WIFESPEAK: When mental illness enters a marriage - Daily Nation

WIFESPEAK: When mental illness enters a marriage

Wednesday September 5 2018

My friend’s husband Nick was recently diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). PHOTO | FOTOSEARCH

My friend’s husband Nick was recently diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). PHOTO | FOTOSEARCH 

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My friend’s husband Nick was recently diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

ADHD is a developmental disorder where there are significant problems with attention, hyperactivity or acting impulsively.

She was relieved and happy that they finally had a different name to call Nick’s restlessness and impossibly uncontrollable impulsive nature. Before the diagnosis, they had labelled it a relationship challenge.

Nick was relieved, too, that it was not the “devil” leading him to sin but actually a mental condition that could be managed with medication.

I once met this lady whose dyslexic condition was unknown, until she read about someone’s story on raising a child with dyslexia.

Dyslexia is not a mental condition but a learning disability that affects reading and related language-based processing skills.

“Wait a minute,” she told her husband. “That sounds like me when I was a child.” He smiled and gently replied, “Honey that sounds like you even today.” They did more research and finally went to a professional for an assessment.

That’s when they discovered she was dyslexic.

“I wanted to take my results and call up all those teachers that called me a slow learner or foolish.”  Relieved that she could finally put a finger to her condition, she now goes round schools and does online sensitisation campaigns about dyslexia.

I shared this story with my husband.


“Maybe they should assess your mood changes for some mental condition…sometimes you are so mkali, you become scary.”

He realised a second too late that he had spoken out his thoughts when I did not smile. It made me think about how a spouse deals with a mental health condition, their own or their partners, when even our school and health systems cannot tell that a child has special needs? I once met this young man, whose wife was battling schizophrenia, five years into their marriage.

Because of the cultural beliefs and the stigma associated with mental health, it had taken him months to finally seek medical help and get the proper diagnosis and treatment.

“We prayed, even had exorcism performed on her. Our relatives ensured that everything that was going on with my wife was kept a top secret.”

Unless one can clearly see a physical condition that can be classified as special needs, how else is one supposed to know that they have a mental illness? I know of a man whose first to the third wives, and the children took off from him. He was, and still is, paranoid of anything and everyone. He sees demons everywhere, chasing after him.

He sees cows and cats and dogs as evil monsters sent to hunt him down. He suspects an innocent flower growing by the edge as a witch that is constantly watching him.

His first wife was first labelled a witch and unceremoniously sent away. The village shunned her for years. The man got a second wife who frequently received brutal beatings from him for ‘turning into a snake’ and ‘drinking his blood’.

She eventually left. Wonders never cease, because, still, a third wife came along.

You would think she would know better. She lasted less than the previous two. No one should be surprised if a fourth wife came along because, such as life. But that is beside the point.


It seems the wife is always to blame, until and unless there is no more reasonable doubt that the husband indeed does have a problem. The villagers finally suspected that the man had an issue when he started cursing out the animals and the plants.

I suspect, even though our scientists have not told us so, that every person has a degree of a mental condition going on. Just like everyone gets a cold flu, but some people are more susceptible to it than others, so is the case with the numerous mental illnesses.

Maybe knowing that anyone of us is prone to a mental illness would help ease the stigma around mental health. 


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