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To the Husband Whose Wife Is Struggling With Anxiety

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To the husband whose wife is struggling with anxiety,

If you know your wife is struggling with anxiety, then consider your marriage in good shape. Chances are, she’s been struggling for some time before she let you in on her secret. It took me about four years to finally allow my husband a glimpse at my anxiety. This is not a source of pride for your wife. It probably won’t be something she posts on Facebook or texts her best friend about.

If she is brave enough to let you in on her anxiety, then it means she feels safe enough to be vulnerable. Please, be thankful she can open up to you. When people allow themselves to be exposed in their relationships, greater intimacy can be achieved. However confusing your wife’s anxiety may be, I hope you can find some sort of peace in knowing about it.

Psychology Today describes anxiety as “…a normal reaction to stressful situations. But in some cases, it becomes excessive and can cause sufferers to dread everyday situations.” It’s important to remember a person doesn’t create his/her own anxiety. If your wife is struggling with anxiety, then chances are she’s experiencing something much more severe than the nerves you may have felt before a big test, a performance, a presentation or an athletic event.

It won’t be easy for you to watch your wife battle anxiety. You will likely be ill-equipped to help her, and you will not be able to “fix” her, mainly because there is nothing to fix. She is not broken. There are, however, things you can do as her partner to help her work through anxiety.

Anxiety manifests itself differently for each person. Generally, people who experience anxiety appear to be totally fine, but on the inside they are drowning or feel their world is spinning out of control. Each person has a different trigger for his/her anxiety. Pay attention to your wife; work with her to understand her triggers, and then do what you can to help her avoid these triggers or help soften them.

If your wife’s anxiety starts up whenever she has an overwhelming schedule, then help her during these crazy moments in life. Make a grocery list for her. Offer to cook dinner. Pick up the kids from daycare. Reschedule the kids’ dentist appointment for a week that has more free time. Find a babysitter so you and your wife can have a night away. Some anxiety is triggered by a lack of sleep. If this happens for your wife, then help her develop better sleep habits. The key here is to know your wife and then to help her (not take over for her).

There will be times when you will simply not understand your wife’s anxiety. She might not understand it, either. It will be frustrating, but please, refrain from yelling at her, belittling her, leaving or asking her to snap out of it. Instead, offer her a safe place and stay with her. Show her you care and be present for her.

Anxiety can be humiliating and confusing for the person experiencing it. She doesn’t want to feel this way. Making her feel bad for something beyond her control will only deepen her anxiety and increase tension in your marriage.

Your support will definitely help her, but it will never be a substitute for the support of a medical professional. If necessary, empathetically encourage your wife to see a therapist. She may need time to come around to this idea. So be patient. Give her time to accept help, they way you’d need time to accept the same kind of help.

Some insurance plans cover visits to therapists. Understand your/her insurance policy to help her find an in-network doctor. If insurance won’t cover this kind of service, then check with your or her employer to see if there is any kind of employee assistance program (usually these types of programs provide free or discounted therapy services for employees and their families). Perhaps another community you are affiliated with provides counseling services (church, graduate school, etc.). Show your support by doing the research with her and giving her the time, space and resources she needs to accept help.

This may not be something you signed up for when you married your wife. Likewise, anxiety is not something she signed up for. Anxiety is not a choice for anyone. The choice you do have, though, is how to deal. You and your wife could allow anxiety to define or destroy your relationship, or you could write a new story for your marriage, one where anxiety is not the main character but where the bond between two people becomes something worth fighting for, even amid the tumult of anxiety.

Sincerely,
A wife struggling with anxiety

This post originally appeared on Her View From Home.

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What Anxiety Has Given Me

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Imagine your biggest fear, the feeling of your heart racing, hot flashes as you start to sweat. You try to think clearly but the panic takes over. You don’t know what to do. Your body tells you to get as far away as possible, yet somehow you find it hard to move.

So what is your biggest fear? Heights? Spiders? Clowns? Of course, you would only feel scared when confronted with this terrifying situation. What if you have multiple fears? What if your biggest fear is leaving the house? Typically, leaving the house is a very ordinary occurrence, with minimal risk or danger involved. All you have to do is get up and walk out of the door.

Try telling your body that. The thought of going outside has you rooted to the spot, wanting to hide away in a dark corner and never come out. Your mind goes one step further.

Why stop at being scared of the outside world? Why not also be scared of seeing your friends? Why not also be scared of eating?

Anyone suffering from this kind of anxiety must not have a life, right? Wrong.

I’m sure everyone’s heard all about the torture that comes with mental illness or perhaps you’ve even experienced it. Yet, does anyone stop to look at the positives that can come from such an unpredictable disorder? There is no way I would be the person I am today without my anxiety. Many feel they have lost themselves to their illness, wishing for the return of that younger version without a care in the world. Personally, I disagree. I would never trade my current self for that shy girl who hid her nose in books.

My anxiety has given me understanding and compassion. Not only can I relate to those who suffer from similar problems, but I can help them through it and always be a supporting shoulder to lean on if they need it. It has made me appreciate the finer things in life, like a quiet evening in with friends or something as simple as sitting peacefully on the grass by the lake. Once you remember how beautiful life can be, you will want to do everything to keep it that way, for yourself and others around you, too.

