You start off slow. Really slow. You don’t jump into anything too quickly. You take baby steps to gain trust. You walk in slow motion, to gain their certainty.
On the first date, don’t ask them about why they bite their nails too much. Don’t ask them why they are stuttering or talking too quickly. Don’t laugh when they look down at their feet, unsure of what to say or do. Don’t make fun of who they are. Don’t make fun of what they cannot help.
Have fun and easy conversation. Don’t stare too long when they wring their hair over and over again, in an attempt to calm themselves down. Don’t wonder if it’s about you. It’s not. They are just trying to make you like them. But they are scared you think they are odd or weird or too timid.
Don’t make assumptions based on this first date. Don’t call it off just because they seemed too into themselves or acted like they didn’t care. Don’t just assume they aren’t into you.
Call them up. Ask them out again. Hear them smile through the phone when they hear the words come out of your mouth and realize that their nervous ticks weren’t about you at all. They were kind of cute actually.
Stop. Know that anxiety isn’t cute or endearing. Realize that it’s a mental illness. Understand that they can’t help this. They were born this way.
When they tell you about their anxiety, truly listen to what he or she has to say about it. Listen and empathize and learn. Learn about how it started out and how many medicine and doctors they had to go through to get it controlled. Learn about how anxious they were to even go on a date in the first place.
Notice how their fingers shake when you ask too many personal questions or when you go too far with a joke. Learn about the words that affect them negatively. Learn about their triggers, about what makes it worse for them and about how they sometimes don’t sleep because they are terrified of what life will look like in five years.
Don’t judge. Never judge. Don’t push them to talk about it. Just be a listening ear. Be a shoulder for them to rest their tired head on. Be this person’s rock.
Learn how to communicate with them in a way that helps their anxiety become a little bit less terrifying. Learn how to calm them down from a panic attack, and how to calm their overwhelmed minds.
Fall in love with how strong they are. Fall in love with how resilient they are, how they never ever give up even if their anxiety cripples them. Fall in love with their strength and bravery for not letting anxiety define them.
Fall in love with their ability to try to live life to the fullest, even if their hearts are going into overdrive and they feel like they can’t breathe. Fall in love with their minds that will never be free from this disorder. Fall in love with who they are, all of their flaws and imperfections and wounds.
Fall in love with their broken pieces.
And fall in love with their endearing capability to be human in a world where most people like to pretend that they are superheroes.