looking for answers, and I’m looking for advice, and I’m looking for—

Trevor: What’s your first resource you go to as a librarian? Because I imagine it’s not Google.

Amy: Huh. Sometimes it is.

Trevor: Yeah?

Amy: I definitely ... So, for mental health stuff, I would go to the McLean website and look for their ... everyone has a resources page ... and see what they say. Yes, I don’t just Google “mental illness.”

Trevor: “Help me. I’m in an effed-up situation.”

Amy: Yeah. Yeah.

Trevor: Yeah.

Amy: So I know that there are qualified sources or vetted sources out there. But things like ... There’re so many great books and even picture books about feelings now that you can talk about sadness, and you can talk about being angry. And there was a few back in the day, but every day more and more. And I always make sure to highlight them. I keep Pinterest boards and share those resources with people that I know are looking for this sort of thing or who might be looking for that thing. We had to explain to him—

Trevor: Your son?

Amy: Yes .... that Dad doesn’t look sick. We’re not taking his temperature. We’re not getting a cast. But he has to go the hospital.

Trevor: Do you find that your son matured faster than other kids his age?

Amy: Yes. He’s an old soul to begin with.

Trevor: Mm-hmm.

Amy: And he’s an only child, so he’s used to being around adults. I do remember one day he was, I don’t know, seven or eight years old. And he looked at us, and he asked us, “How come we only have smart friends?” We have friends and relatives who are college professors. We don’t only have smart friends. But we do have a pretty intellectually, you know—

Trevor: Mm-hmm.

Amy: ... curious group. That’s who we gravitate ... Artists ...

Trevor: I’ve realized the benefit of having a few dumb friends around because I’m not that smart either, so when I’m with a roomful of my smart friends, I’m just like, “I don’t belong here.”

Amy: Well, we have a mix.

Trevor: Yeah.

Amy: We definitely have a mix. But it was interesting that he noted—

Trevor: “I need to go hang out with my people, the dummies.”

Amy: Yeah. Yeah. So he grew up going to art museums and talking about that sort of thing. He’s very mature. And he has been noted by schools and by teachers as ... He’s got a huge heart.

Trevor: Mm-hmm.

Amy: And he is the kid that notices someone feeling out of place and makes an effort to say, “Hey, what’s going on?” And that’s what you want for your kid. So we look on the bright side of what we’ve gone through. He’s learned a lot of great people skills.

Trevor: Mm-hmm. What was your ex’s diagnosis?

Amy: Treatment-resistant depression. Well, severe treatment-resistant—

Trevor: Treatment-resistant, yeah.

Amy: Severe depression. Yeah.

Trevor: Yeah. And how would it manifest itself during those dark times?

Amy: I remember him being so sad and heavy, like the idea of not being able to get out of bed, or not being able to get out of your robe, also a lot of irritability, which sounds like such a small symptom—

Trevor: Did he have blood pressure problems?

Amy: No.

Trevor: No? Interesting.

Amy: But if you’re living with someone who is constantly irritated and frustrated with everything big and small, that’s ... And you have a kid, right?

Trevor: Mm-hmm.

Amy: It’s exhausting.

Trevor: Did you get that feeling, “I’m married, but I’ve never been more lonely in my life?”

Amy: Definitely.

Trevor: Yeah. I’ve had that once. It’s horrible.

Amy: Yeah.

Trevor: It is horrible.

Amy: Yeah—

Trevor: And actually it did so much damage that I’m doing the thing right now where I am not dating, not seeking relations—

Amy: Mm-hmm.

Trevor: And what I’m doing ... I think I’m doing a healthy move. But what I’m really doing is that I’m feeding this negative conclusion that I’ve made that I’m not worthy of love.

Amy: Right.

Trevor: And I just need to ... “Nobody’s going to love me. I’m nuts.” I’m not.

Amy: Right.

Trevor: But, you know?

Amy: Right. But you feel that way.

Trevor: Yeah.

Amy: And in my position, you feel that way. You feel like you’re so lonely and what happened to your partner. But you also feel like, “Well, my partner’s going through all this stuff, and here I am thinking about myself.” There is that guilt factor of on top—

Trevor: Oh, yeah.

Amy: So it’s hard.

Trevor: Yeah. My ex-girlfriend, she held in, I think, for ... I don’t know this. We’ve never talked about it—

Amy: Mm-hmm—

Trevor: So I could be very wrong. But I think she held in for a lot longer than she wanted to because she was afraid of what might happen.

Amy: Mm-hmm.

Trevor: And now we’re very, very close. She’s moved on.

Amy: Mm-hmm.

Trevor: She’s actually with a guy right now that is ... I love the ... She’s told me, she’s like, “I’m concerned with like how buddy-buddy you guys are.” The guy is great. He’s great.

