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9 Letters That Should Be Required Reading for People Whose Partners Have Anxiety

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Communication is key in any successful relationship — and a relationship with anxiety in the mix is no exception. When one partner struggles with anxiety, though, it can be hard for the other to understand. Some things are hard to empathize wit unless you experience it yourself, and living with anxiety that affects your everyday life is certainly one of them.

That’s why we wanted to highlight some amazing letters people in our community (and beyond) have written to their partners about living with anxiety. If you’re having a hard time starting that conversation with your significant other, we hope at least one of the stories below helps.  

1. When you need to explain why anxiety can make you irritable:

Last year, mom and blogger Laura Mazza wrote a Facebook post about anxiety that went viral. It was a letter “to the man whose wife or partner has anxiety,” and it explained one part of living with anxiety we don’t often talk about: how sometimes, it can actually make you angry or irritable. Mezza wrote:

You might think she’s just snapped at you, but it was anxiety that did it, you might think she’s angry, but it’s the anxiety that’s got a choke hold, you might think she’s not enjoying herself when you go out and it’s your fault, but it’s not. It’s anxiety.

To the man whose wife or partner has anxiety, You might have heard that she has anxiety from sitting by her side in a…

Posted by Laura Mazza – Mum on the Run on Sunday, August 20, 2017


You can read the full letter here.

2. When you need to explain the conflicting emotions anxiety can cause:

In a letter to her boyfriend, Mighty contributor Taylor Scarlett explains how she knows her anxiety sometimes doesn’t make sense — and apologizes for how confusing it can be for the person who has to support her. She also recognizes anxiety isn’t her fault, and although she’s sorry, she knows she doesn’t have to keep apologizing for what anxiety makes her do:

Can anyone explain to me how such two strongly conflicting emotions come to pass so eagerly? How your chest can feel so hollow, yet it fills with a source of life? How you can be so eager to rise in the morning, but only so that you may sleep the next night? Can anyone explain to me how this comes to be? How do I feel so surrounded and whole, yet crave your attention because I need to feel something other than alone?

You can read the full letter here 

3. For the partner who doesn’t understand why it’s sometimes hard to explain anxiety:

The ironic thing about anxiety is that while it can make us feel and think so much, sometimes it can be hard to put into words what exactly is making us anxious. Sometimes there isn’t a simple answer… sometimes we just don’t know yet. Either way, this can be frustrating for those who are trying to support us. Naturally, they want to understand, “Why?” Unfortunately, anxiety is not that simple.

In a letter to her husband, Mighty contributor Tiana Ells wrote:

My body hurts again today. It’s taking everything I have to relax, but my shoulders just want to be connected to my ears. I just want to say I’m sorry for having a mental illness. I know it’s not really my fault, but I will always feel that I’m to blame. I know you don’t understand what I’m going through, and I don’t make it any easier by not talking to you about it, but that’s just another thing anxiety does. It keeps everything inside. It doesn’t let you come up with the words to explain how you feel. It feeds on fear. The fear of saying something wrong, or making you believe I’m completely out of my mind. If I say something you don’t want to hear, it will have a domino effect and I’ll eventually drive you away. Writing this is taking all of my emotional strength, and it’s only 8 a.m.

 You can read the full letter here.

4. A letter to send your partner when you’re having a bad day: 

It can be hard to explain what you need on days anxiety has taken over full force. On days like these, borrowing the words of others can help. Mighty contributor Maisy Adams wrote a letter to her husband for when she doesn’t have the words to explain her anxiety:

Please, know this has nothing to do with you. I know you’ve never lived with someone who suffers from anxiety and depression. You’ve never had to come home and comfort a person you love from an invisible monster that lives inside of them. If this were a visible illness, you could see the scars from the battles I fight on a daily basis and the bruises from when my anxiety is beating me up inside. You can’t though. You just have to trust I’m fighting every day to be the best version of myself, for me and for you.

You can read the full letter here:

5. When you’re afraid anxiety makes you “less of a man:”

It can be hard for men to be vulnerable around their partners, period — it can be even harder when you’re a guy who struggles with anxiety. But anxiety doesn’t make you less of a man, and the following piece from Mighty contributor Saleem Juma could help you start an important conversation about your anxiety. Guys — you deserve support from your partners, too.

Show us you don’t think we’re less of a man. One of the first things that always runs through my head when I first tell a girl I’m seeing I have anxiety issues or depression is: “Will she think I’m weak/cowardly/less masculine/etc.?” Men in our society have a very small box we’re supposed to fit into by “societal standards,” and anxiety often is not in that box.

You can read the full letter here.

6. When your partner doesn’t know what to do when you’re having a panic attack:

Everyone needs something different when they’re having a panic attack — and the only way your partner will know is if you tell them. If you need a place to start, Buzzfeed’s Kelsey Darragh shared the list she gave her boyfriend to help him understand her panic attacks. Some of the items include:

  1. Know that I am scared and won’t be able to explain why, so please don’t freak out or be annoyed with me.
  2. Find my meds if they’re nearby and make sure I take them.
  3. Breathing exercises are going to frustrate me but they are vital. Try and get me to sync my breathing with yours.

What would be on your list? Maybe Darragh’s can provide some inspiration.

7. If you’re interested in reading a partner’s perspective:

Those supporting people with anxiety often need support and understanding, too. In a beautiful letter to his wife who lives with anxiety and depression, Mighty contributor Brandon Geib explains how helpless he can feel but gives some great insight into how he and his partner worked through it:

When you reached your lowest low, it was difficult for me to not take personally your statements asking me to simply let you be and that you needed to work through it on your own. That there was nothing I could do to be a better husband or companion and help your sadness and anxiety go away and that, yes, you were crying, but it was nothing I had done. At that time, I’m sad to say, your assurances fell on deaf ears…

The frustration that comes with not being able to tell your depressed wife how much you love her, how each day is brighter with her in it, and instead knowing she will simply smile and not fully believe you or not realize what you’re trying to communicate is truly one of the hardest feelings I’ve ever had to overcome. In a word, I felt helpless… But today is a brighter day. 

You can read the full letter here.

8. When your partner needs a general overview:

Although it’s different for everyone, it might be helpful to send your partner a general overview of what anxiety is and what it’s not. If you use the piece below from Mighty contributor Shelbi Campbell, point out what resonates with you and what doesn’t. This can help start a general conversation about what anxiety means to you. Here’s a taste:

Anxiety tells me to make a to do list so I feel better, and then, it tells me there is too much to do and I should give up. Anxiety tells me to use my time wisely and clean up before leaving the house. Yet, then it yells at me for being late to work. Anxiety tells me it’s too much work to go check the mail box. It’s probably bad news inside anyways.

You can read the full piece here

9. If your partner is a visual learner:

Sometimes, it can be hard to get your partner to sit down and read a whole piece about anxiety. If this is the case, showing them this comic from Nick Seluk, who publishes comics under the name The Awkward Yeti, about daily life with anxiety and depression might be a good place to start.

Comic of a girl talking to two blobs representing anxiety and depression

Check out the full comic here.

Lead image via Thinkstock and Kelsey Darragh

Originally published: May 18, 2018
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