'You’re not my therapist, and you may need to encourage me to see one.'
I’ve come to terms with my anxiety. I’d even say that we’re sometimes friends.
But whenever someone comes into my life, romantically or otherwise, they also have to get to know my anxiety. The good news is that, despite the social stigma surrounding mental health, it’s often not that big of a deal. But of course, there are things I want people to know about me and how I see the world.
So, to my significant other, here are 10 things I want you to know about dating me:
1. I am not my anxiety.
I have anxiety and I deal with anxiety — but I am not my anxiety. It’s simply a small part of me. You most likely fell in love with the other parts of me, like the fact that I am slightly obsessed with conspiracy theories or I get sad when I see an elderly person eating alone. Please remember those parts of me, even when I don’t.
2. There are perks!
Because of my anxiety, I value the positives in my life immensely and do my best to nurture them and express my appreciation. I’m very empathetic and tuned into how others may think or feel. I’ll do my best to save you pain and protect you because I know how bad it can feel. I’ll almost always have some deeply thought-out insight because all that analyzing isn’t for nothing.
3. Please share your own struggles and tell me how I can support you.
This is a relationship and I want to be here for you as much as you’re here for me. Please don’t feel like you can’t lean on me. Nothing makes me happier than being able to help someone else, especially someone I love. I’ve learned a lot and received a lot of support from you, and I’m happy to share and return the favor.
4. If I don’t feel better when you try to help, it’s not your fault.
There are times when nothing is louder than the thoughts in my head telling me that everything is not OK — even louder than the person I love telling me that it is. I know you’re right, and I’m not just being stubborn: thoughts are powerful and sometimes they will get the best of me. Eventually, I’ll get there, so please be patient with me.
5. If I don’t feel better when you try to help, it’s not my fault.
Anxiety isn’t always something you can just suck up and move on from, like criticism or rejection. When it gets too hard to relax, I feel the anxiety at my core: my heart starts racing, my mind gets hard to distract, and my gut pulses with negativity. Like the saying goes: “You have to trust in something, and sometimes all we have is what our gut tells us.” But mine sometimes tells me scary things and, yes, it scares me.
6. You’re not my therapist, and you may need to encourage me to see one.
There are a lot of resources now for improving mental health, especially in strengthening against anxiety, such as relaxation methods or breaking negative thought patterns. I might be slow to accept this help, but please encourage me and be honest that you can’t always provide the help I need. You’re not trying to abandon me or not accept me as a whole; sometimes I need help to make real progress.
7. There isn’t a quick fix for anxiety. It’s a work in progress, but I promise I’ll put that work in.
I have good days and I have bad days, and most likely, anxiety will always be a part of my life. But it’s been proven that it can get more and more manageable with hard work, consistency, and a good support system. I’ll provide the first two parts and love you for being a part of the third.
8. This is hardest on me.
For me, anxiety can affect not only our relationship but also everything else: my work and career, any social situation, and even getting through the day. It can be exhausting. In fact, I probably won’t tell you a lot of what I’m experiencing, so what you notice may be only part of what I’m working through. It’s not an excuse, but please just keep it in mind if it gets hard on you.
9. Be real and honest.
The last thing I want is for you to “handle” me with kid gloves or become bitter because you’re bottling up frustrations. I need honesty. If I’m being a brat, you can definitely tell me I’m being a brat. I might not be able to control if anxiety is present in my life, but I know I can work on how I react to it. Sometimes I’m just overwhelmed or scared and I show it in a way that’s difficult. I welcome any reminders to ground myself and instead react from a clear-headed place. I trust you because I love you.
10. I love you and thank you for loving me.
It’s not easy for me to be vulnerable with you or wonder if I’m too much or too little. There might be times when I push you away just so you can’t push me away first. Everyone has their set of issues to work through and you inspire and support me to work through mine. So, thank you, and I promise I’ll return the favor.