Amy: Mm-hmm.

Trevor: And really happy we stay in touch. We just talked last night. It took me a few years to get past it and realize, “Oh, yeah, I put her through hell,” like, “I put her through hell.” And I don’t know if anybody ever deserves that again. Now, I am far better than where I was.

Amy: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

Trevor: But still, anything that I can use to reinforce that negative conclusion that I’m not worthy of love, that’s another one to add to the list. Maybe in retrospect, was there any emotional, verbal, psychological abuse?

Amy: No.

Trevor: No? No physical abuse?

Amy: Not at all.

Trevor: No? When you decided it was time for a divorce, was it you as a wife making the decision, or was it you as a mother making that decision?

Amy: Definitely me as a mother. It was not me who ended up saying the words, “It’s time for a divorce.”

Trevor: Mm-hmm.

Amy: We worked really hard not getting divorced.

Trevor: Were you waiting for him to say it first?

Amy: Maybe.

Trevor: Yeah. I think my ex was too. She was. And at first, I thought that that was a betrayal.

Amy: Mm-hmm.

Trevor: But again, now I see it was just compassion. She was just worried about me. And if this was going to end, “I’m going to let him end it on his terms.”

Amy: I don’t know if I was worried. But I just saw how hard he was working at his own stuff, and working at the marriage was on top of that.

Trevor: Mm-hmm. And how old was your son during this period?

Amy: Oh, he was 12 going on 13.

Trevor: Okay.

Amy: So the divorce is fairly recent.

Trevor: Okay, so for him to be going through that maniacal stage in life called puberty and then this on top of it—

Amy: Yes.

Trevor: ... I can understand why you may have thought, “I don’t think this is good for my son.”

Amy: Exactly. So you asked about abuse, and there definitely was not abuse. But there was a lot of anger. From my perspective, it didn’t make sense where the anger was coming from or where it was directed. So we were playing this game, my ex and I, trying to figure these things out. It was heated arguments and—

Trevor: Screaming?

Amy: Sometimes. And I’m looking at this young boy, thinking, “He’s going to think this is how relationships work.”

Trevor: Mm-hmm.

Amy: And I also don’t want to take him aside and say what’s going on is, like, “Don’t listen to what your dad’s saying.” I would never say that about his dad. He and his dad are very close. Yeah, no, it was scary to think that our son was going to grow up thinking that was the way relationships should work.

Trevor: Mm-hmm. Were you/are you the type of person that genuinely tries to avoid conflict?

Amy: I don’t try to avoid it. I don’t enjoy it, certainly. But I do know that you have to be uncomfortable to move past it.

Trevor: Really? You do?

Amy: I do.

Trevor: Oh. So that means I need to be uncomfortable to move past my crap?

Amy: Right. We all do. It sucks. It sucks.

Trevor: I’m getting tired—

Amy: Yes, it can be—

Trevor: I just want to roll over and go to sleep. I don’t want to hear that.

Amy: We needed our son to see that don’t avoid ... We definitely have avoiders in our families and folks who say, “You’re depressed? Well, carry a picture of your son with that beautiful smile, and that will make you better.” Well, we didn’t want that for him. We want him to be more equipped to be in the world.

Trevor: Mm-hmm. Your son, has he shown any signs? Is he seeing a therapist?

Amy: He’s definitely seeing a therapist. We’ve definitely talked about people successfully managing mental illness and how they do that is getting help, asking for help.

Trevor: So did he need help, or were you like, “Go and see a therapist. Let’s get ahead of this thing.”

Amy: Let’s get ahead of this thing. Well, first of all, once he started school, we were very concerned about, like, “How do we meet all these new families in this town? We hardly know anyone.” And we know that hospitalizations are part of our life, and we know that we’re going to need help with pickups and drop-offs at some point. How do we talk to brand-new people, right? Because mental illness is this intriguing, interesting thing that people are going to hold on to. It doesn’t matter how smart or interesting you are.

Trevor: Mm-hmm.

Amy: It’s this unknown piece that people are going to remember you for. So, we wanted to have professional help explaining how, when is it okay to talk about what’s going on at home, and when do we try not to just to blurt it out there for—That’s that stigma part, right?

Trevor: Mm-hmm.

Amy: Like when do you ... As an adult, you know who you trust and who you don’t trust, and you still makes mistakes.

Trevor: Mm-hmm.

Amy: But how do you do that to an elementary schooler?

Trevor: Mm-hmm.

Amy: So we went and we found a therapist with those concerns.

Trevor: Yeah. And has he been seeing that same therapist? No?

