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What I Didn't Know About Anxiety and Relationships


I have lived with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) all my life. I have also been single most of my life. In this past year, I’ve found someone I hope to spend my life with, and as a result, I’ve discovered a few new roadblocks. No one could prepare me for the intensity some symptoms take when amplified by loving another person. Anxiety often plagues me with doubt, guilt, negative intrusive thoughts, insomnia, excessive worry over trivial things and so much more. In the context of the relationship, those once-debilitating issues I had during an episode or flare-up as a single person seem worse now.

1. Guilt.

I used to have guilt about avoiding appointments or breaking plans. Now I have guilt about how every decision I make or don’t make might potentially harm my partner. Knowing they fully love and accept me as I am, sick brain and all, helps me to recognize that even though the pain of the guilt is real and felt in my mind and body, the basis for it is not. I am at the point in my journey where I am testing my limits — limits of how much I can work, what types of employment I can be successful in, how much social time I need to thrive and how much is too much. In all of these instances, I feel heavy loads of guilt.

If I need to quit my stressful job for the sake of my health, I am putting the burden on my partner. Financially, that causes me discomfort. But more than that, the old cycles of “I should be able to do this” kick into overdrive. Similarly, with social situations, I feel like I am robbing my partner of friends and experiences because I can’t or won’t attend events I once loved.

2. Excessive worry.

This one is sneaky in a relationship. Constantly asking my partner what they are thinking, not because they are mysterious but because I am afraid it’s negative and about me or something I did. I overanalyze conversations we’ve had and check, recheck, and triple check they are OK, that we are OK, and that it will still be OK five minutes from now.

3. Insomnia.

This one is the most physically obvious interloper in our relationship. We started our relationship with long talks lying in bed. I adored them, she adored them — we got to know the ins and outs of each other’s lives intimately. When my brain goes into hyperactive mode, it can rob me of sleep, but more importantly, it robs us of that intimate connectedness. We can go weeks sometimes without lying next to each other and falling asleep. This then starts to bring the excessive worry, which then brings the guilt.

Even with all this amplified hard stuff, I have more compassion for myself and my struggles than ever before. I owe this all to a person who loves me unconditionally and is willing to talk truth to me when I can’t see out of the fog. It can be terrifying to let someone into that inner monologue of fear and doubt, but it’s always worth the calming that comes from someone who truly loves you being on the outside of the storm and holding you safe until it passes.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash