You don’t choose who you fall in love with, that’s why they call it falling. What you do choose is learning to accept the person you love for their flaws and character traits. You learn to love who they are even if who they are isn’t the easiest person all the time.
When I fell in love with someone who suffers from severe anxiety, I learned this lesson in the realest way.
I’ve Dealt with Anxiety….
I’ve had my fair share of panic attacks and break downs, but they were always triggered by some major event that was not controllable. I guess you could call it expected anxiety. Aside from that, I’m a pretty laid back person. I like to plan things but I also have no issue with going with the flow. I believe the best times are the times we never see coming and that not everything needs a blue print.
Anxiety is usually a person’s best kept secret…
When I first started dating my boyfriend, he seemed just like me. Easy going, laid back, roll with the punches type of guy. He always laughed, always had fun, always made the best of every situation. He was Mr. Positivity with an infectious smile and an even greater way of explaining the most ridiculous things. What I didn’t know was he was harboring a secret that even he didn’t realize was a secret.
He had extreme anxiety.
Anxiety isn’t always what it seems…
You don’t have to have a complete mental break down in order to suffer from anxiety. Some of the worst cases I’ve witnessed was when my boyfriend got trapped in his head. I could see his eyes racing back and forth trying to keep up with the 1,000 thoughts that were beating him all at once. Sometimes they were simple like, did he lock the door? Where were we going to go for dinner… Others were more serious; how will he have his check in time to cover rent, did he make the right career choice, what kind of father will he be?
I didn’t understand why he would start thinking these things randomly throughout the day. Was he losing sleep over these issues? I was watching as he physically made himself sick over the ideas pacing his mind.
He suffered from introverted anxiety, but he suffered from extroverted anxiety just as bad.
I couldn’t comprehend the panic.
I’ve always loved giving presents. I can say with 100% honesty, I like giving better than receiving. Any guy I dated before my boyfriend loved everything I’d ever gotten them. From tickets to events to clothes and watches, one thing I was killer at was nailing gifts. Needless to say, when my boyfriends first birthday of us being together rolled around, I was pumped to get him his present.
He’s a huge baseball guy and was dying to see his team on their rival’s field. I thought it would be amazing to get him sick seats and bring him out there as a surprise. I bought tickets for the end of April and prayed for good weather. It just so happened the day after the game he was moving, so I thought this would be a nice way to relax before the move the next day.
When I gave him his present he was shocked, but didn’t seem as excited as I thought he would be. I couldn’t figure out what I had done wrong. I thought this gift would be a home run.. literally. But I was wrong.
The weather ended up being bad and he was stressed out from the moment we left until the moment we got home. The traffic, the move, he even made us dress neutrally so that no one would bother us. I just couldn’t understand what his issue was.
I tried each birthday and Christmas that followed to fix whatever I did the first time that was incorrect, but I just kept making it worse. It was infuriating to not understand what I was doing wrong.
One night, he finally lost it.
It was Thanksgiving Eve and I went out with a few of my best friends. We were celebrating college being done, the holidays and the fact that I just landed a job with an NHL team. Things were great. My best friend was the designated driver that night, so I knew we were in good hands.
I’m not much of a drinker at all, most of the time I’m the moms of the group, so when I started slamming Gin & Tonics to the point I could barely stand, I thought texting my boyfriend was a funny idea. – God, was I wrong.
I’ll be honest, most of that night is a blur. What I do remember was him losing it on me the next morning and telling me how ridiculous I was acting. I gave him “a f*cking heart attack”.
He was screaming how I was almost 2 hours away from him and he had no idea what was going on. I thought he didn’t want me to have fun. I thought he was mad that I went out without him, even though I told him I was going out. He spoke to my best friend serval times that night with her assuring him I was safe, so what was the issue?
We weren’t understanding each other. Our relationship was heading down a dark path fast, and I thought he was the villain.
I realized it wasn’t him or me; It was anxiety.
It took a long time for me to put two and two together. Maybe that sounds stupid, but when you’re an easy going, free spirited person, anxiety just doesn’t makes sense in everyday life.