Amy: No. He handled that pretty well. It was kind of rolling his eyes, even at a young age, I mean, like, “I know.”

Trevor: I still do that to my therapist to this day—

Amy: Yeah.

Trevor: That will never change. That’s not something you grow out of.

Amy: Yeah. And he did have a great way. He and I were able to talk when his dad was in the hospital about, “How do you want to handle this?” Like, “Do you want me to come get you at school to tell you what’s going on at home? Do you want to wait till the end of the day?” There were definitely some mornings where we pretty much knew Dad was going to the hospital. But he hadn’t gone yet, so do you want him waiting all day to see?

Trevor: Dealing with some—

Amy: We worked—

Trevor: Oh, I’m sorry. Go ahead.

Amy: Yeah, so he and I, we worked out a system.

Trevor: Yeah.

Amy: And “Do you want me to call the school and have them tell the teacher? Do you want me to tell you first? Do you ...?”

Trevor: And was the school ... Were they working with you?

Amy: Oh my gosh, so much.

Trevor: They were empathetic to what was going on?

Amy: Everyone. My employers and colleagues, my ex’s employer and colleagues, schools, our daycare providers, everyone was so great.

Trevor: Really?

Amy: We were so lucky.

Trevor: That is amazing.

Amy: We—

Trevor: Because I’ve been in plenty of situations where they’re not understanding. That said, it can be hell for other people at work. They’re just trying to get their job done, let alone deal with your crap.

Amy: Mm-hmm.

Trevor: I get their ... It took a long time. I now get their side of it too. That said, I’ve run into situations where they’re just flat-out not open to it.

Amy: Mm-hmm.

Trevor: “Just get better. Man up. Deal with it.”

Amy: Yeah. Oh, it’s awful.

Trevor: Mm-hmm.

Amy: And as an administrator now at this point so many years later, I struggle with the same thing. I feel for folks who struggle, and at the same time, I have deadlines and public service desks to cover. Yeah, it’s hard.

Trevor: Mm-hmm.

Amy: It’s all hard.

Trevor: Yeah, I imagine. Treatment-resistant is scary because it just is. It’s just terrifying. For you and your son, does it shake your faith in the medical system that there is this thing out there that can’t be fixed or helped, and what other things are out there that are like that?

Amy: Our son doesn’t have any knowledge of that. I don’t know that he even knows—

Trevor: He doesn’t know about the treatment-resistant—

Amy: Yeah.

Trevor: Oh, okay.

Amy: Yeah.

Trevor: He just knows Dad is sick.

Amy: Has a mental illness, has depression.

Trevor: Mm-hmm.

Amy: He knows that. He doesn’t know specifics—

Trevor: You don’t tell him about the treatment?

Amy: We’ve never had ... He’s never asked. Oh my God, he doesn’t want to talk about it.

Trevor: Why hold that detail back? I mean, I understand.

Amy: Yeah.

Trevor: As an adult, I find this concept of treatment-resistant depression ... I actually did not learn about it until recently. And it shook me to my core. I frankly didn’t understand it. What do you mean, treatment ...? No, no, no, no, no.

Amy: Mm-hmm.

Trevor: Well, that doesn’t exist.

Amy: Mm-hmm.

Trevor: I really thought that. When you learn about it, yeah, it shakes your foundation a bit. Is that what you’re worried about?

Amy: No. When he first learned ... When we first put words to it, it wasn’t appropriate just because he was so young and just learning about depression and how ... and when feelings don’t work, they don’t work the way other people’s feelings work, like, that was enough. And then after years of living with it, to go back and say, “Oh, did you want to know more details?” He’s not interested. He’s interested in: “Is Dad okay? Is he going to get better? Is he going to go to the hospital?” That’s what he cares about. He doesn’t care so much about the specific diagnosis.

Trevor: Mm-hmm.

Amy: I hope that when he gets older, if he has questions, he and his dad can talk about that together. Like I said, they have a really great relationship, and I think that they will talk about that together. We have talked about, “If you ever experience something that you think is mental illness or anxiety or this or that, the best way to handle this is to ... You have these relationships with doctors.” He had a new therapist who was for older kids at the beginning of puberty that he has a good rapport with that now they’re on an on-call basis.

Trevor: Mm-hmm.

Amy: I’ve lost track of the question.

Trevor: It’s okay. I do it all the time.

Amy: So yeah. But you asked if treatment-resistant, does that scare me. I actually went into this thinking all mental illness was pretty treatment-resistant, right?

Trevor: Oh.

Amy: Because it’s like you hear about quitting medications, and it’s not like ... We talk all the time at home about allergy medicine and, “Do I need one or two, or do I need four?” It’s not like that.

Trevor: Mm-hmm.

