How To Help Your Partner With Anxiety
Anxiety man, it's a nightmare. An actual living nightmare. Not just for the ones unfortunate enough to fall victim to it, but for our loved ones too. It's never nice to witness someone you care for be haunted by the demons in their mind, and it's even worse when you feel like you can't do anything to help them.
We're in 2020 now and there's been incredible progress in the past couple years in breaking the stigma surrounding mental health, but there is still a long way to go. There are still people that need to be educated (employers for example), we need better mental health care in workplaces and hospitals, more funding for MH services, and we also need to educate and support people who are supporting someone with a mental illness before it negatively impacts their own mental health and well-being.
When you have anxiety, it's not exactly easy to tell your partner exactly how you're feeling or how they can help you, 1) because they may be embarrassed and feel as though they're being a bit 'pathetic', 2) because they don't want to burden you, and 3) because their insecurities may be heightened and they're scared you'll leave them. I know I've avoided sharing my feelings for all of the above reasons. I thought, as a person with anxiety, I'd share with you a few pointers to help you support your partner with their anxiety.
HOW TO HELP YOUR PARTNER WITH ANXIETY
The first thing to do is to research anxiety. What is it? How does it make a person feel? How does having anxiety change the way they think? What shouldn't you say to someone with anxiety? What kind of situations could possibly trigger your partner's anxiety? There are multiple sources online for you to read over. It'll give you a much better understanding on what they're dealing with every day.
DON'T TRY TO FIX THEM
I say this for two reasons; 1) because by trying to "fix" them, they my feel as though you don't accept and love them for who they are now, anxiety and all, and 2) because "fixing" them isn't up to you, helping their anxiety is something that they have to do with the help of medical professionals. All you can do is encourage them, but also make clear that you love them regardless.
One of the most important tips I can give you is to not push them into a situation that they're not ready for. When you have anxiety, certain mundane situations can be terrifying. For example, going shopping doesn't seem like a big deal, but to a person with anxiety, the idea of walking into a busy supermarket and possibly talking to others can be debilitating and panic them to no end.
Anxiety brings both good and bad days. Some days your partner may be able to eat at a busy restaurant and then go for drinks, and other days they may not be able to talk to anyone over the phone. Which is why you should never push them before they're ready. Encouraging them is fine, but if they tell you they can't - please listen. If you continue to push, it'll end one of two ways, 1) they can't put themselves in that situation and they end up feeling as though they've let you down, resulting in their mental health deteriorating or, 2) they feel pressured into doing it through fear of letting you down, resulting in their mental health deteriorating because they weren't ready.
You may be surprised by the situations that can trigger your partner's anxiety, which is why researching is beneficial to better understanding what you're dealing with. However, anxiety affects people in different ways, so it's a good idea to pay attention to what triggers your partner specifically. It's usually easy to tell if your partner is avoiding a situation because their anxiety won't allow it, and not just because they can't be bothered.
One of my trigger situations, is any situation that I think could potentially make me look stupid or make people laugh and make fun of me. For example, I remember on boxing night last year, everyone was playing Heads Up, and I ended up sitting outside on my phone until they'd finished the game because I couldn't physically put myself into that situation. Something similar happened just the other week at my boyfriend's house. We were playing a computer game, but it was a new one and this time I had to play alone. Literally from the second I realised that not only had I never played it before, but I was expected to do it alone, my anxiety went through the roof. I started playing it and my anxiety was like "you can't play this game you stupid bitch, he's laughing at you, you're pathetic". Situations that may seem easy or casual to you, could have your partner feeling sick with worry and fear, so remember to be open and mindful.
BE MINDFUL AND REASSURING
This is a massively important one for you to remember. I know from my own experience that when my anxiety is high, my insecurities are high. If I'm going through a rough patch mentally, my confidence lowers, I overthink, I doubt myself, and just feel more vulnerable in general.
Reassuring your partner simply needs to be done sometimes, it's not because they're clingy or they don't trust you. It's because their anxiety is making them doubt everything, even themselves. They need to know that they're not annoying you, or letting you down. They need to know that you still love them and aren't going to abandon them. They need to know that they're worth something.
When their anxiety is constantly evoking negative thoughts and making them feel worthless, be their light and remind them just how much they mean to you. You have no idea how much that can help them, not only in that moment, but in their recovery journey.
If you ever want more in-depth advice that relates to you specifically, don't hesitate to reach out to me. If I can help, I will.
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