Anxious and In Love: Our Story

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My fiancé Bryce and I have been together just over 6 years now and engaged for 7 months. We met 8 years ago at Bridgewater College after a group of friends and I awkwardly greeted him with an Anna-Farris-from-The-House-Bunny-inspired salutation, and he was gracious and crazy enough to want to be my friend afterwards. We bonded through long-distance runs, 7-11 trips, and long walks on campus discussing faith, relationships, and dreams. My mother loved him when she first met him, his Dad thought I was awesome after I single-handedly moved a recliner into Bryce’s dorm on Junior year move-in day, and we finally admitted we liked each other over an awkward silence in his dorm kitchen in November 2010.

He’s the best, y’all. He’s a goofball with big dreams and deep thoughts. He’s a liberal Baptist who takes the commitment he made at his baptism seriously, even through doubts and questions. He loves video games but doesn’t like watching TV all the time (unless it’s anime). He got me into running and comic books, and my mom accuses him of turning me into a liberal (even though he’s now a bit more conservative than me). He gives me big bear hugs and an obnoxious amount of kisses, and he will sleep without blankets if it means the kitty curled up on them doesn’t have to move.

He’s been my most consistent companion and true partner in crime (I even identified him as such on an Emergency Contact form).

And through it all, we’ve lived with a third wheel: my anxiety.

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Being in any kind of relationship as a person with anxiety is tough, but romantic relationships seem to have their own special struggles. We began dating almost 2 years after I ended an emotionally abusive relationship, so while I entered our relationship with strong feelings and a foundation of trust, I worried he would turn into someone I no longer recognized. My anxiety can latch onto anything that could possibly be interpreted as attacks on who I am and what I believe: jokes, opinions, faith, life stories.

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We’ve been through boughts of poor communication and snap judgments. Because my anxiety flares up in times of conflict, there are times if he expresses his opinion or asks me to stop doing something which irritates him, I fear being controlled and push him away. If we roughhouse too hard or in public, I might retreat out of fear that he is abusing me or someone will interpret our actions as such. If we disagree on a matter of theology or a social issue, or if I become convinced we don’t have enough common interests, I fear we aren’t compatible enough. I have exhausted both of us on numerous occasions with my suspicions, “what ifs,” and false assumptions over something he has said or done.

My anxiety even flares up when I realize that, out of my fear and pain, I have caused him pain. When Bryce tells me my anxiety is difficult to deal with, that he is exhausted with all the effort he puts in only to have me distance myself, when I seem to be putting in little effort and he has to pick up the slack, I want to hide away and internally beat myself up.

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I’ve realized the importance of counseling, support systems, medication, a healthier lifestyle, and good communication. I continue to learn how to tell him what makes me anxious without assigning blame to him, how to tell the thoughts in my head that they aren’t real and don’t get to call all the shots, when to talk with another friend or family member about my anxiety when he needs time to decompress, and how to look into the gentle, kind, and mischievous eyes of the man I love and know in my deepest heart that despite what my fears say, I have found an amazing man with whom I can share my life.

We’ve had to acknowledge the difficulties in dealing with each other. We go through times when he puts more effort into communication than I do. We confront our issues head on instead of pushing them away. Sometimes he struggles with why I can’t let things go or why I get upset over seemingly meaningless and illogical issues. Sometimes I get upset when he’s less than understanding and tries to make things better when there’s no way to do so.

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Being an anxious person has made us deal with some hard things, and we have loved each other through them all.

We’ve learned to talk with each other in open and honest ways, even when the vulnerability hurts. We’ve learned each other’s quirks and how we accept feedback, insight, and assistance. I’ve learned to put my own anxiety on hold to support him in difficult times. He’s learned to hold me when there’s nothing left to say.

We’ve learned to be a couple, a pair of people doing life together. We’ve learned to do tough things and journey through them with smiles on our faces and tears in our eyes.

Despite what the movies and stories may say, finding the one I love didn’t fix my anxiety. In some ways, it made anxiety more difficult, because it no longer just belonged to me; I had to share it with another person.

But this journey has given me someone I know will not run away on the bad days and will celebrate with me on the good ones. This journey has made each of us into people who can, as my counselor says, “bump up against each other” without the other one falling.

Neither of us are perfect humans (despite whatever else we may tell you), and ours is not a perfect story (despite being told on a regular basis that we are #relationshipgoals). But we do our best to be supportive, understanding, and present partners, and that’s more important and attainable than perfection anyways.

Here’s to us and our ongoing story, my love.

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If My Anxiety Made a To-Do List

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I like and despise To-Do lists. I like them, because I feel all accomplished and put together like a real adult should when I check lots of things off of them. I despise them, because I often forget most of the things on them or find new things to add, which makes me feel less accomplished, less put together, and less “adult.”