My anxiety has made me cross personal boundaries I probably never would have crossed before my mental illness. Despite having never been one for going out in the evenings, there was no chance I was going to miss out on the university experience. It may have taken me a month or two, but I practically dragged myself out to club. And guess what? I loved every minute of it! (I have definitely been clubbing a lot more than I ever thought I would.)

My anxiety has taught me how to get by on my own. Although it is my body that lets me down, I know I will always bounce back. Personally, I find it hard to rely on people, so I have worked out my own coping mechanisms that are sure to get me back on my feet ASAP. It has helped me understand my own mind. This way I can put these measures in place as soon as I feel the anxiety coming on. As much as I want to fight my anxiety and live without any worries, some times are harder than others, and self-care needs to come first.

My anxiety has made me realize I can have anything I want if I try hard enough. The barrier holding me back just makes me all the more determined to break through, making every success feel a thousand times better. After a morning of anxiety, managing a walk to the shops feels like I’ve won a medal. This was nothing compared to the accomplishment of leaving home to go to university. The next step is to graduate and get a career I love (once I’ve worked out what that is).

My anxiety has made me want to push myself to continue doing what I enjoy. After a summer of being dependent on my mother, needing her to walk me to school to make it in for my exams, to move away to university seemed like the extreme opposite. In reality, it was the first major step to surviving on my own and rediscovering all of the things my anxiety stopped me from doing, like eating out and socializing.

My anxiety has taught me to make things happen for myself. Without the determination I have developed from this disorder, I would never have applied for volunteering in my local theater or have been so persistent in my summer job search. I wouldn’t have gone out and met the best friends I could hope for and made great memories together.

My anxiety has taught me to hold onto the good things. I finally had the fortune to meet a guy who cared about me as much as I cared about him, and there was no way I was going to let him go. There were so many points where I could have given up and let him walk out of my life, but the idea of our future together encourages me to fight back my demons and try my best for him.

My anxiety has made me who I am. And I wouldn’t change myself for the world.

This post originally appeared on StudentRantz.

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Why I Dream of Becoming a Clinical Psychologist

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I was shaking, but I wasn’t cold. I was on my knees, and there was an unsettling sensation in my chest. I read some verses from my religion book because I knew that at that moment, this was not physical pain — this was inner pain, and those verses could help me gain inner peace. This was the day my life would change. It took a while to understand that what I went through was related to an anxiety disorder.

Ever since those symptoms occurred, I lived with it every day. It wasn’t something that had a certain end; I was living with constant panic and no apparent reason why I felt nervous. This was when things were going good, which only meant when something did not go as planned, it was going to tear me apart.

This is when I started therapy, and today, looking back at what I went through, I would say I’m proud of myself for overcoming my struggle. I can barely remember the pain and can’t imagine it happening to me again. I did research; I spent most of my days on the internet, studying anxiety disorders, people’s experiences with them and how they can influence daily life. Through this, I came across other related psychological disorders and mental illnesses.

Although I learned good techniques in handling my personal circumstances in life and overcoming my anxiety, I was interested in gaining further knowledge. I spent two years of my life researching schizophrenia, dissociative disorders, anxiety and depression.

When I found out psychology is an option in university, I did not think about looking at other options. I believed this is what I was born for; I knew it deep down. I was able to advise those around me, to spread positivity and relieve pain when I saw someone upset. I was able to help others have a positive perspective about certain aspects of their lives.

The day my psychology professors introduced themselves and talked about this field, I was almost in tears. I knew it deep down inside — these are the individuals I want to become when I’m older.

I will never forget how those of us in the psychology field can truly make a change in this world, or in someone’s world.

I once needed help. Now I am ready to help.

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Close up of a bracelet that reads: With brave wings she flies

The Power of Words to Someone With Anxiety

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Today a friend referred to me as seductive.

We were cuddling on the couch, they had to leave, we were both making excuses, and their final one was: ”And you’re so seductive”.

My first response was to laugh — we were smiling and joking — and I flippantly said, “You’re so cute!”

But once they were gone, my anxiety kicked in. It started by pricking my curiosity on the meaning of “seductive.” A word I’ve read and heard so many times, with an instinctive contextual understanding. But with many words, in any circumstance, I sometimes wonder if I have been interpreting correctly. It’s so familiar, but only learned by general association, like so many words in our native languages.

So maybe I was wrong in suddenly wondering if my friend had meant I was sexually alluring. And so I flipped to Google, with that simple reasoning.

Or so I told myself.

Of course, all results referred sex — from the most established dictionaries to the modern wiki. So, with some determination (or desperation), I tried a search method I learned when I first had access to internet: the use of a minus sign to exclude all reference to a word or phrase in search results. The word I tried to remove was “sex.”

My screen filled with porn links.

OK, in the original search, right there on the screen, there was some reference to the term’s first use. From a Latin word, meaning “draw aside.” One website explained thus: “Seductive is an adjective that describes the fascinating magnetic pull that someone or something has, an attractive quality that tempts you in some way.” 