Amy: Like the size of your headache. It’s different medications. It’s different combinations of medications. “Oh yeah, and it’s going to take six or eight weeks to know if it’s actually working.” Six to eight weeks is a really long time.

Trevor: Mm-hmm.

Amy: And do you try old-school treatments, or do you try these new ...? It’s just—

Trevor: Oh, the beginning and then certain periods after that, there’s definitely ... Well, not for everybody.

Amy: Mm-hmm.

Trevor: Well, definitely in the case for me, there is definitely ... I throw whatever at the wall and see what sticks.

Amy: Yeah.

Trevor: Sometimes, I mean, there was medications that they gave me that made me worse.

Amy: Mm-hmm.

Trevor: Was it Abilify? There was one where, I mean, I didn’t think I was going to make it.

Amy: Mm-hmm.

Trevor: It doubled the panic. it doubled the intensity of the panic attacks—

Amy: Yeah.

Trevor: And we just had to keep working through it. My doctors were great. I would come back with, not fury, but just desperate sadness, “Why would you give me that?” You know?

Amy: Right.

Trevor: And we’re still very, very early in the game when it comes to medicine.

Amy: Yes.

Trevor: Now, I’m not using any science to back that up. That’s just a gut feeling.

Amy: Right.

Trevor: And my gut feeling is wrong a lot. But it’s still a feeling that I have talking to other mentally ill people, knowing that we’re generally going through the same thing. I just had a med increase and a med addition last week. My meds are constantly changing because ... I’ve said this before. The brain’s amazing. And it will adjust.

Amy: Exactly—

Trevor: It will adjust. “Oh, you tricked me now. But in a couple months, I’ll find a way around this.” And it does.

Amy: Yes. And depending on what you’re eating and what you’re—

Trevor: Oh, yeah.

Amy: ... drinking or ... It’s just there’re so many ... It’s just such a moving target, so hard. So I give so much credit to folks. You just got to keep trying.

Trevor: Mm-hmm.

Amy: You just got to keep trusting your team. Again, another lucky ... The whole family had a great team, has a great team.

Trevor: Mm-hmm. Before we wrap up, I want to talk about something. I was not feeling good about this interview—

Amy: Yeah.

Trevor: ... leading up to it. Could you tell?

Amy: No, I couldn’t tell. But I also was feeling the same way.

Trevor: Yeah.

Amy: Like, “How’s this going to be?”

Trevor: And part of me did not want to do it.

Amy: Mm-hmm?

Trevor: I’ll tell you why. As a mentally ill person, this is a fear. A fear. It’s an emotional reaction to this. It’s not a mental one. So therefore, I’m not balancing it out.

Amy: Right.

Trevor: I’m not using my wise mind.

Amy: Mm-hmm.

Trevor: I’m emotionally reacting to this situation. And even though we had a pre-interview, and I absolutely 101% get where you’re coming from, empathize and sympathize, I was so worried that this interview would reinforce the stigma and the narrative that mentally ill people aren’t worthy of love.

Now, as somebody with narcissistic personality disorder, I’m really thinking about my narrative. But I also do know that there are other people suffering that feel this same way and would hear this interview and be like, “Well, what did I say, guys? I mean, you wanted proof? Here is the proof. Hit Play.”

Amy: Mm-hmm.

Trevor: “Let Amy tell you what’s going on.” However, I thankfully am old enough to know that there is this whole unsung population of the mental illness community. They are the spouses.

Amy: Mm-hmm.

Trevor: And they rarely, if ever, get a word edge-wise in on this. And yet, they’re the soldiers that are standing by and helping out, and we need your narrative, as much as I’m afraid to hear it—

Amy: Yeah.

Trevor: Because it reinforces real fears of mine.

Amy: Mm-hmm.

Trevor: I have to tell myself that doesn’t make what you went through ... that doesn’t mean it’s worthy of being dismissed or forgotten about, that your voice is just as important here. And the fact that you made this terrible ... not terrible choice, but hard choice—

Amy: Mm-hmm.

Trevor: ... I say “terrible,” because it must’ve felt terrible ... to go through it. But you did it for the love of your son—

Amy: Mm-hmm.

Trevor: … the love of yourself and maybe down the road realize that you did it for the love of your husband, that, “This isn’t good for both of us.” I was really nervous about this.

Amy: It’s a tricky situation that—

Trevor: Mm-hmm.

Amy: It is, and I see a therapist to this day.

Trevor: You see a therapist?

Amy: Oh, yeah. And actually, in the last few months I’ve seen her more regularly than before.

Trevor: Why do you see a therapist?

Amy: To try to figure this all out.

Trevor: What’s there to figure out?

