Inside the Mind of Someone With Relationship Anxiety
I can’t be alone in this. I’m only beginning to realize how badly this controls my days, my thoughts, my nights.
Being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the complex kind from years of childhood abuse and anxiety, creates this heightened awareness and self-doubt on a daily basis. I feel like I need constant reassurance from my partner that we are OK, that I’m loved — God, that must be exhausting for him, too. I sure know it is for me.
God forbid they look at my text and do not respond, it’s an instant trigger. First my heart starts to race. I feel like it’s going to jump out of chest. Then my chest feels so heavy like it’s being crushed by a 1,000 pounds. I feel pressure everywhere, my stomach, my bowels, a shortness of breath. Then the thoughts start. Did I say something wrong? Did I hurt their feelings? Do they care about me? How can they ignore me? I try to rationalize they could be busy but because I’m so hyper-aware I respond immediately. It takes 20 seconds or less — do they not love me enough to give me that 20 seconds of reassurance?
Yes, this is relationship anxiety at its finest. I tell myself when I’m being irrational there’s nothing wrong but my body. It screams in fear. I’m trembling. I message again. I just need that reassurance. I know my partner cannot understand. They don’t experience this — I’m thankful yet secretly wish they did so they they would understand the horrible state I’m left in.
I know it’s not their fault I’m sitting like this, I know it’s not my own either. Ah, a response comes in — I should be fine now, right? Nope. My body is still scared they didn’t say it’s OK, they didn’t say they loved me, I’m afraid to ask for fear of rejection, I’m afraid I sound needy. I don’t know what to do from here but sit in a state of panic, be aware of it. I’m told I’m supposed to feel my emotions, sit with them, but this feels horrible, why would I want to sit here? I just want to be “normal.”
Yes, that comment brings tears to my eyes. Oh God, to just be “normal.” I realize this is normal for what I’ve experienced, but this isn’t normal for life — it doesn’t feel healthy. I try to find anything to occupy my mind. It just goes back to my partner. I can sit immobilized for hours not able to eat, drink, do anything. Love my emotions, love this? What is there to love about this? How can I get what I need from my partner? Is this even a rational expectation? In my head it is, but that’s because I know how horrible it feels to be in this state. I could never leave them in the same state, it would break my heart to think that they were frozen in time with such fear. In the back of my head as I write this, I can hear myself saying, no, this isn’t rational for them to have to be constantly reassuring me that we are OK. Then I think, or is it?
Another message rolls in from the one I love. I read it immediately. I respond immediately. I just caught myself staring, tapping the edge of the device in anticipation of their response, I was immobilized for six minutes before I was able to come back and write. Do I tell them all this, will they think I’m “crazy” and run? Rejection and fear, again. Why aren’t they responding? Are they on their way? Did I say too much?
Yes, these are all the questions I find going through my head. I’m back to fear of rejection, hypervigilant of every sound, feeling, thought around me. My body is so tense I try for a big breath. Why must I have these reactions? Two breaths, let out a sigh. I am immobilized, I’ve had to pee the entire time I’m writing this. You think I could just go pee right? The fear is real. I don’t know where to turn for help. I’ve tired CBT, DBT, I’m journaling, I’m trying breathing techniques, they give me a pain in my chest, that doesn’t help. I hear the words, sit in it. It’s OK. Love your emotions — but it sure doesn’t feel OK! I’m definitely not understanding how I’m to love these emotions.
I put down my device. I take three more breathes and I walk to the bathroom. I’m lightheaded. I feel nauseated. I remind myself this too shall pass, but will it ever pass and not come back again? How do I make that happen — can anyone tell me?
But I did it. I managed to use the bathroom. That was a big feat for me.
Does anyone understand? Is there others like me? God, poor them if there are. Fuck, poor me. Ah, self-pity. OK, that’s not going to help either. Yes, I had to check. It’s been 18 minutes since he looked at my message. Why no answer? What’s happening? What are we doing? How long do I wait? I could probably sit and journal this for hours, but I can’t see the use in that either. I’m not diminishing my anxiety. Maybe a smoke will help because you know that’s healthy for me. I justify it with at least I’m not holding my breath then, because yes, I’m holding my breath. I’m forgetting to breath! How can such a simple task be forgotten! I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to be “normal,” it’s a scary feeling in itself. I don’t want to put this on my partner, but how do I not?
Ah yes, 2020, the world shut down. My services came to a halt and my fear rises so that I can’t even make the call alone because the rejection would kill me. Phrases jump in: this too shall pass, but it will come back. I’m afraid, I’m afraid of losing someone I love because of this crap. I’m afraid to tell them how deeply it affects me for fear of rejection, I’m afraid to call for the help I’m supposed to be getting because if it’s an I-can’t-find-your-name-on-my-list one more time I’m going to be crushed .
And at the end of all this, I’m left with yet another question — why is it just the intimate partner relationships I feel like this? What is it, and how do I fix it? I don’t get like this with my sister, my friends or my children, just the man I love. I feel sick to my stomach. I wish I could eat.
I share my story in hopes of adding to my own journey in healing and possibly help others who can relate and not feel so alone. Thanks Mighty for always being here.
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash