When I was driving to work this morning, I got stuck behind a slow moving truck that had small stones/sand flying off it. As I got closer to it , the sound of the tiny stones hitting my windscreen got louder and more frequent. I don’t know if this ever happens to you, but since I drive on country roads alot, it often happens to me. Given what’s been going in my life recently, I naturally started to think about how this ‘rocks flying off truck into my car’ situation works as an amazing analogy for how I’m feeling in my marriage at the moment.
Sounds confusing… let me explain. My wife is symbolized by the truck. Actually, to be more accurate, my wife is travelling in ‘the truck’ (the mood disorder condition is the truck). I am travelling in my car. We are travelling together through life, trying to achieve our potential as individuals, as a couple and as a family unit (with 4 kids and a dog). We are given a certain vehicle in which to travel. The stones flying off my wife’s ‘truck’ represent the mood swings: depressed, anxious, or paranoid states, occasionally involving irritability and anger, with associated emotional attacks likely triggered from childhood hurts. Sounds dramatic – hey?
Well, before I explain what event inspired this comparison, let me elaborate further on the analogy description. Just as the stones seem to fly off the truck in a random, unpredicable fashion, so does my wife’s mood states seem without a definite pattern. No individual, or isolated tiny rock will cause significant damage to my car, just like a single occurence of a mood swing does not have dramatic effect on our relationship. But when the frequency and especially the intensity (larger stones) of the shifting moods increases, then the impact cannot be ignored. Finally, my response to following behind the truck with the flying stones could be to slow down, increasing the distance between it and my car, which avoids being hit by the stones. Similarly, I often feel like distancing myself from my wife is my only protection from the harmful effects of the mood swings. The problem is that if we find the distance between us is too much, or happening too often, then we might not finish life’s journey together.
Solutions. Before this analogy can go that far, I need to acknowledge my ‘car’ is not perfect either, no-one is. Everyone has fluctuations in their mood, including me, but I think it’s fair to say that the intensity and frequency of these changes wouldn’t qualify as ‘rocks flying off a truck’. Similarly, just as I wouldn’t blame the truck driver for purposefully throwing tiny stones from their truck, I do not blame my wife for having a mood disorder (such as depression or bipolar disorder). I guess I could ask the truck driver to give his truck a thorough clean out to stop the flying rocks – but I don’t think there is an equivalent option for mood disorders, or is there?! So what can we do?
This analogy inspiration came out of a fairly unpleasant encounter last night. After returning from a great movie, in which the lead character’s husband came clean about his marrital affair, I jokingly expressed that I had ‘something’ to share… “That I had NOT had an affair” (true), which my wife never suspected and actually seemed to appreciate. But I then followed this by sharing something actually a little personal – sorry this has to remain vague, but her response was not what I expected. I felt attacked and hurt by her reaction, which she later apologized for. This highlighted my wife’s tendency to feel blamed or criticized about everything, especially when depressed, even when this was far from the intention of my message.
The night wasn’t all bad. In fact, this incident helped reinforce my wife’s awareness of the relationship difficulties that the condition creates, a topic which we started to discuss before the movie. I am hoping that we can continue to strengthen this awareness, create mutual relationship goals to work on together and eventually uncover the triggers and healing responses to her various mood states. Onwards and upwards.
Can you think of other ideas that can be drawn out from the above analogy? Or better still, do you have any analogies that describe your challenges with mental health issues?