Amy: We talk a little bit about post-traumatic stuff—

Trevor: Oh, okay. Do you think you had a little PTSD from this?

Amy: I think so.

Trevor: Yeah, I would imagine you would.

Amy: Our situation of divorce is hard to navigate, and then you add that mental health piece into it, and when you worry about your ex ... But that’s a separate life from yours now, but you are sharing a child. It’s this complicated knot. We talked about coming here today, and we talked about how important it is for me to say, “I had a story here.”

Trevor: And you do. And it’s important. And as much as I have reservations about it from my side, it would be wrong of me, wrong of us as an institution—

Amy: Right.

Trevor: ... to not address this issue.

Amy: And I do have so much respect for McLean and everyone who is working in this mental health field for ... Our family was treated so well, and McLean really made sure we had an understanding of what was going on when we weren’t here during treatments. When they put out the call for Deconstructing Stigma, they asked ... I went back after our pre-interview to see, “What did they actually say?” They asked about families and caregivers. And it’s hard. When you’re working so hard to take care of someone who’s struggling, you forget that you have a piece of it. I know in my dark ... And there were some pretty dark times I would call people for advice or for help, and all I could do was sob. So many calls like that—

Trevor: Mm-hmm.

Amy: And they would call back and say, “Hey, this isn’t just affecting one person. This is affecting your whole family. And whether you’re together or not, whether you’re a spouse or a mother or a brother ...”

Trevor: Do you think you’d still be married if you didn’t have your son?

Amy: Oh, that’s a big question—

Trevor: “What ifs” are the worst. Well, I—

Amy: It’s a big question. I don’t know.

Trevor: Yeah. Yeah.

Amy: It is a lot of questions about the divorce. “Is it because of this? Is it because of that? What’s my role? Who ...?” We’re not at a place right now where we can figure that out. Well, I’m not.

Trevor: I saw you tear up while I was talking about my fear of this reinforcing it. Was that a fear that you had while going through the divorce, is that, “Yes, I’m preserving and my son.”

Amy: Mm-hmm.

Trevor: “And I think it’s best for us as a married couple. But this isn’t going to look good.”

Amy: Oh, it was definitely a fear. And not about just looking good, but just about—

Trevor: As somebody who ... where my opinion is predicated on everybody’s opinion of me, I would worry about such empty things as, “How does it look to everybody else?”

Amy: The people who know our family know what a wise decision we all made.

Trevor: Mm-hmm ?

Amy: Uh-huh.

Trevor: Well, that’s great.

Amy: Yes. I guess what I worry about is I know that there are people ... And you said because you had this fear. I know other people who have that fear who are struggling with their mental illness and thinking, “I’m not worthy.” I’ve talked to so many people who beat themselves up over little things, what outsiders feel are little things. And if I tell my story, will I make those fears bigger? Will I make them beat themselves up more?

Trevor: That’s why I didn’t—

Amy: It’s so scary.

Trevor: That’s the exact reason why I didn’t want to do this—

Amy: And it’s exactly what I don’t want to do—

Trevor: Mm-hmm.

Amy: But at the same time, this is our story.

Trevor: Mm-hmm.

Amy: And it’s—

Trevor: And you have a voice, and it’s important, and people need to hear it. This is where the whole ... We’re never going to be cut-and-dry and black-and-white with mental illness. There’s always going to be a gray zone, a fog of war. I’m sorry if that was hyperbole, but sometimes I see mental illness as a fog of war. And it’s going to get complicated.

Amy: And early on we talked about libraries and how librarians used to be very black-and-white, cut-or-dried. You’re quiet, or you’re out. And one thing I love about the work that I do is working with staff and working with patrons to know that there are all these shades of gray, and we have to be adaptable to—

Trevor: Do you think your job helped you?

Amy: Oh, completely. Because I’m thinking about those things. Libraries, the big phrase is “free to all.” So that means everyone, not just the people you want to help, and not just the people who know how to behave in a library. And yeah, it works ... It teaches me about the human condition, right, that there is so much gray in the world and confronting things that are uncomfortable in order to go forward. It’s all connected.

Trevor: Sounds like a major psychological study could be done at a library—

Amy: Right. Yeah.

Trevor: ... yeah ... if somebody was compelled to do it. Do you have anything that you want to add, or is there anything that we should clarify or go into more detail? Have you met any other spouses in your situation?

Amy: No.

Trevor: Hmm.

Amy: That’s not true. One time, there ... You know, there’s groups. There’s support groups out there?

Trevor: Mm-hmm.

Amy: And—

Trevor: That’s what I meant to ask. Is there a support group for spouses?

Amy: There are some here, I believe. Or when I was looking for them, there were some here. But again, on a good day ... I live an hour away, and I work full-time, and I have a child.

