She Taught Me Love is Absolute and Unconditional
Have you ever loved someone so much that you were willing to forgive anything?
In a life as dreadful and bleak as mine, she was a ray of sunshine that thawed my frozen heart. Until that day, I had only ever seen blurry pictures of her smile. I only knew of her what I’d gleaned from her profile. She was a young 25 and I an old 43. In a short email, I had asked her why she was interested in someone my age, and she said: “Why not? Is there something wrong with it?”
We were to do a video chat for the first time, and even though the video player window wasn’t much bigger than a postage stamp, I was nervous for her to see me. Even in 2011, before the advent of Instagram filers, there were things you could do with an image in Photoshop. You could take pounds off your face and smooth your complexion. You could make your teeth whiter and eyes a deeper shade of blue.
I was nervous for her to see the real me.
There was also my mental illness to introduce. I didn’t want to screw this up, and my ten levels of crazy were bound to be a conversation stopper. I hadn’t come up with a way to break the news to her as I sat on my unmade bed, preparing to talk to her. I was still confused when the tiny window lit up, and her face came to life.
Her webcam was low-res, but it still gave me a shiver when she looked in my eyes and smiled at me.
Imagine you are at the beach, playing in the surf, and you turn in time to catch a monster wave in the face full-force. It sweeps you off your feet and you lay panting in the sand, unable to move.
That is what her smile did to me. I spent the first thirty seconds stammering and stuttering her name until I regained my footing and was able to smile in return.
She was as delightful as she was stunning. She could sense I wasn’t used to having a conversation and did most of the talking for us. Every once in a while, I would catch a glimpse of my stupid, grinning face in the app and shudder. How could a woman like this be interested in someone like me?
It turns out she could, and we ended up talking for hours that night and many more in the coming weeks and months. But, in all the conversation, I couldn’t bring myself to impress upon her just how mentally ill I was. I mentioned some depression and anxiety, but when the time came to tell her about the voices, self-harm, and suicide attempts, I couldn’t bear to see her expression change from interest to horror.
I had seen that look before in other people, and I couldn’t stand seeing that level of disappointment on her face.
I didn’t lie. Yes, I did. Flora should have heard something that important from me from the beginning, so she could have decided to continue seeing me or not. But, I withheld, and the closer we became, the harder it was to think of losing her because of my dishonesty.
To her credit, when she did find out how bad my illness was after I moved halfway around the world to be with her, she still held on to me where many would have sent me back home. She found out the hard way that I wasn’t just a little depressed — I was seriously mentally ill — but she never changed the way she looked at me.
Even though she hardly knew the real me, she married me in a quick ceremony at the Justice Hall, and stuck will me through thick and thin. She showed me her love was absolute and unconditional, and wouldn’t listen when I begged forgiveness. She said she didn’t need to forgive me because she loved me no matter what.
Even though later I tried to take my own life, she stuck with me and helped me heal. I put her through hell so many times, but she never held it against me. She supported me and helped me down the road to recovery.
She showed me the meaning of true love.
Over the past eight years, I’ve had the opportunity to give her the love back that she gives me. My wife, Flora has her own issues to deal with in the form of an undiagnosed mental illness. She is often anxious and panicky, and many times her anger will tear our happy home apart at the seams. Her anger is hard to control. And even though my delicate psyche and empathic nature can hardly handle the pain her episodes cause, I’ve learned to forgive and give back the love she needs to heal her frayed mind.
The last time I wrote about my wife’s episodes, she got hurt by the comments the essay received. Many friends told me I should leave her and that it’s not worth staying with her. I didn’t want to hurt her again by writing about it if I was only doing it for the sake of a popular essay on Medium. But I shared the topic I was writing about with her this morning, and she felt if I was going to reveal her kind and forgiving love for me after I lied to her that I should share a little about the love I give her in the face of her anger.
Neither of us are bad people, and despite the pain we cause each other, our relationship is loving and we understand each other. When I look her in the eyes, I don’t see the raging demon that comes out of her at times, and when she looks at me, she doesn’t see my shattered mind and episodic psychosis.
Her love is pure, and mine, given freely.
Your relationship may not be perfect, but do you love the person enough that you can forgive the unforgivable? When you look into the eyes of your partner, do you find enough love there to cover over even the worst parts of ourselves?
Love is never perfect, but, in the end, it is worthwhile. If you don’t find yourself willing to forgive, maybe you just haven’t found the right complement to your soul.
Don’t settle for a love that isn’t absolute and unconditional. You deserve it!
Like my wife and I, it will heal you.