He never actually told me he suffered from anxiety; most people who do suffer don’t realize it. It’s just the way their minds work, the way they have always worked. It’s just as hard from someone who is anxious to understand a free spirit as it is a free spirit to understand the anxious.
He wasn’t ever mad or angry, he just didn’t know how to be any other way. He let his thoughts get the best of him in every situation and allowed the idea of, ‘what if,’ to carry him away from the actuality of the situation.
I tried to understand his trepidation…
When you love someone who sufferes from anxiety, it’s up to you to take a step back and understand what and why this anxiety is being triggered.
In the case of the baseball game, I knew we wouldn’t be home too late and I knew we’d have everything packed and ready to go for the next day. To him, it wasn’t this simple.
The weather was bad, so we could have gotten into an accident on the way there. The game is obviously outside, so we could both get sick while moving the following day. He didn’t want to rep his team because the city we were in was notorious for starting problems with people who cheered against them. If someone was to start something with him and I got hurt, he would end up going to jail because, ‘no one hurts his girl.’
Anxiety is being thoughtful and overly cautious but also getting swept away in scenarios that, “could happen” but most likely won’t.
He new I spent a lot of money on the tickets as I did with any other present I had gotten him. He hated it because as the man, he always felt like he should be treating me, not the other way around.
He also has this irrational fear of getting presents. He thought,” what if I don’t like it? Would I be able to fake it? Would I hurt someone’s feelings with a rogue expression that comes across my face? ”
He thought so much into the little things that would forget to enjoy the bigger picture. It wasn’t his fault, he couldn’t help it.
As for the night I went out, he was scared for me. He’s not a controlling person and he always encourages me to go out and have fun with my friends. He trusts me as much as I trust him, so it was never a matter of that. It was that I was so far away from him, and he couldn’t get to me fast enough if he needed to. It was that his normally sober girlfriend wasn’t forming sentences and he wasn’t there to hold me or make sure I was okay.
He panicked because he doesn’t trust other people, and even though he knew I was with my best friend who was sober, we were still a bunch of girls walking around a city late at night without all of us having our wits about us. You could imagine the horrific possibilities that were running through his head.
I learned that anxiety can get worse with love.
…not for any other reason than, they love you.
Anxiety is about worrying about the unpredictable events of life. He never meant to make me feel bad and he never meant to hurt my feelings, he just doesn’t know how to handle his all the time. When someone with anxiety loves you, they don’t feel relaxed unless you’re with them. They need to see you and be near you so they can protect you. They need to know you’re okay because if you weren’t, they would forever blame themselves for not being there.
People with anxiety aren’t bad people. They’re actually very good people who can’t control how much the care or worry. It’s easy to dismiss someone who suffers from anxiety, but once you allow yourself to be open minded enough to understand how they feel, you’ll understand that everyday life is a struggle for them, and you’re there to make it easier.
How to control anxiety, together.
Recently, my boyfriend and I went away for the weekend. It was a few weeks early for the season of the town we visited, so things closed earlier than usual. We had realized the restaurants were closing early and we hadn’t gone out for dinner yet. It was a rainy night, perfect for staying in anyway, but he wanted to make the weekend special and thought if we didn’t sit down for a nice dinner I would be disappointed.
So I humored him. We got dressed and walked around this quiet town for 45 minute looking for a place still seating for dinner. The only thing we found was a small ice cream shop that specialized in gourmet ice cream sandwiches.
After convincing him it was okay to eat ice cream for dinner, we headed back to the room with our impromptu dinner, put on comfy clothes, watched a movie and ate them in bed. It was perfect…
I think he realized that night that just because everything doesn’t go to plan doesn’t mean it can’t be wonderful. In almost three years of dating, that takes the place of my favorite dinner.
He’s controlling his anxiety better these days. He speaks to me more when things bother him and breathes when he feel like he’s getting lost in thought. I also have learned a few things.
I’m fast paced, but I’ve learned to go a little slower. That not everything has to be so get-up-and-go. I don’t surprise him anymore, instead I talk to him about what my plans are for us. After all, what good is a surprise if it’s not enjoyed?
Love is about compromise and understanding, and loving someone with anxiety taught me that.