Mental Health & Relationships
I’ve never not been anxious. Tests, friends, fights, parties, boys, money, and any awkward social situation can send me into a tailspin of heart palpitations, stress, and sleepless nights. In high school and university, I could sit in my bedroom for hours watching my pen scratch along endless pieces of paper in order to calm my nerves. As long as I could write it out I could face the next day, situation, or exam.
My anxiety morphed into something uncontrollable about three years ago. I got engaged to my long-time boyfriend and started a new job mere months apart. Then came a trifecta of health problems that ripped through my family like a tornado. First, my sister had near death complications a week after giving birth to my niece. Then my fiance donated 70% of his liver to his mother, who had been suffering from cirrhosis of the liver. Lastly, my dad was rushed to the hospital and underwent a quintuple bypass. After the surgery, we were told that my dad was a walking heart attack. If he hadn’t gone for a test the day before, he could have had a heart attack at any time.
During these months, I poured myself into my new job. Learning everything I could as quickly as I could. I took on as much work as I possibly could; it was a much-needed distraction. The problem with distractions is that they can only last so long.
I stopped sleeping well on the day that my sister nearly bled to death in the bathroom of our childhood home. My heartbeat would pound in my ears the moment I lay my head. After hours of tossing and turning I’d wake from a nightmare with my chest fluttering. For months I was nauseous. I became irritable, moody, angry, and so stressed out I couldn’t cope. I was having panic attacks at work once a week, couldn’t handle my workload AND had to begin planning our wedding the moment my loved ones felt better.
After months of aggravating everyone I knew, my parents and fiance suggested that I speak with my family doctor about going on medication for my anxiety. Apart from initial nausea and lightheadedness, I got used to my medication quickly. Within weeks I began to feel better. My anxiety was a mere whisper instead of a blood-curdling scream. I could now get through my day without breaking down into tears. I was lighter but a little numb.
If you ask my husband he’d tell you that the hardest part of being with someone who has anxiety is watching them suffer and not knowing the right thing to say. It took him a while to realize that I couldn’t snap out of it or get over it or stop thinking about it. It took him a while to understand that I had no control over the way I was feeling. There would be no magic fix.
So, how did we get through the toughest three years of my life (and in turn our relationship)? How did we make it to the other side and come out stronger than before? How did my husband help me through my anxiety? Now that I am no longer on medication, how do I get through really anxious times?
1) COMMUNICATION - we talk about everything from money and unemployment to fears and anxiety. We listen to one another and admit when we’re wrong.
2) UNDERSTANDING TRIGGERS - since almost NOTHING bothers my down-to-earth-husband this one is more on him. He knows what situations fill me with dread. He can tell when I don’t want to go somewhere or when a conversation with a family member is affecting me more than it should. He cancels plans or tells me to stay home and vegg out when he knows I won’t / can’t go somewhere.
3) SOCIAL MEDIA DETOXES - my husband doesn’t participate in social media but I am kind of obsessed. I try to have a social media detox once a week and I’ve gotten into the habit of not bringing my phone to bed.
WRITING - I make time to write every single day. Now that things have calmed down, I’m able to use writing as method of catharsis again.