Trevor: Mm-hmm.

Amy: It’s hard to get here for that. I did find one local. It was not ... The folks that were in that meeting had very, very different scenarios of what I was living. They were calling the police on members of their family. They were having to have their loved ones institutionalized against their will. And that was never, ever my experience.

But I really did look hard for a support group. I mean, I had groups of friends who were spouses and moms and friends. But it got really uncomfortable when my ex would be really sick, like he’d be in this group of women. And they were all bitching and moaning, and, “You won’t believe what my husband did.” I would hear their stories and empathize and sympathize, but at the same time, thinking in the back of my head, “Wow, if that happened in my house, that’s probably a symptom that we would need to get help for.”

Trevor: Mm-hmm.

Amy: Again, it’s that outlier. You’re just like, “Hmm, this is ...” You relate on a certain level, but not all of them.

Trevor: Mm-hmm.

Amy: So yeah, it’s hard to find that support. And honestly, those people are working ... I was the only breadwinner, raising a family, doing the grocery shopping. How do you have time to go ...?

Trevor: I haven’t gotten groceries this week. I was just too tired and too bummed out to do it.

Amy: Yeah. It’s not a priority, I guess.

Trevor: Well, you can’t raise a family that way.

Amy: Mm-mm.

Trevor: “I’m too depressed to go get groceries,” and, “Mom, I’m hungry.” “Sorry, I’m too bummed to go get groceries.”

Amy: Mm-hmm.

Trevor: Yeah. Scenarios like that reinforce negative ideas that I have of, just assuming that any relationship that I would enter would turn into a shit show.

Amy: It goes back and forth. I mean, we definitely had crappy times but made up for them with really great times.

Trevor: Mm-hmm.

Amy: Yeah, it’s hard to know. Yeah, I guess there’s no guarantees, right?

Trevor: Mm-hmm. So if somebody in your situation is listening right now, not advice, but do you have anything to say?

Amy: Yeah. That there’s people out there who know how hard it is, that you might not see them walking down the street. You might not see them in your parent group. But you know, and I hope that you find someone who at least can listen to your stories and take those crying phone calls and know that it’s only going to be crying, and you’ll manage the details later.

Trevor: Yeah. Sometimes I think that it’s not that we’ve become too civilized, but society, there’s a role to play. And in that role, there is armor to be worn.

Amy: Mm-hmm.

Trevor: And when somebody’s armor comes down and the ugly crying comes out, I just think there needs to be more ugly crying in this world, just in normal, because just not to look at it as weird or outside of societal norms.

Amy: Mm-hmm.

Trevor: It’s just a part of life.

Amy: Right. You’re right.

Trevor: And we’re not perfect. And actually humanity, in a beautiful way, and in a not-so-beautiful way, is just a big mess anyways.

Amy: Yeah.

Trevor: And therefore, that’s why this gray cloud exists. And we need to find a way to make it work inside of it, because black-and-white thinking ... I can attest to this. Black-and-white thinking does not work. And yet I subscribe to it every day, because “It’s got to work eventually.” No, it’s never going to work.

Amy: Yeah. It’s a constant dialogue, right?

Trevor: Yeah, and I get tired of the dialogue.

Amy: Yeah.

Trevor: The guy that hosts the podcast. Yeah. No, I do. I get tired of the dialogue. It’s just like, “Ugh, can we just not do this today?”

Amy: And I guess, I wish I had something clever or helpful to say to folks. I really do. I wish that I did. But I know how much support around me, finding support, where I found it, and hang on to that.

Trevor: Mm-hmm. So you found support?

Amy: I did, little pieces.—

Trevor: if somebody like you was out there, if they look, they’ll find the support?

Amy: Yeah.

Trevor: I know some local areas in the country, in the world, there is no access or very, very little access to resources.

Amy: Mm-hmm.

Trevor: But I do say that even in those semi-remote areas, you can find something. It may not be good enough, but it’s something.

Amy: And you don’t know where it’s going to come from. The school secretary was wonderful, like, the little things that they could do, like, “I just need to see him for a second to update him.” And she would make up some story to get my son down to the office. We would get our few minutes, high five, and he would go on his way. Things like that, or a family I knew from work sent flowers to our house when they knew Dad was home from the hospital.

Trevor: Mm-hmm.

Amy: People don’t send flowers when you get back from a place like McLean, for the most part, right?—

Trevor: That’s true. That’s true.

Amy: And it just meant like, “Here’s somebody who ...”—

Trevor: But because of the stigma, you always don’t ... You don’t tell people. I mean, when I—

Amy: We’ve code words. We had code words—

Trevor: Oh, totally. Totally.

