Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Dating with Anxiety

"You're very quiet, aren't you" he said it with spite, as though he intended it to hurt. He knew I wasn't quiet, he knew me before. He didn't think to ask why it was different now.
"You're like a barn mouse, do you ever say anything?" He knew I did. He'd heard me before.
It tends to happen for a reason, prerequisite. A loss of a job, or a friend. Issues in my personal life. There was always reason, however at the time it isn't always entirely clear. This time it was him. He made me feel some kind of way, not good but not bad. Something I'd never quite experienced. I didn't know why I was with him. He would talk over me so much, maybe that was the reason I stopped talking entirely.

If I were to sum up my personality, my every day personality. It would be in some odd place between sarcastic and funny. I don't hold back. I'm inappropriate, stubborn and I don't usually take any shit, from anyone. But every once in a while I change. I become quiet, scared. I overthink every tiny little detail, as though the 10% of consciousness that our brain encompasses raises to 90. Every movement, every word. I think about what I'm doing, saying, feeling, acting, before I do it, during and after. There is not one moment in which I am not aware. Often I will stop talking, because I can't find the words. For some reason, my brain just can not physically think of what to say. 

These periods come and go. Sometimes I'll have the best part of the year without any, sometimes they're every other month. They can last a day, a week, even months. There is no curing them beyond the conscious knowledge that they will pass, like a sickness. So I hold on and wait, and they do. They pass, they always do. It's not always the person I'm with that sets them off however, many times it's just a situation, take a job loss for instance. I remember I once lost a job I tried so so bloody hard to be better at. It took up a good chunk of my mind, I kept trying to get it more and I kept failing, when I finally lost it I was exhausted. 

"You haven't been yourself since you lost that job" one friend said.

It doesn't always prove to be a problem in dating of course, I've had many a boy situation without my anxiety creeping in at all. But it can sometimes be tricky. Dating someone with anxiety takes empathy at the least. Maybe my biggest problem is never mentioning it, because if it never creeps in then what's the point in telling someone and worrying them. I am ashamed of it, I know I shouldn't be but I am. I take so much pride in being confident and being strong and being in control, that when I'm not I feel embarrassed and upset. It's not me, and so I keep my mouth shut and hope for the best. This is one thing to take into mind, when dating, period. Not just with anxiety. Sometimes the person you are dating will hold back from telling you something. There is nothing you can do about this apart from trying to understand if for whatever reason it crops up, or if that person changes. 

"You're very quiet, aren't you". That comment hit me like a knife. It hurt because it was true in the moment, but not in the long run. I had changed, in this period of time I was different, but I didn't want to acknowledge it. Furthermore, I didn't was him to acknowledge it. When you have anxiety you try your absolute hardest to make sure no one else notices. If you feel like you can't say anything you will force other people to believe that it is for some other reason. In the short-run, you can tell people that you're tiered. You can blame it on work stresses, or hope that someone thinks that the silence is a comfortable bi-product of being close enough to another that conversation isn't always necessary. You keep this up until it passes. 

When someone else acknowledges it, it almost feels like failure. Now say you're dating someone and either they've told you about their struggles with anxiety, or simply that you have found out or that you suspect it. Approach it with an understanding. Don't just state it. Don't be rude or sarcastic. Because it is a touchy subject. Talk about it with them. Weirdly enough, having a conversation about anxiety is often enough to throw me out of my slump. Having an anxious episode, or having anxiety at every moment, as some people do, can often feel very isolating, almost to the point of being claustrophobic. If they'd rather not talk about it however then that's cool too. The most important thing is that you make them feel comfortable. In the case of having anxious episodes, treating them in the exact same way that you always have is how you should go about the situation. 

I guess in a way this is a message not just for dating someone with anxiety, but all for friends, family members, work colleagues and acquaintances of those. In acting in the same way that you would any other person, or with them as you usually would beyond their states of anxiety, you are providing them with stability, quickening the process that it takes to get back to normality. Trust me, this does not go unappreciated. 

So if you know or suspect someone with anxiety please take this in mind and go one or both of these two ways about it. Encourage them to have a conversation about it if you feel that they would benefit from it or/and allow them to overcome it by themselves and be supportive about it, treating them in no new way, not paying them any extra attention, not showing that you acknowledge it. 

This post was a little more heartfelt than some of my others as it is a very important issue for myself. Anxiety is something completely unexplainable to others. This photograph from Katie Joe Crawford's  My Anxious Heart series and a quote that she accompanies it with;

“My head is filling with helium. Focus is fading. Such a small decision to make. Such an easy question to answer. My mind isn’t letting me. It’s like a thousand circuits are all crossing at once.”

are the closest things I've ever found to explaining it. 

Belle x

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