Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.

Proverbs 3:3


My husband and I recently celebrated our fiftieth wedding anniversary, something many who know our story marvel at. I’m amazed when I look back and remember our many struggles – especially with my years of mental illness. And I wonder how I ended up the way I did – a person with severe mental health problems but not lacking confidence and self-esteem.

When we had known each other for a couple of months, I had a psychotic break and was admitted to the infamous Essondale, a part of Riverview Hospital near Vancouver. I was a patient there for six or more months, misdiagnosed with schizophrenia. As many patients were in those days, I was overmedicated. I gained weight and ended up so drowsy that my mouth hung open half the time.

This was me during the early part of our relationship. But he kept seeing me despite the sorry state I was in. When I had my weekend passes he took me out – many times for long drives. Although I looked so obviously mentally ill, he never showed any shame of being with me. He took me everywhere, accepting me as the person I was. Sick? Yes. But he always treated me with respect. I never felt he looked down on me.

Three years later, in 1969, we got married. He did not propose and neither did I. We just knew we were meant to spend our lives together. Twenty years into our marriage, my diagnosis was changed. It was determined that I had bipolar type 1 disorder. My medication was adjusted and I started doing better.

From the time we were married, photography was a big part of our life. We joined a camera club and both grew as a result of our membership. Photography gave us something to share that we both ended up doing well. Wes became a leader there, and later I did as well. I can’t say I was confident about that at first, but the club was a friendly one and I felt encouraged. Yes. I did grow. And Wes considered me equal to others, never causing me to doubt that my mental health issues should hold me back.

But we have great differences as well. At age forty I gave my heart to Jesus. I became very serious about my faith. But Wes did not join with me. I had no one with whom to discuss faith issues, come to church with, or pray. Neither of us were happy about the situation, but we did respect each other’s choices. Although Wes himself wouldn’t think of going to church, he encourages me to go, realizing how important it is to me. He even drives me there and back.

Another difference between us is my fight against the stigma of mental illness. I confess it becomes quite an obsession. Wes often tires of it. He’s a laid-back person and finds my fighting spirit hard to live with at times. We argue but are quick to forget as well.

The beautiful thing about our relationship is that we have accepted each other reasonably well. Fifty years ago when we made our vow, “For better or worse,” we meant it. We’ve experienced many mental health crises – much that was “worse” and not “better.” Yet Wes always stuck with me, never gave up on me, always believed in me. I came to see myself as worthy as any other person.