Amy: It was just, like, “Oh, he’s away for a while.”

Trevor: My outpatient visit was seven years ago. My parents still don’t know. Other than the listeners, I’d say like 10 people close to me, at most, know, 10. Here am I am preaching Deconstructing Stigma, and yet I am just deathly afraid of the stigma as anyone else.

Amy: Absolutely. So when you find someone who gets it or is trying to get it, it just warms your heart and says, “I’m not out here by myself.”

Trevor: No. Is there anything you want to add?

Amy: I think I’m good. I think that’s it.

Trevor: Are you?

Amy: I feel like in a week from now, like, “Oh, I should’ve said this,” or, “I have to call Trevor.”

Trevor: Oh yeah, I feel that way, all the time. I always ... not always, but usually an episode gets launched, and then maybe two weeks later I’ll listen to the episode because I want to learn from my mistakes.

Amy: Mm-hmm.

Trevor: And sometimes I’m just like, “I wish I could’ve done that one over.”

Amy: Oh, I really appreciate your having me in here, and really appreciate your going through the hard stuff and having that hard thought of, “Is this really going to work?” I hope that you find something good to share with your audience.

Trevor: Well, I think we did. I think that was my job was to, and I hope I did it, was to find a way to tell your story, but at the same time remind people, remind people like me, that this whole narrative about how we’re not worthy of love is wrong.

Amy: Yeah.

Trevor: It’s a lie. It’s damaging. Now, keep in mind I’m going to be a hypocrite and just still admit that I still believe it.

Amy: Right.

Trevor: Even though I know ... I know, my mind knows it’s wrong. My heart, and because I’m an emotional person, not a mental person ... and that’s something I’m working on ... my heart says, “Yeah, you know, yeah.”

Amy: Yeah, it’s hard to deal with—

Trevor: “Yeah. You and your cat, just going to be you guys here on out.” And I’m trying to make that work.

Amy: Mm-hmm.

Trevor: You know? It’s something.

Amy: It is.

Trevor: I’m curious what the future holds. Hopefully it’ll be better. Hopefully.

Amy: Yeah.

Trevor: Amy, thank you for coming in and talking with me. Thank you for sharing your story. Thank you for helping me through this.

Amy: Yeah. We’re all in it together.

Trevor: Because I was like, “I don’t know about this.” No, thank you. Your story is important. It needs to be heard. More stories like yours need to be heard. And I also want to thank you for ... When the going got tough, you didn’t just turn a blind eye to mental illness. You didn’t just turn away.

Amy: No.

Trevor: How many times have I been told, “You just need to pray. You just need to be yourself. You just need to do this. You just ...” And none of these things work. If somebody is treatment-resistant, prayer is definitely not going to help. No, and I’m not trying to offend people that have faith or a religion. It’s just that we may not know yet what works for mental illness, but we definitely know what doesn’t work.

Amy: Yeah.

Trevor: And some of those things that people recommend that I do, which in a way is just to dismiss me, because they don’t want to deal with it, because they want to live in the black-and-white world. And in a way, I understand that.

Amy: Right.

Trevor: And I don’t begrudge ... Maybe I should begrudge more people that. But I don’t. I get it. They just ... Yeah, they’re putting it back on me. It’s “He’s not doing enough.”

Amy: Yeah. I mean, they don’t see.

Trevor: Mm-hmm.

Amy: They don’t see how hard it is just to ... I don’t know. Like you have said in your podcast ... I listened to a few ... You can’t get up in the morning.

Trevor: Nope.

Amy: And yet here you are, doing—

Trevor: I can only get up if there’s something absolutely pressing.

Amy: Mm-hmm.

Trevor: And even then, it’s hard. So our recording was to begin at 9am. I showed up at 9am. That is not good. That is not good. I should’ve been here at minimum 15 minutes to have everything prepped. Now, Lauren, you know—

Amy: Mm-hmm. Yep.

Trevor: ... who works on my team, who’s been really just so helpful to me, I think she brings the people down a couple minutes late because she knows. Because she knows that, A, I’m just getting here at the last minute, and when I do arrive, I’m ripping my hair out, trying to set up the mixing board and the mics and all that stuff. It’s horrible.

Amy: Yeah.

Trevor: It’s horrible.

Amy: So—

Trevor: And especially on mornings where I wake up and my cat is a little spoon and is pressed up against my chest, and I have my arm around her. I mean, really, I’ve woken up like that, you know?

Amy: Right.

Trevor: And we’re asleep. And then I start to get up, and she does this. She’ll slap arm, which means, “Lay back down.”

Amy: “Go back down.”

