What I’ve learned from dating someone who also has anxiety
I’m new to dating. I’m also new to discussing my anxiety, or at least to actually using the word “anxiety.” I mean, I’ve always known about it in the back of my mind, but I used to write myself off as a worrywart or flustered soul. I’ve only now begun to claim my anxiety disorder after years of dealing with it inwardly. And it turns out: a lot of people have it. Including the dude I’m currently dating.
I’d always figured my anxiety would send potential suitors running for the hills, but instead, when I finally opened up about it, it seemed just the opposite. It’s not exactly something shared with a flirtatious Mariah Carey-esque voice and bedroom eyes, but there’s something romantic about a moment of honesty. My decision to talk about my anxiety presented an opportunity for serious open communication, and being clear and open with someone is attractive.
When my significant other and I confided in each other about suffering from anxiety, we found that it brought us closer together. Now that we have broken the proverbial ice, it’s something we can casually bring up over a slice of ‘za or while we’re waiting for the next episode of Broad City to load. Here are some things I’m learning along the way.
No two cases of anxiety are identical
Anxiety can manifest itself in different forms, and its nature varies from person to person. For example, my anxiety usually comes out in a way that causes me to try to organize my life by writing and re-writing lists of ridiculous tasks until my head’s in a tizzy because I’ve tricked myself into thinking I have several hundred things to do for the week. The guy I’m dating doesn’t do that. Instead, has bouts of panic attacks every once in awhile. He deals in an outward physical way, and I’m the type who explodes internally. Having the same disorder doesn’t necessarily mean we have the same needs, or even that we present our anxiety in the same way.
Everyone deals differently
My partner likes to remove himself from a situation when he’s feeling anxious or on the verge of a panic attack and pause to gather himself. When I first witnessed this, I felt a little helpless because I wasn’t sure how to make him feel better. Turns out, all he needed was a glass of water and a little time. I tend to lean towards self-deprecation and bad jokes when I’m flustered—that is, until I’m near someone who makes me feel comfortable enough to share what I’m anxious about. Coping is also something that everyone does in their own way.
Do what works for you
I’m not on any medication at the moment but when I’m feeling especially anxious, I’ve found that I can calm myself down by re-watching my favorite shows, writing, making a cup of tea, or going for a stroll. Sometimes, all of the above! For other people, therapy and medication do wonders. The guy I’m dating likes to do yoga when he’s tense and I’m planning on giving that a try too. Whatever works! If you’re someone with anxiety, you should definitely think about talking to someone about it, but also realize that there are a range of options out there, and finding what works for you is what’s most important.
Time apart is healthy too
It’s nice to have someone around who’s dealing with the same issue. But it can also sometimes become overwhelming when both of you are flaring or when one of you is and the other is finally having an easy day. I find having a few days apart during the workweek is great because it allows us to regroup and return to each other with clear heads, prepared for whatever may come our way. Because, let’s be real, something definitely will.
Two anxiety-sufferers dating isn’t that scary, after all
Sure, no one enjoys an anxiety attack—those things always seem to pop up at the worst possible time, don’t they? Especially when your partner’s triggers one in you. But they’re just a part of my life, his life, and the lives of many others. I’ve stopped sulking and instead, I’m finding ways to cope alongside a pretty cool person.
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