So I was browsing The Mighty, and I came across this wonderful article called “How to Love a Girl With Anxiety.” I thought it was a brilliant article, but I also decided that especially with the extremely small box of masculinity that our society and culture paint men in, it would be a great idea to write an article about “How to Love a Guy With Anxiety.”
My Personal Experience
Reading that article got me thinking back to one of my more recent exes. It was probably one of my happier relationships, but she never really understood my anxiety and panic attacks. One of the hardest moments I had to deal with in that relationship was when we went to a wedding together. At the reception, she told me her ex-boyfriend was there. I’m not particularly sure why my anxiety chose that particular time for me to have a panic attack, but it did.
I wasn’t afraid; I still can’t explain what it was that triggered me. But then again, I can’t explain most of the things that trigger my anxiety or panic attacks. Basically, as she introduced me to him, I shook his hand and then noticed my body was feeling really, really hot (one of the symptoms for me is sweating, and when my body gets all hot like that I know it’s coming). I had to “gracefully” make an excuse that there was “an important phone call I had to make” and go out by the street to chill (it was a massive lake house property, but there was nowhere to “hide” exactly).
I felt this was one of the most horribly emasculating moments in my life. I wondered what on Earth was wrong with me. I’ve never been afraid of a confrontation/fight, and there was literally no tension whatsoever. I couldn’t even stand next to my girlfriend with her ex there, let alone protect her if there had been an issue. My girlfriend called me a few times (I didn’t answer) and texted me worriedly when I didn’t come back for almost 30 minutes (I had texted her that I needed to be alone for a bit).
The anxiety didn’t go away for the rest of the day, and I missed the champagne toast as well as pretty much everything else. My girlfriend kept giving me weird looks on the ride home, and when we got back to her place, she asked me to tell her what was wrong and said she was there for me no matter what. I explained my panic attacks and anxiety (at the time, I wasn’t an activist or a blogger, so telling someone, even a romantic partner, was a lot harder!). Unfortunately, instead of understanding she tried to “educate” me on ways to get past the anxiety. I know she was just trying to help, but I’ve already tried working out and meditating. Hell, I do both of those things every day! It just bugged me, and when I saw the article about loving a girl with anxiety, I knew I had to write something for guys with anxiety.
What to Do
Please don’t try to give us tips to deal with it. Unless you struggle with serious anxiety yourself, you probably don’t know what we’re going through, and chances are we’ve tried everything you’re suggesting already anyway.
Comfort us. Even if we act “tough” and “manly,” we can be hurting on the inside, and we want your love and attention.
Show us you don’t think we’re less of a man. One of the first things that always runs through my head when I first tell a girl I’m seeing I have anxiety issues or depression is: “Will she think I’m weak/cowardly/less masculine/etc.?” Men in our society have a very small box we’re supposed to fit into by “societal standards,” and anxiety often is not in that box.
When he says “I’m OK” and puts a smile on, please realize he may be saying that for your benefit as much as his own. The trembling hands, the shaking knees and his insides churning — he can’t control it! Just hold his hand, and let him know you’re there for him no matter what. In my last relationship, my girlfriend knew just what to do when I had panic attacks/anxiety (she was a bit older than me and a nurse, so she knew her stuff). You can help. Just make sure you’re helping in the right way!
Image via Thinkstock.
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