To the Person Who Chooses to Love Someone With An Anxiety Disorder

To the Person Who Chooses to Love Someone With An Anxiety Disorder

We know we’re hard to love. Our anxiety inhibits us from being the partner we truly want to be sometimes. But that doesn’t mean we love you any less or we don’t want to work to be better– for ourselves, for you, for us. If you have experienced our anxiety and you still choose to be with us, here are some things we want you to know…

Sometimes we won’t seem present. Our thoughts can be completely overwhelming. Imagine this: you’re sitting face to face with someone, having a conversation, and all the sudden you hear the television get really loud. Then the phone starts ringing over and over again. The timer goes off for the chicken you have in the oven, the dog starts barking, you hear the dishwasher running, the clothes tumbling in the dryer, the clock ticking, and a car horn honking outside on the street. Intense anxiety can feel as noisy as all of these things happening at the same time, and then suddenly you’re out of breath, your heart is racing, your throat is tight, and It feels like you’re running when you’re just sitting still. 

There can be very little going on in the present moment of reality, but a million things going on inside our mind that send us into fight, flight, or freeze. “Background” activity that our brain would normally give little importance suddenly becomes salient and we can’t filter or focus. We’re trying to listen to what you are saying to us but all we hear is the noise and our thoughts— What if I said the wrong thing? What if I choke on this bite of food? Do I have enough money to pay my bills? Am I a bad ______ (friend, spouse, parent, person, etc)? It can seem impossible to focus on what’s happening in the moment and it can feel like we’re losing touch with reality. Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we can’t ground ourselves and we can’t listen to what you're saying or respond appropriately. We can’t be present if we’re not grounded. You might interpret this as us being disinterested or rude– more likely, we’re paralized.

Some days are better than others. Anxiety can be unpredictable. Sure, there are situations that we generally can expect to feel uncomfortable, but sometimes places that usually feel safe, just don’t. Some days we wake up and instantly feel short of breath and a heaviness in our chest. A million scary/overwhelming thoughts flood our mind. It’s difficult to get out of bed and face the day ahead because we know it’s going to be extra challenging today. Other days, the breath comes easy. We feel confident in our ability to address whatever comes. Today we can face fears and stay calm. 

This is why it’s important to check in with us before making assumptions about what to expect from us. Even after treatment, when we are managing our anxiety well and have coping skills to help us prepare for times of trouble, that doesn’t mean we won’t struggle from time to time. When we do, the worst thing you can say is, “I thought you were better.” 

Safety is crucial. Everyone needs to feel safe to be mentally well. As a person with an anxiety disorder, we mostly feel unsafe, and you might be one of few safe people/places in our life. That expression of disappointment can send us into shut down mode. Reinforcement of the belief that our condition is negatively impacting others, especially the ones we love the most, can be devastating and debilitating. Chances are, if we have disappointed you, we have already been processing the deep feelings of disappointment in ourselves, and that combination will be a heavy load to bear. 

However, your feelings matter too. Remember what we said about being present? Unfortunately, we may be too overwhelmed and stuck in our intrusive thoughts at times to recognize how our anxiety is impacting you. Communication is key. It’s important that you communicate your needs to us in a compassionate way. Consider, instead of saying, “your anxiety makes you unbearable,” say, “I feel hurt by things you say when you’re anxious.” If we feel we can have open communication about how anxiety is affecting our relationship, without judgment or condemnation, we will be able to continue to heal – and fail every once in a while – alongside you.

We don’t enjoy being anxious. Anxiety is frustrating. It’s frustrating for us and for the people around us. I’m sure we’ve let you down or disappointed you when we can’t follow through with a commitment or cancel plans because we’re struggling. Thoughts might creep into your mind like— 

“Why are they doing this?” 

“They always make things more difficult than they need to be.” 

“It’s always something.”

“They do this for attention!”

Try to remember: we are not acting out of malice but out of a disease process. We are probably more upset about canceling another plan than you are. There are several different causes of anxiety disorders– genetic, environmental, brain chemistry, medical conditions, etc. The point is, we didn’t pick up this habit for fun and we didn’t decide to have it.

Despite these truths, there are many things that we can do to mitigate anxiety and improve our quality of life so we can be healthier people and partners. 

We need professional support.

If we’ve been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and we go to therapy, see a provider for medication or supplement management, follow a routine to facilitate healing and mental wellness, and we are aware of the work that needs to be done, then we just need you to be part of our support team. We may need you to check in with us and keep us accountable. We may need you to just give us some positive affirmations, sit with us on a hard day, and celebrate the good days with us.

If we are experiencing anxiety and we have not sought or received help, we may need you to walk with us as we navigate the treatment options for our condition. Getting help can be scary, and you can help us feel safe while we seek guidance from professionals. 

One of the most important things you can practice is strong boundaries in recommending that we seek proper help and help us get there (encouragement, scheduling help, or financial support). Unfortunately you can’t force your loved one to get the help, but can help remove barriers to make the decision easier. 

You can’t fix it. When you love someone, you want to see them happy. You want to make them feel good and you want them to be healthy. When they are suffering, you want to take the pain away. We are human. It’s hard to accept the reality that you can’t take the anxiety away. The good news is: the healthiest decision for you is to not try to fix it. One of the healthiest things you can practice is intentional boundaries and accept that our struggles are ours to own, and your struggles are yours. What we truly need in this process is your love and support. It is our responsibility to learn how to cope, regulate, and manage it. 

Additionally, we may never find a perfect fix for our symptoms. Sometimes healing looks like learning how to cope better when the anxiety hits… rather than extinguishing the anxiety altogether. Healing is more realistic with the hardships of life. So adjusting expectations on what recovery looks like can be very helpful in your relationship with us. We may never find a perfect fix, but together, with the right team, we can both find healing.

If you'd like to learn more about how Solstice Pacific may assist you, please contact us via our website or by phone at (949) 200-7929. To help us get to know you better, you may also take this brief assessment and verify your insurance.

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