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I Trust You, But My Anxiety Doesn't

Tonight, you left. Tonight, I could barely choke out the words, “I love you,” even though all I could think about was how much I would regret not saying it if I never saw you again. Tonight, I clenched my jaw and dug my fingernails into the palms of my hands, putting all of my strength into not letting the tears fall.

For you, it’s a simple night out with your buddies…talking, drinking, laughing. It’s nothing. For me, it hours upon hours of agonizing over every possible thing that could happen. Thinking of a worst-case scenario, only to have my mind one-up itself and come up with something even more horrendous. In the 10 seconds it takes to hug and kiss you goodbye, hundreds of terrifying scenes flash through my mind. Each more awful than the first. I want to tell you to stay. That I’m scared. That I can’t handle this. But I don’t want to ruin your night. I don’t want to be “that girl.” So I clench my jaw until my head starts to throb. I tense every muscle in my body. I say, “I love you,” so quietly I’m not even sure you hear it, and then I close the door and quickly run to the bathroom just incase you come back in; just incase you forgot your keys or your phone. The bathroom is safe. I can pretend everything is fine. I can hide the tears and say goodbye a little louder this time. Maybe if I don’t have to watch you leave, it’ll be easier. I wait to hear the door close again and then allow myself to sob…knowing I did the right thing. Knowing that, if I had asked you to stay or allowed you to see the pain I was in, I would regret it. But still hearing that nagging voice telling me that I just let you walk out and you may never come back. Transporting me to a future where I am alone, sobbing, remembering that our last words were through a bathroom door. I can feel the guilt. I knew something was going to go wrong. I should have stopped you.

I want you to have fun. I want you to hang out with your friends without having to worry about me. So I text you, “Have fun babe :)” trying to seem completely unfazed. Hoping you’ll forget the image of me at the door, barely holding myself together. It seems like an innocent message, but I’m counting the seconds until you reply. With each one that passes, the scenarios in my mind get worse and worse.

I want you to know that I trust you. Completely. With every fiber of my being. But I’m writing this in the hopes that I can help you understand how deceiving anxiety can be. And, unfortunately, my anxiety does not trust you. It tells me that you’re tired of me. That I’m too much. That I’m not enough. That you’re just with me until you can find better, prettier, smarter. And because that’s not enough, it also tells me that you didn’t even make it to your destination. It shows me a scene I’ve seen too many times before. Two cars, mangled together; so destroyed you can barely tell where one ends and the other begins. You survived the crash, but you’re alone, clinging to life. By the time anyone gets there to help, it will be too late. And it will be my fault.

My phone vibrates beside me and I jump, grabbing it as quickly as I can when I see your name. I read, “Thanks babe,” and my heart both leaps and drops. I’m so thankful to know that you’re safe, but a small part of me was hoping to see that you changed your plans and were going to come back home to me. Once I know you made it safely, I should be able to breathe a little easier. But anxiety doesn’t let me go that easily. This time, it takes me to the club you’re at. I see you with your friends, laughing, carefree. And then I hear the gunshot. It’s so loud in here no one can really tell what it was. And then it happens again. This time, everyone hears it. There’s panic and in a split-second everything changes. There are screams, glasses shattering on the floor, people running for the exit. I want to leave, to wake up from this nightmare. But anxiety is a sadist. It enjoys my pain. So it keeps me there, just long enough to see the love of my life shot right before my eyes. And then, just as quickly, I’m back in our living room. I don’t know when I started crying, but I quickly wipe the tears away, telling myself how silly I’m being.

I’m not writing this because I want you to stay home. I’m not trying to manipulate you or make you pity me. I just need you to know that next time you’re leaving and you can’t hear the “I love you” that I whisper before quickly disappearing, it’s not because I’m mad or upset that you’re going. I genuinely want you to enjoy yourself. But I’m hoping you may understand a little better now the battle that I’m fighting while you’re gone.

I need you to know that it’s not about you. It’s not about fidelity. It’s not even about trust. The “what ifs” that anxiety whispers, or sometime screams, into my ear are in no way caused or affected by you. There’s nothing you can do “better.” There’s nothing you can change. And as much as I know it hurts you to hear, there’s nothing you can do to help. Whether you go out or not, anxiety will find a way to torture me. Because that’s what it does. It’s a monster. It’s persistent and it always finds a way.

I am fighting a war in my mind every single day. The real me trusts you completely. But the voice in my mind doesn’t. It tells me that you’re with someone else. That you never really loved me. That you’re going to drink and drive or allow your friends to. It doesn’t trust me either. Every time I get behind the wheel, it tells me that I’m going to crash or kill someone. It tells me that I can’t do anything right. That I’m going to hurt one of my clients, give them the wrong medication, or lock up the building with one of them still inside.

If I could block it out, I would. If I could reason with it, I would. Hell, if I could even just lower the volume, I would. But anxiety can’t be controlled by mere wishful thinking. So, while I try to get a handle on it the only ways I know how, I want to thank you for your patience. I know you don’t understand, and I would never expect you to. But I want you to know how much I appreciate the fact that you try. It means more to me than you could ever know.

Photo credit:fizkes/Getty Images

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