Trevor: Yeah, “Lay back down.” I’m like, “Well, hey, you run this house.” The very, very rare good morning, I’m just like, “I don’t want to come.” Most mornings are bad. Most mornings are just ... I need to convince myself to live, not to convince myself to not die. I need to convince myself to get up and live. Every single effing morning is like that. Even when I’m doing great, every single morning. And people who see me in the mornings, they don’t know that I’m going through that. But every single morning’s that way. It’s just like, “Why am I doing this crap again?”

Amy: And that’s why I, despite the hesitation, am here today.

Trevor: Uh-huh.

Amy: Because I want to support that.

Trevor: Thank you.

Amy: I want to support all those people. I know how hard it is. And you don’t know, right? Because you’re working so hard to not let people know how hard it is.

Trevor: Right.

Amy: People know how hard it is. Not everybody, but people know and appreciate it.

Trevor: Some people know. A few people appreciate it. But we need to work on the rest.

Amy: Mm-hmm.

Trevor: Or the rest need to work on themselves.

Amy: Right. And so that’s why I think the sharing of stories is so important.

Trevor: And your story’s important, and we need to hear more stories. We really need to. Even when the mentally ill are afraid of these stories, we need to hear them. Thank you. I really, really appreciate it.

Amy: Good.

Trevor: Okay, what did we think of our guest, Amy? Like I said, I was really nervous about this, doing this interview. All the way up to the moment where Amy arrived at the door of the studio, I’d never met her before. I’d heard a lot about her, but I’d never met her before. She’s really cool. She had these cool jeans on, and she had these really nice like Chucks kicks on. She was really cool. And it wasn’t that she was soft-spoken, but she didn’t talk unless she had to. And man, that’s something I need to learn.

And once we sat down and we got into it, I felt so much better about this interview. I kept myself quiet during ... We have podcast meetings, and we try and figure out what guests we’re going to have and what should the topic be. And we try and schedule topics and guests based on what’s the public talking about right now and things like that. And then sometimes we try and do ones that are just general. We do actually have a plan here.

When this specific podcast was pitched to me, of course I said, “Yes,” because I have a very, very, very bad habit of saying, “No.” I’m trying to curb that habit. And I said, “Yes,” but inside I was just shaking my head, “No, this is a terrible idea. I don’t think this is going to go down well.”

All I could think about is somebody who’s really suffering, they feel isolated, and then they hear a story about somebody who’s suffering, and they found love, and then it didn’t work. I was like, “I don’t think this is good.” But I also recognize that we need to hear from the other side. I would probably ask one or two of my own exes to come in and talk, but, A, they wouldn’t. B, I don’t want them to. And, C, it would just be a horror show for me.

So I’m glad that this happened. I hope you got something out of it, because I really did get a lot out of it. Again, thank you for putting up with me and my dip into despair. I promise you it definitely wasn’t to get subscribers. It wasn’t to get likes. It wasn’t any of that. It’s the real thing.

Trust me, a lot of these intros, I do not want to do. I feel like I have to sit myself down and just force this stuff out. And once I start talking, then it all comes pouring out. I try to treat it like therapy. I try and treat you, dear listener, like my therapist. Sometimes it’s a cathartic experience for me, and then other times, well, I hear something, and it just unlocks my life. And if I could visually describe it, I would say the bookcases in my brain just start toppling over like dominoes. I mean, it was scary, and I felt ... I was in a bad place. Let’s just put it that way. But I’m better.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that this step was coming. And I’m glad it happened when it did, because if it had happened years ago, I would not have been ready for it. I would not have. I would’ve had a ... Well, I don’t know, but I possibly would’ve have just a full-blown meltdown over it, because it’s some pretty heady stuff.

Hopefully I’ll be able to talk about it some other time. But I hope you guys can respect or appreciate why I just can’t go into details about it now. It’s just stuff that I really need to work out with a therapist, because I know what it means for the most part, but there’s still a couple things that I think I need to figure out.

Two weeks. I’ll be back in two weeks. Will you be back in two weeks? I hope so. I think so. You should come back. Thank you for joining us on this episode of Mindful Things. I hope you guys are enjoying this journey. I am. For the most part, I am. I really am. See you in two weeks.

Thank you for listening to Mindful Things, the official podcast of McLean Hospital. Please subscribe to us and rate us on iTunes or wherever you listen to podcasts. And don’t forget, mental health is everyone’s responsibility. If you or a loved one are in crisis, the Samaritans are available 24 hours a day at 877.870.4673. Again, that’s 877.870.4673.

- - -

The McLean Hospital podcast Mindful Things is intended to provide general information and to help listeners learn about mental health, educational opportunities, and research initiatives. This podcast is not an attempt to practice medicine or to provide specific medical advice.

© 2019 McLean Hospital. All Rights Reserved.