This past weekend, John Nash, the mathematician depicted in the book and movie "A Beautiful Mind" died in a car accident with his wife, Alicia Nash. They were both in their 80's.
Despite the story of their lives being partially told in film, few people realize that while spending years together, the couple were not always a couple. They married in 1957. But, within two years, while she was pregnant with their son, John Nash began to exhibit the first signs of mental illness. She fought to have him committed and he always, even in the throes of delusion, fought not to be treated. The strain of dealing with his schizophrenia would lead to their divorce four years later, in 1963.
However, the divorce would not be the final chapter in their story.
John Nash would try numerous medications while going in and out of hospitals and treatment centers until 1970. At that time, Alicia took him into her home as a boarder. She looked after him, accepted him, and loved him despite the fracture of their marriage. She believed in his worth as a person, regardless of his struggles with his sanity. This stability helped him reconnect with reality, get off medication, and learn how to disregard his delusions allowing him to regain his life. With her support, he returned to mathematics and academic success, winning the Nobel Prize.
John Nash would credit Alicia with saving his life and they remarried in 2001. She stated simply that they thought it would be a good idea since they had been together most of their lives.
Trauma, crisis, and illness are very stressful on close relationships. It's exhausting and hard to face the struggle of a loved one and equally as hard to allow love in when you are in the middle of struggling to survive. But, love can heal and is vital to the healing process.
Love and acceptance are part of how we survive. It is important to be open to your connection with loved ones during times of crisis. Even when overwhelmed by the hard aspects of trauma, we can find the humanity in each other. Even when distance forces its way in, we can not lose focus on what brought us together as people in the first place.
Not all of us may understand the complicated principles and higher theories of mathematics, but we all know love adds deep texture and support to the chaos of our lives. No one ever survives alone.
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