Dating Someone With... Anxiety

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BY|Theo Gagen View Bio|29th May 2019

When you’re young and desperate for a relationship, any relationship, you never consider mental health.  If you yourself do not have an issue with mental health, the possibility of dating someone who deals with mental health issues doesn’t even cross your mind. You imagine a relationship like in the movies, full of love, romance, long walks, passionate hugs at the airport, and the list goes on and on.  

But the reality is, that’s not the case.  Not for me at least. And it’s not because my partner is a bad person, it’s because his mental health issue plays a big role in our lives.  Now, and probably forever. And, guess what? That’s okay.

He developed anxiety when we were in college.  Now we’re past that phase of our lives, but we still look his crippling anxiety directly in the face, every single day.  

I’d be lying if I said it’s been easy.  It’s probably the hardest thing I’ve ever been through.  Frankly, I don’t know what’s harder - having anxiety, or watching the person you love the most suffer from anxiety every single day, knowing there’s nothing you can do to fix it.  

When it started, I thought it was just stress from dealing with a hefty college course load.  It pains me to think I used to be someone who dismissed the thought of anxiety as a real condition, but it’s true.

Once I started believing him, my first instinct was to get a medical professional involved.  Just to let you know, that’s easier said than done. In fact, I had made appointments with four different doctors, and every single one dismissed his anxiety right to his face.  

It got to the point where I wouldn’t, and still won’t, let him go to a doctors appointment by himself, because I refuse to let them walk all over him.  I’ve had to interject multiple times to say, “Hey, I live with him, and I’m telling you this isn’t normal. You can’t dismiss this as stress, and I’m not leaving here until you take him seriously.”  

Guess what? They still didn’t take him seriously.  We’re years into dealing with this issue, and it’s appalling how many doctors are dismissive of mental health.  

When you’re young, you think your primary physician can handle anything you throw at them.  Sadly, that’s not the case. It took us way too long to realize we needed the help of a real therapist - someone who is knowledgeable about anxiety, and above all, believes my partner when he explains what he’s going through.

We’re still on our journey to finding the proper coping mechanisms for him, but in the meantime, I do my best to be as supportive as possible.  I’m not a doctor, and I’ll never profess to be one, but I do believe that the way I treat him and interact with his anxiety is crucial. As his “person”, I know that my response to his anxiety is the response he values most.  So here’s what I do when it’s in full force:

Offer him physical support.  Very tight hugs, holding his hand, rubbing his back.  

Figure out the first step to getting him back in a routine. Sometimes it’s getting him to sit up in bed, other times it’s reminding him that he needs to eat something.

Drop him off and pick him up from places when his anxiety has gotten the best of him.  I never act like this is a favor, or like I saved him from the situation he was in. I am merely his support system, and he owes me nothing.

These are things I deal with on a daily basis.  And, that’s okay. Surprisingly, it doesn’t bother me.  It’s just part of our life, and while I wish this wasn’t an issue he had to deal with every day, I would love him the same if it was ten times worse.  

Committing to someone with a mental health issue was hard, but it’d be harder living life without him.

If you are dating someone with anxiety, I can’t guarantee anything I do for my partner will be beneficial for you and your partner.  Each case is unique, and I recommend having a discussion with your partner about how you can support them best.

Above all, keep in mind that being their support does not mean you can be their therapist.  If they need professional help, it is important to acknowledge that need. If you need help connecting with a therapist, feel free to check out SonderMind’s homepage.  Getting help is important, but getting the right help is essential.