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To My Significant Other, Who's Learning My Anxiety as I Do the Same

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To my significant other:

The most important thing about my anxiety is I haven’t gotten used to it yet. Until I took a screening recently and realized the way I stress about things isn’t normal, I attributed my feelings to just being tired or overworked. After all, I’m a college student working, taking classes and participating in extracurriculars. Like most of my classmates, I have a lot to be stressed out about!

When I see my friends going through the same things, I’m not sure what’s irregular and what is just par for the college course. So it’s still hard for me to determine what is just me having a bad day, what really is too much to ask of me and what just feels like it is bad because of my anxiety.

For this reason, I am hesitant to say, “I won’t do ______ because of my anxiety” or “This feels _______ because of my anxiety.” I don’t want to feel helpless. I don’t want to blame things I struggle with on this different mindset I also struggle with. It could be easy because when you say the word “anxiety” or “mental illness” people tend to back off quickly. They feel worse pressuring you to do something when they know you have an actual impediment, rather than when they think you’re just being lazy or stubborn.

But I’m not ready to do that yet. So please, be patient with me. I want to prove to myself anxiety doesn’t stop me, even if it does slow me down a little. I want you to help prove that, too. It won’t always be easy. Sometimes, you’ll still have to order food for me, cover me while I walk to the bathroom or be a bubble of space in a large crowd. You’ll have to go into the store, talk at the drive-thru and answer the door. You’ll have to wait until I think the way you mimic my voice is cute, instead of making me self-conscious. You’ll have to answer my “dumb” questions and are you sure’s 20 times a day (although I will take eye-rolling as an acceptable answer). You will have to reassure me a lot. When I need any of these things and you provide them, afterward you’ll have to act like it never happened.

If I forget to take my medication, then I might cry all day or be irritable. If I adjust the dosage, then I might want to sleep all the time or I might be sick to my stomach for days. When I experience side effects, I have to make the choice between feeling like I’m not in control of my body or stopping medication and feeling like I’m not in control of my life. I have to decide if I want to preserve my energy and my sanity or be “organic” and have a clear, but constantly buzzing, mind. That is more difficult than any nausea or occasional insomnia.

When I yell at you, fall asleep when I promised to call or I’m too drained to talk when I come over, try to understand. When I get sick, don’t think it’s not real. If I’m emotional and logic fails to apply, then don’t brush it off. However, if I do minimize my feelings and tell you it’s just the anxiety, trust me. I do know myself. I’m still learning what’s normal and what isn’t, but if I’m crying over the Cheerio I dropped on the floor, we can safely say you don’t need to comfort me.

It can be a pain, but the greatest thing about managing my anxiety is even though symptoms or side effects take up much of my time, I feel much more capable in the time I have left. I can get all my homework done, make all the appointments, clean the house and more before I nap. I can go out with my friends and be present in that moment because I’m not tired or worried about little things that could happen, and I can spend time with you.

So if I’m choosing to do that, if I choose to spend my good moments on you and to come to you in the bad ones, know I really like you. Know I trust you. Know I’m so grateful for every way you support me and every day you make the best parts of life shine through this difficult, all-encompassing cloud called anxiety. Sometimes, I may not feel like I can do it alone. Sometimes, I may wish I could, but I will always be glad I don’t have to. Thank you.

Originally published: August 13, 2016
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