I recently read a post by a young woman my age who gave insight into her personal life, living with a mental illness. She spoke about being in a relationship. She explained the in’s, the outs, the love and the doubts. It reminded me so much of my own life, living with anxiety. Not only living with anxiety, but sharing this path with someone else. I can only speak from my own experience, but I hope for those of you reading this, you take with you invaluable advice from my own experience, having a relationship while living with anxiety.
Before I begin, I want to highlight something very important. If you are reading this post in hope to find clarity in your partnership because you feel like you are not receiving the love and respect you deserve despite suffering anxiety, I cannot help you. My main advice to you is to rethink your personal values. We as humans do not choose mental illness. We do not choose to lie awake at night with anxiety. Anxiety chooses us. Therefore, if you are in a relationship, feeling a little lost, and cannot seem to find the support from your partner, I advise you to sit down and ask yourself, will this work? I’m not asking you to end your relationship as I’m a firm believer that every relationship takes work. A problem begins to stem when one or both partners refuse to put in the work. If you have made attempts at working hard at fixing your problem, but see little to no result, then perhaps it is time to rethink your personal values and goals.
If you have read my previous posts on anxiety, you’ll have discovered the history of my anxiety and troubles which stemmed from my fear, emetophobia. What I’ve never actively opened up about was sharing my path with another person, as I wished to keep the most part of my life private. But after thorough reading and plenty of thinking, I believe that my story could potentially help others to prosper in the future. Living with anxiety alone is difficult, but living with anxiety with a partner who cannot help or doesn’t understand you, is ten times worse.
I am one of the lucky ones. I don’t suffer from insomnia. I have never had to consider turning to medication for my anxiety. I have panic attacks the odd time, mostly throughout Winter (due to my irrational fear of getting sick- Noro Virus), but the majority of my time is spent living in control of my anxiety. I count my lucky blessings when I hear about men and women who suffer daily panic attacks and are on endless waiting lists to see private psychotherapists. My anxiety only ever flares up whenever I feel unwell. Although to some of you it might seem irrational, I can safely say it is very real for me. When sharing your day to day life with someone else, they’re bound to see you at your worst eventually. I’ve always stayed true to who I am, and if that means lying awake with anxiety the odd night, that is fine with me. The right partner will lie next to you and give you the reassurance you deserve to get through the panic.
My experience of sharing my path of anxiety with someone has taught me that not everyone will understand your worries or your fears. They may lead you to believe that they understand you, they may even offer emotional support. Actions speak louder than words though, and if you do not feel the emotional support and feel rest assured when suffering around a partner, may my advice be, know your values. To display panic attacks and anxiety to those closest to you is an extremely vulnerable thing to do. I never imagined that I’d be comfortable enough around someone to be true to myself, but I was. There was a great eventuality of honesty in my relationship in which I opened up about who I was, and what scared me the most. This is a frightening thing to do in any relationship, anxiety or not. When living with anxiety, it’s even scarier. The right person will stand by you with pride, and tell you that everything will be okay. Those with anxiety have a greater sense of care (and I’m in no means being biased, I have plenty of friends who suffer anxiety and panic disorder). When in a relationship, I put my greatest efforts in to making my partner happy. This meant putting my partner first, listening to them as they faced worries about their future and standing by them as they worked endlessly to achieve their dream goal. By putting others first, I quickly neglected my own personal dreams. I agreed to move away, I agreed to run away from my own goals because making others happy is something I’ve been brought up to do. I have my family to thank for that. But sometimes, we say yes and do things for others, because we’re too afraid to stand on our own two feet and do what pleases us. Sometimes we say yes and agree because we love that person. Naturally, we as humans put the people we care about before us. That being said, this can cause an abundance of anxiety, and from my own experience, it did. I became worrisome about my own future. I showed vulnerability, admitting just how worried I was. I was then told to get my head checked, I was told that I’d become insufferable. And just like that, I woke up. I realised that not everyone will understand you the way you understand them. It grew to my attention that in some cases, you have to love your own flaws in order to meet someone who will fully understand your worries as much as you understand theirs. Someone who will respect and love your flaws. My flaw is lying wide awake after eating too late, peppermint tea in one hand, terrified of getting sick. But I’ve learned that if someone can not accept this flaw, and cannot accept that I have mild anxiety, they are not the right person.
If you are in a position where you too are vulnerable, and cannot seem to obtain the understanding you deserve in your partner, make sure to speak out! We do not need another human being to define who we are. Finding your equal doesn’t define you. You define you. If someone can not accept the definition of you, omit your power somewhere else. Those facing mental health issues are the strongest of them all!