man comforting anxious woman in coffee shop

To My Significant Other About What It Means to Have Anxiety


My dearest boyfriend/girlfriend,

Thanks for taking the time to read this today. I’m sorry if it interrupted your schedule. See, part of my mental illness is to make me feel guilty and ashamed for things (I’m told) I shouldn’t. After the guilt and shame set in, anxiety creeps up. Some people get anxiety and stress confused. Anxiety isn’t stress. You can redirect stress and calm yourself relatively quick. Anxiety isn’t so easy. Let me explain.

I get tense. First in my chest, shoulders and neck. Then, it flows into my arms, hands and stomach. Next, I clench and grind my teeth without noticing. After a while, my jaw hurts so badly that I nervously adjust it back and forth, only to clench again.

I know by this point my anxiety is getting bad. With that, I get more anxious over the wait of an inevitable panic attack.

The interior monolog is the most toxic, horrendous part of it all. I would withstand my racing heart, clenched jaw and fighting tears if only the interior monolog would quit. It’s my own voice doing it to myself, and it’s overwhelming. Let me show you what five minutes inside that monolog feels like.

“Why did you say that? Now everyone is going to judge you. He’s probably angry because you aren’t being grateful enough. I’m so selfish! Why is he even with me? He’s probably thinking of how to break up with me. Stop rubbing your hands all over your body! It’s fine, just breathe. Remember who loves and is here for you. Why would they love me? I’m always dragging them down. I should cut all ties off with them so they can be happy. They aren’t really here for me. That’s why they live so far away; they don’t have to deal with me. No wonder my boyfriend/girlfriend doesn’t want to spend much time with me. School is just their excuse. You’re a bad mom. You shouldn’t be allowed to be a parent.”

All these things and more flood my mind, making reality a pool of murky water in which I’m drowning.

However, there is clarity in my muddy waters. It’s you. You, family and friends all can help me resurface again. You can help me by putting my doubts and fears to rest by answering some “obscure” questions. Questions such as, “Am I bothering you? Do you still love me? Why? Are we OK? Are you sure it’s OK?”These “obscure” questions can mean the difference between a short anxiety bout, a panic attack or a month-long session of worry and anxiety focused on one main topic.

Constant apologizing is common for me too, as you know. Unfortunately, for me, it’s not a conditioned response brought on by society. For me, when I say “I’m sorry” over even simplistic things, I say it because my mental illness makes me loathe myself for whatever just happened. So again, the interior monolog starts and if I loathe myself, then you must too — hence I need to apologize before something worse happens.

You can make those interior monologs fewer and not so horrible. Here’s some helpful tips I’ve discovered. First is physical interaction. Holding me does so much. My mental illness likes to make me feel alone and caged even when you’re right next to me. The longer you hold me, the safer I feel. Next, if you see the warning signs explained earlier, try to ask questions and reassure me. Chances are I am too nervous or anxious to start the conversation myself. If you have time, talk to me one on one.

Mental Illness is scary and overwhelming. It’s not easy, but it doesn’t need to be so bad either. The love of others makes all the difference. That being said, I have mental illnesses, I am not them. I am me. There is so much more to me and you have already seen that. I’m a mother, daughter, sister, girlfriend and friend. I’m a woman who loves animals, I love to cook and I love art. I sing and dance in the shower with the music turned up loud. These and many more things make me. I just need help remembering that sometimes.

So, my dearest, thank you for taking the time to read this. You mean the world to me and I only want to grow closer to you. Understanding me in my entirety means a lot to me. I love you.

Love,

Your Girlfriend/Boyfriend with Mental Illnesses

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Thinkstock photo via AntonioGuillem

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