If you’ve read my post on anxiety, you know that anxiety is something I’ve been managing and working through for a long time. In preparing to blog today, I was surfing the internet, hoping for some inspiration. I went to Cosmopolitan magazine’s website, figuring I’d find something humorous and blog-worthy among their (presumably) terrible Valentine’s Day suggestions, but instead I found this: an article entitled “11 Ways Anxiety Disorders Make Dating Harder.”
I decided to click, thinking I’d be entertained, but instead I was offended. Anxiety, in my view, isn’t a joking matter. Interestingly, the article was written by someone with anxiety, and most commenters responded positively. Maybe I just can’t take a joke. But anxiety doesn’t necessarily mean pill-popping, chugging wine, and “overdramatizing” everything.
So I’d like to offer my own commentary (sans GIFs and broad overgeneralizations) about what it is like to be in relationships (platonic and romantic) when dealing with anxiety.
Being in a relationship with anxiety means it’s hard to separate your feelings from anxious thoughts. When something upsets me (a friend won’t return a call, etc), I can’t tell sometimes if it’s an issue a normal person would be upset about. I think I’m upset, but then I wonder if I’m just assuming the role of a mind-reader and guessing that they hate me/don’t care about my feelings (symptom of anxiety), and then I question whether or not I’m upset at all. The logic becomes circular, and after awhile I have no idea which is right, and if I’m thinking clearly or not. Pair this with the fact that I’m not a confrontational person and it becomes hard to approach conflict because I don’t know which of my feelings are even reasonable or actionable.
Having anxiety in a relationship also makes it harder to accept the statements of those around you at face value. I tend to be a self-doubter, and so I often find myself questioning if compliments received are genuine, if those around me mean what they say, if my friends are really my friends or if they’re people who think I’m weird but have taken pity on me anyway. I am so lucky to be surrounded by people who I believe genuinely care about me, but I have to constantly remind myself of this, as anxiety causes me to question everything.
Not only does anxiety make relationships difficult in its manifestations, it makes having relationships with those who don’t have anxiety hard. If you haven’t experienced it, it’s hard to understand what it feels like. Those with anxiety can’t understand how I can say I know my thoughts are irrational, but simultaneously allow them to impact my mood. They can’t fully comprehend why sometimes I feel sick to my stomach and downcast for no tangible reason, why I sometimes have trouble dealing with things that other people would bounce back from quickly. They always try and understand, and I appreciate that more than they know. It still makes things hard.
With awareness comes power, and so these are things the person suffering from anxiety can manage. Anxiety does not mean I’m doomed to have unsatisfying relationships or to be alone forever, it just means that relating to other people can sometimes be a challenge. If you yourself have struggled with anxiety, I’d love to hear your feedback on how this mirrors (or completely doesn’t mirror) your experiences. If you know someone with anxiety, I hope this gave you a greater sense of what it’s like. I’d love to hear your comments too.