To The Significant Other Of Someone With Anxiety,
Anxiety is a frustratingly fearful disorder. It is one of the top relationship problems that many young couples face. The biggest hardship couples face is accepting what is going on. You might not know what anxiety is, how to face it, or when it will happen, but you should be ready... Always. Anxiety isn’t a glove. It doesn’t fit perfectly. It will not always conform to the stereotype you have given it. It isn’t always easy to identify, treat or “get over.”
But I’ll try to describe it the best I can, so maybe you can understand a bit more… Think of a movie with flashbacks. Any movie will do, but I tend to think of 17 Again with Zac Efron and Matthew Perry. Now, think of that moment right before they switch between times. They are standing in a hallway of a school, talking with friends about almost anything random, then all of a sudden your breath shallows, your heartbeat starts to race, and you feel everyone else start moving around you, even though you are stuck in that one place. Your ears fill with white noise and all of a sudden life does not feel like a possibility anymore.
That’s anxiety… It is a disorder that 40 million people face on a day to day basis. It is a minute by minute debilitating disease that strikes at random. This results in us girls with anxiety loving a little differently. We may have times where we yell in your face, tell you we want to be alone, throw things at random, etc. There also might be times we truly cannot let go of the death grip we have on your waist or need your shirt just to have your smell near us.
We may love differently, but we love with reverence and passion that you have never seen. We have found a safe space in you, enough to let you into our little time warp.
So I am going to give you a guide to helping someone who has this disorder, because though hard, loving someone with anxiety is totally worth it.
I know a lot of people are thinking… WELL DUH. I know I can’t freak out that will just make the situation worse. But what some people don’t consider is the hardest thing you might have to do is realize anxiety is the one talking. You might think she just snapped at me, yelling for no reason to get out of her face and leave her alone. Could you remain calm then? You should... Because 9 times out of 10, it is anxiety talking. She is afraid you will leave her when in actuality she needs you most.
Don’t ask what you can do to “help”
If we knew what help people would give, we would not struggle daily to get over these attacks on our own. All we know is sometimes we need you and sometimes we need to be away from you. We are often not able to make any decisions and will rather respond constantly with I don’t know, simply because those are the only words we can form. Questions and trying to align trains of thought are going to put us into overload.
Don’t EVER ask if it’s your fault
There are two reactions you will receive to this question. Either the person will burst into tears about how they are a shitty person for making you feel as if their anxiety was in any way caused by you. They will feel guilty and useless, subsequently turning their anxiety into a full blown panic attack. The other reaction is anger. There will be quotes such as “why would you ask that?” “why is everything about you?”Anxiety will turn into manic. This question is just overall a bad idea.
Touching is only allowed with permission
I know for me the sense of touch is too overwhelming. Especially when it comes to my cat, or something of a furry nature. It feels as if this other item has been absorbed my skin and I cannot shake it off of me. It is permanently fused. There are body cues for this. The person will shrug away, curl up into the smallest possible position, make sure to lay close to any edges of chairs, beds, couches, etc. However, many other people crave touch. This does not mean kiss them and hold them constructively. Constriction is never good when someone is facing an anxiety attack. Make sure it is light touching, back rubs and forehead kisses are appreciated.
Weighted items are extremely helpful
This might be personal to me… But I know as soon as I get a heavy comforter on me, I feel a lot better. I have tried sheets, blankets, quilts, and throws but none work quite as well. I can only assume it has to do with the pressure in which a comforter would have. I also find comfort in pillows. Even though I normally have my two pillows behind my head, during anxiety attacks I usually steal more and tuck them on either side of me.
Plan for friend and family visits days or weeks in advance
Social anxiety is not just a term used for anti-social people. Social anxiety is a real disorder defined by the fear that people will not be accepting and/or will judge you for your appearance and actions. This can be people you know as close as family all the way to someone walking down the street. Thus, people with social anxiety require preparation time in order to be ready for large groups, people in their home, or just seeing someone they haven’t seen in awhile.
The last piece of advice I can give you is the most important… love them. They are people too. They have feelings, emotions, good days, and bad. Every one of the listed things above are appreciated and accepted with gratitude when your significant other has a clear and sound mind. Though we may be bad at expressing it… With everything you do for us… We love you, too.