Apparently, over time, and increasingly since the 19th century, society has directly associated “seductive” with sex. So now even a fireplace is sexy if you use the adjective right 

But my anxiety wasn’t going to read reason now. It was starting a full attack. 

“Whore,” it said. “Slut.” Streams of abuse pelted out like a machine gun round.

Fear kicked in.

My brain is conditioned from years of abuse, of all kinds, from many people. Anxiety is one of the last remnants left behind. And it knows words are power.

I have no doubt my friend had absolutely no malevolent intent when “seductive” came out of their mouth.

But for anyone — and especially for people with anxiety — any word can be a bullet.

So, for the first time, I started retaliating against my anxiety with my own words.

I had recently purchased this bracelet, which reads, “With brave wings she flies”.

Close up of a bracelet that reads: With brave wings she flies
Victoria’s bracelet

I now wear it at all times. 

“Brave.” I am brave. That is a word that speaks truth in the face of all lies.

“Wings.” I have resources. I have strength. They are a part of me, like all other parts of my body.

“Flies.” I achieve. In the face of all I’ve been through, and continue to go through, I survive.

And with one look at that bracelet, at that collection of words, I fired a single shot:

“No.”

Anxiety faltered.

I used more words.

Anxiety retreated .

I won. No full blown panic attack. No freak out. I carried on my day, feathers ruffled but still able to fly.

Words are power. And anxiety — I am powerful.

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To Those Who Have Both Anxiety and Depression

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It’s not easy having anxiety or depression, and it’s definitely worse when you have both inside of you. It’s like they swirl around you head, always looking for a way to get in and take over you for God knows how long.

Sometimes, they come in as one or the other. Depression comes in and then anxiety takes its place. But other times, they like to come in and construct chaos together.

It isn’t easy. Sometimes you wake up in the middle of the night unable to breathe because of anxiety. Sometimes you wake up late in the day unmotivated to do anything, wishing you’d fall within the mattress and never come out.

It can be a truly a horrible experience. You become scared of when your next anxiety attack or depressive episode will happens.

Fear turns into paranoia.

Paranoia turns into hopelessness.

Hopelessness turns into dread.

Dread turns into negative thoughts.

You begin to think, maybe you’re being punished for whatever wrong you’ve done. Maybe it isn’t worth it anymore. Maybe life isn’t meant for anyone.

Then you begin to have nightmares and wake up feeling numb. The world seemingly endless and dull.

It’s true, it can be horrible. I could write more, but this is what needs to be written next:

You. Are. Not. Alone.

You are loved.

You matter.

You have friends and family who want to help in whatever way they can to get those demons out of your head.

Even a therapist can help you.

Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

The thoughts in your head are wrong, and you’ll realize it and be thankful you beat them.

Just remember this:

It gets better, not immediately but it does.

You are as important as the stars and galaxies.

Nobody ever said you have to face your battles alone.

If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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A Message for My Anxiety: You Haven't Beaten Me

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Dear anxiety,

You haven’t beaten me. You beat me up, again and again and again. You kick me when I am down, and you tell me terrible lies. You warn me I will never win. I can’t. I should just stay down. You scream at me and make me feel small and helpless. You are a textbook bully.

But you haven’t beaten me.

I am learning to recognize your lies. Remember when you told me I would never be better? I am better. Remember when you told me you weren’t real? You are.

When you first showed up and told me I was dying, I believed you. You didn’t even need a cause of death. You just showed up and announced that it was all over. You were taunting me in front of my kids. I put on a face for them, but I was cowering.

We’re old acquaintances, but still when you came charging in and running things, I did not recognize you. The old anxiety was small and subservient. The old anxiety was timid. The old anxiety would sometimes spark and fan fear into flames, which leapt about painfully but with minimal destruction. When you charged in like you owned the place, I did not recognize you, and even now I wonder if you aren’t a different player who shares a name.

You screamed at me. “Be afraid. Be afraid of death. Be afraid of pain. Be afraid for your kids. Be afraid for you husband. Be afraid for you parents and your siblings and everyone you have ever loved.” When I confronted each individual fear, you simply invented more and screamed louder.

Until I didn’t know how to argue. Until you were the only voice I could hear. Until your unhinged taunts outgrew my mind. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t get out of bed. I tried to cover you with mind-numbing TV, but you just laughed. I was shaking and vomiting. Remember that?

You’re a mean SOB. But you didn’t beat me.

You shamed me. You told me I was weak if I needed help. Surely I was strong enough to send you away on my own.

The author wearing a Mighty t-shirt

But it isn’t weakness to ask for help. Asking for help isn’t admitting defeat. I needed help. I needed control of my mind. With my doctor, I stood up to you. We didn’t chase you off the playground; that’s is your bully tactic. We just cornered you. We took your power away.

You can stay, but you are not in charge anymore. You can even have a job. Your job is to help me find problems so I can address them before they grow. But I don’t trust you anymore, and so for now we are keeping you under lock and key. Two tiny pills every night before bed.

Anxiety, I am winning. You don’t own me. And I am not ashamed of the help I needed and continue to need. I am only ashamed I ever believed your lies and that I ever allowed you to boss me around.

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