Anxiety is a silent killer. It eats away at you from the inside out. It plays tricks on your mind. It takes a toil on you mentally, emotionally, and physically. Anxiety is difficult enough to deal with when it is just affecting you, but when it begins affecting relationships, it can create more damage than you ever thought possible. I have struggled with anxiety and depression for years, but have rarely sought out a solution besides ignoring it and hoping it goes away.
Today, I have decided to acknowledge my illness in hopes that others will find solace in knowing they are not alone. Anxiety can lead you to believe that something is wrong with you as a person, and we do not treat it like the illness it is. How can you be fully satisfied with anything or anyone when you have something dark and small eating away at your insides?
That voice inside of you can be loud or quiet, but generally presents itself at the most inopportune of times. During my last relationship, I was diagnosed with anxiety and given pills to cope with the feelings. They didn’t silence the doubts about my relationship, but they made me a more pleasant and peaceful person. After I got out of that relationship I thought my anxiety would go away.
I prematurely quit my medication, without any guidance from a professional. “I don’t need a pill to make me happy,” I thought. Around this time, I was entering a relationship with a new man. I felt good about my decision for a small while. Before I knew it, I felt the overthinking and the stress creeping back up on me. It started small, over decisions like which restaurant to eat at or what to wear on a night out. Before I knew it, I was questioning everything. My degree, my relationship, and myself.
I didn’t like myself. I didn’t feel comfortable with who I was. I felt unsatisfied. I felt numb. I felt hopeless. I tried to silence these fears. I knew I was dating the greatest guy I had ever met. I knew how comfortable he made me feel and how excited I had always felt about him. He treated me like a princess, and made me happier and more fulfilled than anyone ever had. I thought the world of him and saw myself with him for the long run. I felt that this time, my relationship was healthy, respectful, and real.
I wanted to silence my fears and doubts because I knew they had come from nowhere. But the anxiety was louder. It was there when I was sad. It was there when I was overjoyed, silently crushing my happiness and creating a numbness inside my chest. I had a panic attack so severe that I made myself sick. I knew that I had gone through a two year relationship that ended in my realization that my feelings were not real for that partner. I fretted over this in my new relationship, and I had no faith that I had any real insight as to how I was feeling. I didn’t trust myself to make the right decisions and to know what I really felt. I got so anxious that I went numb. I couldn’t feel love or hate.
I knew I loved him just as I knew I loved my family even though I couldn’t feel those feelings of love for anyone in this moment. I knew they were there, deep down, smothered in a mess of anxiety and depression. I did feel those feelings of love, but they were so smothered by anxiety that they were difficult to detect at times and I had to search to find them. I tried to tell myself this when the fears would creep up. On one bad morning after my anxiety attack occurred, I called my best friend in another town. I knew she had gone through the same thing with her boyfriend, and that she felt just as hopeless as I did. She too had questioned her relationship and herself in a period of anxiety.
This gave me hope. Knowing that I was not the only person to feel this way gave me strength, and she gave me the best advice. She told me her story and how her family, her faith, and the boyfriend she was questioning pulled her out of a dark place. She said that her boyfriend never gave up on her, and was patient enough to help her through the dark times. Those two are still together four years later, and they are stronger than ever. This gave me hope and peace. There had been times where I wanted to run from my relationship, but my boyfriend was always there to catch me. Even though he didn’t fully understand what was going on with me, he knew he loved me enough to support me through it.
This gave me the strength I needed to continue on. I stopped trying to silence my thoughts, but instead began to redirect them to something more positive. I took a mental health day to regroup. I saw a counsellor and went back on medication. My anxiety was loud, but I knew I needed to listen to the quiet voice inside of me that was telling me everything was good instead of listening to the critical thoughts and fears that were screaming inside my head.
I am only beginning the process of recovery now, but I have a glimmer of hope and faith that is getting me through. I know that my anxiety has played tricks on me in the past and I don’t want to allow it to ruin the best relationship I have ever had. Losing him would kill me inside, and would be the biggest failure of my life to date. I have chosen to fight through the tough times because I see a ray of hope at the end of the battle.
I know I am not alone in feeling anxious about life and relationships, and this tells me that it is too soon to quit fighting. It will not be easy; I can only hope it will be worth it. I know it will be.