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A Love Letter to My Life Partner Who Helps With My Anxiety

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Dear life partner,

It took a couple years for you to understand how my anxiety functions, and even now, you find out new quirks and complicated nuances of a condition I can’t properly explain.

Sometimes, we’re sitting on the couch and I drift into another world. You are used to me talking nonstop, laughing, cuddling, multitasking, but it always shocks me how quickly you pick up on my anxiety. You know right away. You know the minute the switch goes off, and you calmly tell me that it’s OK.

It’s OK. Sometimes, it just takes that to remind me that you’re here, that I’m not alone. But sometimes, I feel “crazy.” I hate that word: “Crazy.” It’s offensive and it’s mean, and I’d never use it to describe someone else. Apparently, it’s easier to be mean to myself that to someone struggling with the same illness.

Our text message history is mostly my own ramblings:

Did I lock the door?

I think my lymph nodes are swollen. 

I don’t remember turning the oven off.

Your responses, far less heightened:

The door is locked.

Stop poking and prodding.

You turned the oven off.

Sometimes, you’re impatient. You hate that I spend hours on Google, checking each physical symptom I experience, decidedly diagnosing myself with cancer. Chronic pain has plagued me for years, and you hate to see me hurting. But worse, you hate when I hurt so bad that I turn to the internet out of sheer desperation.

You hate watching me fall apart. And I do. I worry so hard that I can’t sleep or eat, my body deteriorating slowly. A never-ending cycle of physical symptoms that lead to anxiety, and anxiety that leads to physical symptoms. You come to all my doctors’ appointments, advocating for me in the moments when I feel frozen, incapable of speaking for fear I will embarrass myself or worse: that they’ll find something.

When I wait for test results, sometimes for days, my mind moves at a million miles per hour. I don’t know how to slow my brain down but you sit patiently with me, rationalizing. If it was something bad, something fatal, they would have called you already. You always remind me that it’s not as bad as I think. You bring me water and painkillers, antihistamines and soup, applesauce and medication.

I hate letting you down — the nights we’ve been excited to go on a date when my back or my head or my stomach hurts too much to think about moving. When I can’t manage to put on a bra because my chest hurts so much, or when I want so badly to get dressed up and remind you that our marriage is my number one priority but I feel so anxious that my head feels like it could explode.

You’ve never made me feel bad. You make our nights curled up on the couch in front of the TV as special as the nights we spend at a restaurant for dinner or doing something out of the ordinary. You make our walks down the block feel like the best outing of all time because if that’s all I can manage, you’re simply proud of me for wanting to go in the first place.

You were always the best. But through the hardest bout of health anxiety and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) I’ve ever had, you’ve proven to me that “in sickness and in health” isn’t just a line in the vows, and that love is patient, and love is kind.

I don’t always feel calm, but I always feel loved.

Pexels photo via Josh Willink

Originally published: June 21, 2018
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