And then I wondered what my “anxious self’s” To-Do list would look like, because I wonder if part of the reason my own To-Do list seems so long and overwhelming is due to her inserting extra things in there for me to do. If the anxiety in me actually wrote out my To-Do list, I think it would look a little bit like this:

  • Wake up.
  • Think about whether or not you’re dreading anything.
    • If you find nothing to dread, start dreading something ASAP.
    • If you remember what you’re supposed to dread, begin dreading immediately. It will be the thought that constantly pops in and out of your head today.
  • Get out of bed.
  • Prepare breakfast.
    • If you’re having cereal, fret about all the sugar and carbs you’re consuming, which will one day inevitably manifest into diabetes.
    • If you’re having something more nutritious and full of protein, like eggs, mope about the fact that you’re being healthier when you could be having sugar.
  • Go on the internet while you eat. Why just fill up on calories when you could also fill up on comparisons with people on Facebook and news clips you missed last night?
    • Facebook comparisons: Immediately freak out over how put together the lives of all your friends from college are. How could it possibly be that you graduated with these people, and they are already so much better than you?
    • News clips: Begin bearing the weight of the world on your shoulders. Reflect on how you haven’t used your power and privilege to make things better for others. Think about how you haven’t written to your government representatives to remind them to look out for their people. This is obviously all on you, so why aren’t you doing anything?
  • Close the computer and put your dishes away.
  • Get dressed.
  • Triple check your backpack and lunch bag to make sure you’re not forgetting anything. Forgetting things makes you look like an idiot in front of everyone, and they don’t like you when that happens.
  • Get in the car and drive to school.
    • Ponder how harshly people would judge your music choices as you switch through the radio channels.
  • Arrive at seminary and pray you’ll either have no questions to ask, or at least pray that someone will listen to them.
  • Attend chapel.
    • Be inspired if no one uses any “churchy” language that triggers you.
    • Be pissed off and distant if someone does, because they meant it as an attack on you and your faith journey.
  • Eat lunch.
    • If there’s easy going conversation about common interests, relax and enjoy! I’ll cut you a break for that!
    • If the conversation veers into politics and theology, begin sweating and looking for possible escape routes. By no means should you share your opinion if it completely clashes with the group or the dominating voice.
  • Begin classes.
    • Wallow in your own sense of stupidity when you translate Hebrew as a class and you realize one or two words you swore you translated right are incorrect. Even though this has no effect on your grade whatsoever, freak out about how badly you’re going to fail this class as a result.
    • Mentally smack your head against the desk repeatedly when you discuss issues facing the church with others, because when they share their opinions, you are obviously being singled out and attacked for having a more postmodern point of view, and your questions, doubts, and struggles obviously mean nothing. Remember that no one is here for you and no one understands you.
  • Drive home pondering these thoughts and more. Your energy is OK, but it’s starting to fade, so be disappointed in yourself for not always being “high.”
  • Have a quick snuggle with the kitties. You’ve neglected them all day, you mean mama.
  • Take a quick nap, no more than 20 minutes.
    • Actually, you know what? Make it 45 minutes or even an hour. Then freak out about how much time you wasted.
  • Have dinner.
    • If you want to freak out extra, have another bowl of cereal and once again freak out over how unhealthy you’re being.
    • If you want to be good, actually cook something but spend an inordinate amount of time wondering what you should make.
  • Start your homework.
    • Get jittery from the pent up energy and take breaks to jam to your Spotify playlist every time you read a sentence in a book or translate a word for Hebrew.
    • Or have a complete energy crash and take the same amount of breaks but watching Daily Show clips instead, because you need more political stimulation (You only thought we were watching it for the giggles).
  • Chat with your beau Bryce.
    • Talk about his day when you really want to go on and on about every little freak out you had instead.
    • When you inevitably take over the conversation, start beating yourself up for not being a better listener. This will help you become a better listener and better girlfriend overall.
  • If you think about them before 9:00, do your kettle bell swings, or make excuses for why you don’t need to do them despite freaking out about health on a regular basis.
  • If you think about them after 9:00, think about how disappointed your PT boyfriend will be in you but continue to do nothing about it.
  • Take a shower and ponder all the things you’ve already pondered today.
  • Get dressed in comfy clothes and read for a bit before finally going to sleep.
  • Finally, if you’re calm, try to make yourself stay that way. If anything, you’ll still find something to dread in the morning.
    • If you’re not calm, just remember that you can try all you want to get the thoughts out of your head, but they will still be there in the morning.

See you tomorrow!

Sincerely,

Your Anxious-Self-Who-Finds-This-Signature-To-Be-So-Cheesy-That-You-Will-Inevitably-Be-Judged-By-All-Who-Read-This