When Anxiety Makes Me Insecure in Relationships
A couple days ago, the man I’m with came home angry and upset. His truck wasn’t running right and different things during his work day didn’t go particularly well.
His feelings were completely understandable considering the day he had. None of his frustration was taken out on me. He would never do such a thing. I knew none of it was about me and that I had done nothing wrong. Yet, as the night progressed and he processed his horrible day, venting his feelings and trying to distract himself to take his mind off it all, my anxiety began running rampant. Though the logical side of me knew none of it had anything to do with me, my mind began racing, panicking, searching for signs and making connections that weren’t really there.
I began thinking and overthinking. My anxiety skyrocketed and I started to worry. Was he upset with me, too? Had I done something to upset him without realizing it? Was there something I should have done but didn’t do that has made matters worse? Was he even happy being with me? By the time we went to bed, I was fighting off tears, afraid that our relationship was doomed and everything was falling apart.
That is how anxiety works. It takes the worst case scenario and shoves it downhill like a snowball in a snowstorm. It takes no time at all for it to amass into a giant boulder that thunders and booms as it smashes into the unsuspecting below. It builds and picks up momentum as it goes, crashing with such force that you find yourself out of breath, shell-shocked, hurt and bewildered by how you did not see it coming. And the worst part is that whole boulder is usually a mirage. It is your mind playing tricks on you. Yet, before you can even get back on your feet, another snowball begins to roll and the process begins all over again.
When we are struggling with anxiety disorders, it can affect every aspect of our lives. We might overthink and over-analyze everything. We sometimes create scenarios in our heads and play over every possible devastating end. Over time, they can begin to feel more and more plausible until they become a truth to us.
We might take our failures personally. Over time, we may begin to feel like we can do nothing right, that everything we touch turns to crap. We sometimes find ourselves worried that we’re somehow cursed and cannot blame anyone that wants to jump ship and distance themselves from our mess.
We might sabotage friendships and relationships without meaning to do so. We might question whether we’re talking too much or being too affectionate, convinced we’re being annoying or clingy. We sometimes wonder about the sincerity of feelings and interest from others because we couldn’t imagine anyone tolerating us for long. We might feel like we’re being judged. We’re sometimes afraid to let people in too close, convinced if they knew the real us, they’d leave. If we don’t hear from someone for a while or if they don’t respond when we reach out, we probably convince ourselves that we just don’t matter. If we cancel plans, we may have trouble contacting to reschedule because we feel we’ve let others down and figure they wouldn’t want to talk to us anyway. We’re often horrible at maintaining regular contact because we might worry that we’re bothering everyone or interrupting something more important.
We often internalize everything. We might try to look for reasons why we’re at fault even if we have done nothing wrong. Our anxiety may have been telling us that we’re broken, we’re a mistake, we’re a hindrance for so long that we always assume somehow we’re to blame. We have a tendency to then isolate ourselves because we feel we mess up everything we touch. We’ve probably convinced ourselves it’s better to stay away.
We are usually so busy trying to prepare ourselves for every possible bad outcome that we have trouble seeing the good. We usually worry all the time. It isn’t that we’re not trying to be happy, positive or upbeat. We often don’t have control over it. Our mind starts running and we can barely keep up.
On his way home from work the next day, I sent him a long, rambling message, spewing out all my feelings, all my fears from the night before that had been festering all night and well into the following day. I threw out all the things that had me worried. I told him I knew I had done nothing wrong and appreciated that he never takes any of his frustration out on me, but that I really just needed reassurance from him that we were OK.
I was panicked as I hit send, sure that my neediness, my clinginess, my need for validation would be the straw that broke the camel’s back. I worried I was pushing him away.
The first thing he did when he came through the door was wrap his arms around me and hold me tightly, reassuring me that he loves me and promising me that we are fine. There were little kernels in my head, though, that kept bouncing around, worrying.
Throughout the night, he continued, periodically reminding me that he loves me and I have nothing to worry about, that he loves me and our relationship. Each time, each reminder, felt like him catching a kernel mid-flight until he eventually set my mind at ease.
He understands my struggles with anxiety because we have talked about them in length. I still find myself feeling like a handful, a burden, more of a problem than anyone deserves. Whenever my mind starts traveling down that path, though, and I start feeling insecure, I try to remind myself that it is not reality — it is my anxiety talking.
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Thinkstock photo via Vasilisa_k