Hello to all my readers,
Welcome back to Blind Intuition. Today Cameron and I will give you an insight about the challenges we faced in our marriage after losing my vision. We have been tossing up whether to do this post or not. Largely because it is very personal and we have had to really unmask ourselves. Our first year of marriage was not easy and the stress in our household felt like an earthquake of high magnitude. However, now that things are settling and we have found a level of steadiness, we are really starting to enjoy life together and feel like we have found each other again. I want to thank Cameron for opening himself up and contributing to this post. We have both told our side of the story and have gone into deep self-reflection. We acknowledge the fact that we have been to hell and back and even though this post is quite sad, we both believe others may see perspective and really relate to us, particularly those going through times of stress, whether it’s kids, moving house, health scares, or financial. All kinds of stress can have an impact on a marriage. Here is our story.
When I get asked about the most challenging obstacle I have had to overcome, I tend to skim over it and reply saying not being understood by sighted people. Especially those who hold preconceived ideas and put their two bobs worth in about how I should live and what I should do and pass judgements about if I am a capable mother or not. I’ll be honest, these fly by comments have been frustrating and hard to let go of, but not as hard as holding together a marriage affected by many factors outside of our control. If anything, we now think that losing my vision was the easiest obstacle we overcame… largely because I am so fiercely independent. If you throw a baby, new business venture and new town into the mix, we sure haven’t eased into our marriage. I think any couple would struggle with just one of these factors, let alone four in the space of twelve months.
So eighteen months on, where does this leave us?
Both of us had an epiphany after reading a post by Constance Hall on Facebook about why women are leaving men. Here is what she had to say:
“One day in my psychologists she mentioned to me that she sees a lot of men in her office.
I asked why?
She responded that a lot of women are leaving men and they aren’t coping.
Interesting, so I asked why are women leaving men?
She responded because heaps of men aren’t present in the relationship and a lot of women are feeling lonely in their own homes. That’s resonated with me, at the time I was feeling very lonely in my own home. That very same day I went to my local cafe and saw an old friend, a pretty tough ladsy kind of bloke and he broke down right in front of me. ”She left me, I’ve tried everything, she won’t take me back, I don’t know what to do, I’m lost Con”
2 days later I received a phone call from a family member who was suffering a breakdown after his wife had left him, he had even been hospitalised.
“What’s going on?” I thought.
So on my following appointment with my psych I picked the conversation up again.
“Why aren’t men being present in marriages? Women warn them so many times before they leave, why can’t they just pay attention?”
She responded with,
“Because men, just like women are suffering, depression is rife yet instead of reaching out and getting help they are distracting themselves. You see when someone isn’t happy their family reflects that, just like when you are happy, the people who are the most intimate to you are like a mirror and they reflect how you feel. So if you are depressed, being home and present reflects that depression, so a lot of men become avoidant. Avoidant people do everything in their power to distract themselves, they go out a lot, they take on too much work, they drink too much, avoidant men will do anything to distract themselves from being here and being present.”
“So when the daily grind is getting blokes down, instead of saying ‘I’m down, help me out Mofo’s’ they are pulling back and avoiding us like the plague, becoming less present to everything and then we get so lonely that we leave them and then they have pretty serious breakdowns?”
Psych, “pretty much Con”
A lot of men I know need to get a grip on this, I know they love their wives and I know their wives love them but all will be lost if we can’t find presence in the marriage.
I spoke to Bill about this, he told me that sometimes the pressures of keeping a roof over the heads and food on the table for 6 of us is overwhelming, I’m trying to remember that more and more.
Relationships need patience, Kindness and compassion.
The story resonated with me; so I showed it to Cam. He said that she was bang on. I am often feeling lonely in my own home because Cam has not been present. It’s not his fault, nor is it mine. Cam is often feeling overwhelmed by having to be there for everybody; not only Archer and I, but his staff, friends, parents. Something has got to give and while we have been muddling through our own challenges, we have forgotten to tend to our marriage. Cameron is avoiding his real issues by drinking too much and working more than 80 hours a week (which unfortunately comes with starting your own business). We knew it was going to be hard. I knew Cam would need to work long hours, but neither of us thought it would be as hard as what is has been. So, while Cam has been avoiding, I have thrown myself into motherhood and this blog to keep myself busy… I thought that for a while we may live separate lives under the same roof, and Cam would join us when the business settles. He works so hard for Archer and I and I should be thankful to him that he is doing what he is doing to enable me to stay at home with our child. How wrong I was. I started to resent him because when he came home, he would moan about his day. I would listen, but when he asked about mine, I was interrupted and the conversation was changed back to Total Tools. I felt ignored, thus climbing into my shell. He would drink too much and nit pick. I felt like the nagging wife because I didn’t like the way he spoke to me when he drank. This would end up in volatile arguments where we would both say things we regretted. I don’t have a problem with alcohol, but when it is drank to excess and it affects others around you or the rest of your family, that‘s when I hate the stuff. All of our arguments would revolve around his drinking. I couldn’t understand why he couldn’t stop at a couple of beers. So this made me feel lonely.
