In July of 2015, I was officially diagnosed with a severe case of Generalized Anxiety Disorder and was prescribed an anti-depressant known as Lexapro to manage my physical symptoms. I thought that after my physical symptoms were taken care of, my life would go back to normal--but I was wrong. My disorder had changed me into a completely different person and I had to either learn how to embrace that and work this new person into my long-term relationship or revert back to the person I was before anxiety consumed my life. I chose the latter.
Before I was diagnosed and prescribed medication, I was a wreck. I couldn't sleep and would often stay up until five a.m. pacing back and forth, reading; basically distracting myself from my racing heart and clenched stomach with whatever activity possible without waking up my boyfriend. I would fall asleep in the early hours of the morning and wake up about four hours later feeling slightly more rested but no less anxious. I would be too riddled with indigestion from my clenched stomach to eat more than one meal per day and had trouble even drinking water.
Months and months of this cycle lead to me losing 15 pounds and spiraling even more out of control. My constant anxiety became so severe that I couldn't leave the house for anything--even a trip to the grocery store lead to a full-on anxiety attack. My boyfriend had to cook, clean the house, do laundry, make sure I ate and drank enough to survive, and balance school and work. At one point, he was even working full-time to ensure that we didn't end up homeless, and yet he was still able to take care of me.
For about six or seven months, from December of 2015 to June of 2016, I was essentially a vegetable. When I wasn't pacing, I was sleeping. When I wasn't sleeping, I was crying. When I wasn't crying, I was irrationally angry. When I wasn't angry, I was ridden with anxiety attack after anxiety attack...and so went the cycle.
My boyfriend became my sole caretaker, breadwinner, and my only tie to reality. We fell into the role of doctor and patient, respectively, and stayed that way until I was prescribed my medication in July of 2016. The side-effects for the first two weeks were more severe than any symptom I had experienced the past three years, but I persevered.
Once those two weeks from Hell were over, it was like the clouds had suddenly parted and I was in heaven. I was sleeping for 8-10 hours, I rarely experienced an anxiety attack...essentially, I could rejoin the land of the living for the first time since I had attended college.
This led to an almost rebellious phase where I ignored my responsibilities and pretty much every facet of the life I had lead whilst being plagued with severe anxiety. I went out with my friends every weekend, took spontaneous road trips, got into writing and reading again...and ignored my boyfriend. My partner. The man who had taken care of me and put my health and quality of life before his. My whole world. My best friend.
I was trying so hard to forget about the misery anxiety had inflicted on me the past three years that I had left behind the only reason why I was living a normal life again. I didn't do this consciously, but that doesn't excuse the behavior or make the hurt it caused disappear. After almost ruining the best thing that had ever happened to me I finally realized that I needed to learn how to be in a relationship again.
Sure, I was a strong, independent woman, but I was also part of a partnership. I had a teammate and teammates don't leave each other behind.
My boyfriend also had to learn some things. Changing from a doctor-patient type of relationship to a normal, romantic relationship can be extremely difficult...and long. We're still working on it to this day and even though it's frustrating at times--I swear it takes weeks and weeks for some things to get through my thick skull--I wouldn't trade it for the world.
Learning to balance my newfound independence with the communication and openness required in an equal partnership is one of the hardest things I've had to deal with, but also one of the most rewarding.
Learning to be in a relationship again is hard, but losing your significant other isn't worth taking the easy way out.