What it feels like to have anxiety in a relationship.

I have an anxiety disorder. I am in a relationship. These two things do not seem as if they should be mutually exclusive correct? That is to say – I should be able to have both things at the same time. Sounds simple enough. The truth though, is much much more complicated.

I am in a relationship with the most wonderful person I have ever met. She is patient. She is kind. She makes me laugh more than anyone ever has. I feel completely safe in her arms. Everything should be perfect. But this is where anxiety decides to butt in and make things difficult for both of us.

I am not myself.  It is as I have two personalities – one that is fun, carefree, and more than anything, confident and one that is insecure, oversensitive, tense, scared, and clingy.  The instant I start to feel anything for someone, my brain and my body panic and pulls the old switcheroo on me and the confident girl is replaced by the insecure girl. You can see how this would be frustrating.

Truthfully, I am not insecure in any other aspect of my life. So why then, am I afraid that every single thing I do is making me less attractive to my girlfriend? Why am I afraid that every second of every day I am screwing my relationship up? No matter what I do, I feel like I am becoming less and less of the girl my girlfriend thought she was getting. Every day I wonder “will today be the day she realizes I am not all I was cracked up to be?” No matter how many times she tells me she likes me for who I am, there is a little voice in my head telling me over and over again, you screwed up.

I over-analyze everything. This is the part that really messes me up. Every single thing my girlfriend says goes straight to the anxious interpreter waiting inside my head to be processed so it can tell me what she really means. Let me repeat that. My girlfriend tells me something, my brain tells me it is a lie and says, “Here, let me help you out. This is the horrible thing she really meant. So glad I could clear that up for you.” Thanks, brain. Don’t know what I would do without you.

Getting annoyed with me yet? You bet your bottom I’m annoyed with myself by now. This is where the fun really begins.

This is the part where I get to get mad at my girlfriend because MY BRAIN TOLD ME WHAT YOU REALLY MEANT AND I AM REALLY UPSET ABOUT WHAT YOU DIDN’T ACTUALLY SAY. Aren’t I so much fun?

Oh and after I get mad at her, I am extremely sorry I got mad at her. I tell her this at least 975 times. Then ask her about 467 more times if she is mad at me. If she wasn’t before, she is most certainly annoyed with me now. Commence apology cycle once more.

Exhausted yet? We are.

This is what it feels like to have anxiety in a relationship. Day in and day out, I am thinking of the way my actions effect her. I worry that what she is saying to me is what I want to hear rather than the truth and so I try to explain to her why she can’t possibly be telling the truth. Then I apologize for being so irrational while inside my head I am destroying myself for being so stupid.

“Why are you like this?” “Why can’t you just get it together?” “Can you just be normal for five seconds?”

Over and over again I ask myself these questions. Over and over again I push myself into the dirt and beat myself to a bloody pulp because I cannot control the thoughts in my brain.

I cannot convince myself that everything is fine a thousand times a day.

I cannot feel okay when there is a constant voice inside of me screaming that I shouldn’t be, that I’m not, that we are not okay.

What it feels like to have anxiety in a relationship.

Think Twice Before You Use the “S” Word

I have learned a lot about myself over the past two years. More than I had learned in all of the twenty one-ish years prior to that combined. One of the biggest and most recent discoveries I have made is that my most used four-letter-word isn’t a four letter word at all. It is five letters and that word is “sorry”. I have spent a good majority of my life apologizing.

Sometimes because I caused someone some amount of pain or because I made a mistake. Those kinds of apologies have been and always will be warranted and necessary. Those kinds of apologies mend relationships, alleviate someone else’s pain, allow me to own and accept my mistakes.

There are the kinds of apologies that are just simply me being overly and ridiculously polite. For example, I find myself apologizing to inanimate objects when I run into them and hurt myself. I apologize to random people in the grocery store who run into me because obviously I was in their way and saying excuse me was too much work. These seemingly harmless apologies are usually just that, harmless. Pointless really, but they cause no harm.