After reading Constance’s post, I questioned myself and put myself in Cam’s shoes. This is probably something I should have done earlier, but I was so focused on myself and being independent, and making a life for Archer and I that I took Cam for granted. I just assumed he would join us when he gets out of his rut. I feel really guilty for this.
Cam is a very proud man, he won’t talk about what is going on. He has the “she’ll be right attitude” and tends to sweep things under the rug. So my husband is struggling…I am struggling…. We are trying to hold it together for our beautiful little boy. What to do?
If I think back to our wedding day I vowed that my hand was forever his to hold and my heart forever his to keep. I said in my speech that he is my pillar of strength and his loyalty is a quality that I had seen as a testament to his character. So while I might have strayed away a bit overcoming my blindness, it is now my turn to be there for him. After all, he was the one that flew to my bedside in Tasmania at the beginning of our relationship when I had a major stroke. That was the day I fell in love with him. He is the one that rings me everyday, no matter how busy he is to ask me about my day; He was the one that held my hand when we had our baby; he was the one who was there from 7am to 8pm by my bed side for 8 weeks in and out of hospital while I was recovering from brain surgery; he was the one who spent hours organising appointments with top surgeons, filled out paperwork, flew to Sydney for a neurology appointment while he should have been helping to install the racking in his new shop, who would heat frozen meals for me to make sure I was eating; who reared Archer in his newborn weeks, getting up to scratch on breast feeding, reading expression pump instructions to me; learning about nappies, baby essentials and feeding. Cam is my hero, and for this I am forever thankful to him. I don’t understand the toll it has taken on him. But it is huge. It is now time for me to be there for Cam. He has admitted that he may need some help or someone to talk to. It takes guts and strength to admit that. Particularly for a guy. For that I am so proud.
Things are looking up. Cam is home every night in time for dinner and enjoys having some quality time with Archer before he goes to bed. We have put Archer into daycare one day a week so I can have a break. With Cam working 7 days and not being here to give me a break we think it will do us a world of good. Cam has his staff trained up well enough now to be able to let go for a day a week on the weekend to have a rest and spend time with us. I am really looking forward to having some quality time again. I feel like we are communicating much much better and our house has a calmer presence. It is starting to feel like our old life again.
This short film demonstrates and gives an insight into what is this like to lose your vision and the impact it has on your partner. Cameron and I resonate with this video.
So I’ve been debating with myself for months about whether I should contribute a piece to Sarah’s blog. Up until now, I have resolved to stay in the background and let Sarah shape her project in the manner she envisioned. I’ve been more than happy to act as a witness to her incredible drive and determination to raise awareness about the challenges and the successes that people with a visual impairment can experience.
As Sarah has mentioned- the last twelve months has thrown numerous challenges to our marriage and although I’m proud to say we’ve overcome each of them together, there have definitely been moments that neither of us would like to go through again.
From my perspective; in June 2015 everything was tracking as we had planned and we were happy. The pregnancy was progressing stably and the shop set up was slow but at least gaining momentum. By the end of that year I was going to have my son, my wife and my business- and all by the age of 30. I was pretty content.
Fast forward to the end of July 2015 and although I had my beautiful little mate- my beautiful wife had been dealt a cruel card. I’ll never forget how emasculated I felt the first time I saw Sarah after her surgery. The swelling and the bandages around her head made it look as though she’d been beaten with a baseball bat unrelentingly.
All I could do was sit by her side- I couldn’t help her- I couldn’t fix her; and that was the toughest pill to swallow. The feeling of helplessness hung with me like a shadow for months after the surgery.
So although we were now facing a new reality as a new family- the mechanics of opening a shop in Bendigo still had to roll on. In hindsight, we were fortunate that the shop was still largely in its planning stage when the shit hit the fan with Sarah’s health. I was able to juggle spreadsheets, quotes and phone calls from the hospital; in between getting to know my little man and doing whatever I could for Sarah. During the eight weeks we were in Melbourne, I had unbridled support from Jill, my parents, Jarrod & Michelle, my two business partners and the wider Total Tools community.
