Painted Mirrors

Living with someone who has a mental illness can be gut wrenching, at times, because of the love you have for them.  The worst part… when you see them in so much pain, knowing there is very little you can actually do, in that moment.  There are times when I hear my wife crying upstairs.  Throwing things around in the bathroom.  Pacing.  Trying to get hold of her emotions.  I have to let her, just be. 

Then there are time when she simply disappears.  I go looking for her.  She’s in her closet, crying uncontrollably for no reason other than, “I don’t know why I’m crying!”  

I walk away (after I offer some Xanax, of course).

You feel completely helpless.  I often get sick to my stomach, in those moments.  Trying to exude strength to the people around me, even our kids, while dying inside, knowing the woman I love more than myself is hurting.  

I often tell her, “I wish you could see yourself the way I see you.”  She gives me a confused smile.  She doesn’t get it.   Her insecurities and doubts are too overwhelming, when her emotions are running high.  

Well, I sat down to write about this experience and also tell a quick story about what we’ve been through this past week, with other people who are fighting with mental illness.  However, I wrote a poem instead, so the story will have to wait.  

Please understand, this poem is mainly for those times when things are rough.  We have many happy and wonderful moments in our marriage and family.  More happy than not, for sure.  However, in those low times, like now, I hope these are words of encouragement and strength.

I also hope it illustrates what I’m going for, which is to show my wife and those suffering from mental illness, How We, Your Loved Ones, See You.  I’m not a poet, so bear with me and don’t judge too hard…….

Painted Mirrors

Look in the Mirror.
What do you see?
Do you see a person who is weak…
Do you see the emotional outburst that caused others pain?
The loss of control….
The body fat you wish you didn’t have?
Do you see the person who was barely able to get out of bed that day…
Scared of the world and what it might bring….
Wishing the world was simply under your blankets.
Yet not safe….
Alone in bed is alone with your thoughts….
Your doubts….  fears…. failures… insecurities…..
Damn your bed.
Do you see this person who failed to meet the imaginary bar of “normal?”
What’s normal?
“Not me.”
Is that what you tell yourself?
Do you see the spot on your arm, asking to have its skin broken?
“What would that feel like?”
You could use any feeling, other than this feeling…..
Do you see the person that doesn’t feel worthy… of friendship…. of love… of life…
The person who wishes they weren’t here right now, looking in this goddamn mirror.
Do you see the demons that haunt your mind, telling you to end it all?
Do you see any hope?

Now, let me paint that mirror.
Show you what I see.
I see incredible strength and courage.
The strength to hold back, when the emotions rise…
Keep thoughts or words from becoming actions.
The fortitude to fight, even against yourself.
The courage to talk about how you’re feeling.
Taking steps to protect those you love.
To protect yourself.
The control to separate, if needed.
Asking for help.
I see the person who did get out of bed today, even if for a moment.
Putting your feet on the floor, using your knees to stand up….
That took strength.
You were successful.
I see those eyes that see through me, to my soul.
The smile that makes me smile.
The laugh that brings tears to my eyes….
I don’t take it for granted.
The heart that makes me want to be here..
Today and tomorrow.
A heart so big, it’s bursting with the emotions of humanity…
Love, Fear, Joy, Anger, Passion, Charity……
ALL of them.
Fuck “normal.”
It doesn’t exist.
A goal that can never be reached.
Only the human condition and its full spectrum of beautiful colors.
I see you wrapped in a blanket of reds, blues, yellows, greens and purples.
We are in that blanket with you.
Your Loved Ones.
Experiencing this spectacular ride.
With. You.
You are worthy of Our Love.
You are worthy of Your Love.
I see the arm without broken skin.
The resilience it took to keep it unharmed.
I see the beautiful person in this mirror.
You are here.
You fought the demons.
Asked for help.
Called me.
Thank You.
I got there.
You won.
You are here.
You faced the world.
Faced your mirrors…..
Let me paint them for you.




  1. Your wife is so very lucky to have you. Many people do not have someone who sees through their illness in such a beautifully forgiving and supportive way.


  2. Dear Barry: Beautiful words and I love the poem that you wrote about your wife. I have Bipolar disorder. It is very hard to live with. Fortunately, I have always been very compliant with my meds, and so far (knock wood), I have NEVER had to go in the hospital, not yet anyway. I am currently in divorce proceedings from my partner of 14 years. It is very ugly. I don’t even really know just WHY she wanted a divorce!! Just that she said living with my Bipolar was too hard to live with. All of her medical/mental health conditions were not easy for ME to live with……….but, she stated to me in May in a therapy session, that she wanted a divorce, no options. We are currently in legal litigation that I really cannot discuss, sorry. I would be more than happy to correspond with you, if you just need someone to chat with, etc. You can get me at: I certainly understand mental illness.
    Love, Susan

    Liked by 1 person

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