But then there are the apologies I am famous for; the kind that belittle and demean me as a person. These are the apologies I give for being who and how I am. These are the apologies I am making a conscious effort to do away with. I am constantly apologizing for having anxiety and for the attacks it creates. I am constantly apologizing for wanting to talk about the things I am feeling with the people I love too often. I am always apologizing for texting people more than the socially acceptable amount of times in a row. I am constantly apologizing for loving too hard, too much, too strongly, for wanting to show the people I love how much I love them. I am constantly apologizing to people when they hurt me. This last one is the most important one.

So here’s the story: Someone hurts you, a friend, a family member, or a significant other. You tell them that they have hurt you expecting an apology in return. Instead, they make you feel bad that you are even telling them that you are hurt. I mean, how could you be so selfish? It’s bad enough that you are in pain but now you have to make them feel bad too? How inconsiderate of you. And so now, you apologize. Now you are distraught. You are so sorry that you have hurt them. And you know, if they don’t think they’ve hurt you, maybe they didn’t after all. Maybe it is you who is overreacting and you should probably console them now for making them go through the pain you have put them through in accusing them of hurting you. 

But wait. See what just happened? Now you are giving the apology you should be getting and they have neither acknowledged that they have hurt you nor apologized for having done so. But you feel like something happened just then right? Like something was resolved? Now here’s the part that I love. Nothing happened. You are in the same place that you started in and they have still hurt  you. Only now, they’ve hurt you and they’ve made you feel bad about it. Funny how that worked huh?

I do this. I do this every day and I am apalled at how it has become almost second nature for me to fall into that place with someone. I apologize to people because they have caused me pain and I feel bad because they feel bad about having hurt me. Well, not anymore. 

I have learned two things  from discovering the “sorry” word. One, do not ever ever ever apologize for who you are. If someone else doesn’t like who you are, if you come on too strongly, if you annoy them, if they don’t accpet you as is, then who cares? Chances are, if you really think about it, you don’t like who they are as a person either if they act that way with you. And here’s the best part: that is perfectly, 100% okay. Everyone will never like everyone. That’s just the way the world turns, darling.

The second, and to me, far more important thing, is that when someone hurts you they do not get to tell you that they didn’t. They do not get to say that you are wrong. If someone hurts you, they owe you an apology for having hurt you even if they didn’t do it intentionally or knowingly. No one gets to tell you when you are and are not hurt.

So from now on, I would like you to pay attention. I would like you to think twice before using that five letter word and to think three times before letting someone weasel their way out of using it to you. 

Think Twice Before You Use the “S” Word

Simply and Un-simply, Love.

Love is easily the most complicated part of our existence. I don’t mean complicated like calculus or solving a Rubik’s cube. Love is complicated in the way that it is one of those one in a million chances that happens every day without explanation. It is completely inexplicable why we love who we love. It doesn’t make any sense that every day we fall for the things about another person that we don’t even know exist. It is beyond confusing that love can just as easily save us as it can destroy us. Love is our home. As people, everything we do is based in some form of love. Love for a person, a job, a game, a place, a hobby, ourselves. In the end, everything we do is about this love, this thing, that we have no say in.

Now, by saying this, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. However, every day I am baffled by how much my own mind, body, and soul are controlled by this intangible, unimaginable miracle that runs our lives without permission. Every move that I make can be traced back to this chemical reaction in my brain that I have absolutely zero control over.

I have fallen in love and I have had my heart broken. But it’s not the falling in love or the heartbreak that I want to talk about. It’s that I find the experience completely incredible because no matter how much I reason with myself, no matter how much I tell myself that I have control over my brain and my emotions, the truth is that when it comes to love I don’t. None of us do. That, in and of itself, is the most mind boggling, amazing thing to me.

Our brains do this thing, this life altering, life controlling thing, and we get no say whatsoever in how we feel. I mean, this thing runs our lives and we don’t get a choice. I think that this is the most beautiful idea – that we are so completely out of control when it comes to our life’s purpose and are instead at the mercy of these processes happening inside of our own heads in hiding places we can’t even find despite our best efforts.

I am not a religious person. I don’t believe that there is someone out there determining our fates and deciding whether or not we are living inside of their rules. However I do believe that we, somewhere inside of ourselves are determining our own fates; that we are simultaneously making the rules and trying to live inside of them.

There is something about that notion that is terrifyingly beautiful. That our brains are creating this thing and these rules to live by, and that thing and those rules are simply and so un-simply, love.

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