As time has gone on; and particularly since the shop opened in late November 2015- my ability to juggle my work/life balance has deteriorated significantly. I feel consumed by the business in many respects and this hasn’t been helped by my seven days a week working roster. Much of the pressure I feel to make the business a success is self-inflicted; however I have a strong sense of duty to work hard to reward the other parties backing the business; to make sure that my staff feel secure in their jobs and that the sacrifice Sarah made to move here with me was not a mistake. I’d like to think that this commitment to the business has never come at any substantial cost to our family- we don’t miss any appointments for Sarah or Archer, but I know in my heart of hearts that the business occupies too much of my thoughts- particularly at home. I can’t switch off, meaning the limited time I spend with Sarah and Archer is not always quality time. I do make an effort to engage and as Sarah describes it ‘be present’ with the two of them when I’m at home- but some days that is easier said than done. I make a conscious effort to leave the shop by 6:30pm Monday to Friday; but some days that means I’m leaving things half done (a pet hate of mine).
What exacerbates the fact that the business is far too present in our marriage, is the reality that I have almost entirely removed myself from social interaction beyond Sarah and Archer. Outside of the crew I work with (who are all terrific in their own way) I have made no friends in my eighteen months living in Bendigo. That means that all my victories, all my defeats and all of my frustrations are dumped on Sarah during that limited time we are actually together. It’s not fair on her and as much as I am conscious of limiting the venting- Sarah is my primary sounding board. I am fortunate enough however, to be able to say that I don’t just have one brilliant brother in Aaron, but that I can name at least ten other men in my life that I can rely on unreservedly if I, or more importantly; if Sarah or Archer needed anything. I had constant contact with these ‘brothers’ every week when we lived in Melbourne and although I knew I would miss them by moving to Bendigo- I severely underestimated the impact these guys have on me.
I’m afraid to say that since moving to Bendigo, I have replaced these relationships with beer. After a day at work and then doing what I can around the house- getting groceries, feeding Archer, bathing Archer, getting him to bed- I’m having two, three or four stubbies to wind down and switch my brain off before bed. These nights go by without incident. There are nights, however, when the stubby count gets to six or more, where I can move from relaxed to argumentative. I know I’m not the man Sarah married in those moments. Arguments normally centre around me not listening and even though I try to remember what Sarah talks to me about- I have so many things running through my head constantly- mortgage paid? Have we received rent from our tenants? What is due to be done at work tomorrow? What bills need to be paid? Is the credit card under control? At the same time I’m trying to make sure I’m being the best Dad, husband, and shop owner that I can be- I feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day for me to do everything to the best of my ability. The beer helps me escape the reality of my responsibilities for a short while. I did used to take a lot of pride in my health and fitness- whilst also still enjoying a beer and I got the same sense of ‘escape’ by going for a run or spending some time in our gym. Over the past eighteen months I have lost the balance between my exercise and having a beer. I’m the first to acknowledge it and I know that in order to be the Dad and the husband I want to be – to be the Dad and husband that Archer and Sarah are entitled to; I have to redress this balance – I know I will.
So what I have learnt…
- Mental health is important! Men and women, if you are depressed, anxious, stressed, tired, angry…whatever…. Talk to someone. If your depression etc is affecting you, it affects all those around you. Don’t avoid it.
- For me, the best way to avoid being lonely is to get social. I call my mum or dad every single day. I phone my friends and have catch ups with mothers group. There is nothing worse than feeling couped up drowned in all the scenarios your inner monologue makes up and blows things out of proportion. This is toxic.
- Marriage isn’t the fantasy I imagined it to be. There are conflicts, things are said that you may regret, both of us acting passive aggressive. It can also be beautiful, loving, fun and spontaneous. It takes hard work, communication and being present to each other. In our case, we want it to work and we have made changes in our lives to accommodate the other. We communicate better than we ever have and it is only got to get better from here.
We have been so wrapped up in ourselves: for me, recovering and becoming healthy again, my blog and fitness; For Cam: the business. People say to us that they could never be doing what we are doing… My reaction to that is that you don’t know what you are capable of until you are thrown in the deep end. Because Cam and I have lived through hard times like me having a stroke, losing my vision, moving to a new area, having a baby and new business, we are going through the motions, living it and breathing it. It is not easy, but it is our life. We embrace it and accept it. We probably haven’t stopped to think about the magnitude of it. All I know is that I wouldn’t have it any other way. It is not about luck or anything, it is about the way you play your cards you have been dealt.
It is about recognising your strengths, using them and improving your flaws. Strength comes from looking within and aspiring to be the best you can be in a given a situation. If your best is getting out of bed and brushing your teeth, that is a bloody good start. One step at a time.