Even as a child, I was labeled sensitive and suffered from anxiety. But it wasn’t until I was around 16 that I began having panic attacks. They were brutal, to say the least. Along with the panic attacks, I developed phobias. I was afraid of, well, everything. I developed a fear of flying, fear of mass shootings, and a general fear of being anywhere but inside the comfort of my own home (otherwise known as agoraphobia).
It was also around this age that I began to fall in love with my husband, who was my high school boyfriend at the time. I was such a mess at that time—it almost blows my mind that he fell so deeply for me. But he did. And the fact that he knew how much I was suffering and that he loved me anyway, and was able to nurture me through that rough time, is part of what I will always love him for.
With therapy, I was able to move past that first instance of panic attacks and phobias, but as a lifelong anxiety sufferer, I have faced other similar periods in my life. And my husband has always stood beside me. He has been my rock, and I truly don’t know if I would have made it through without him.
One of the things that anxiety sufferers will tell you is that there are certain things you really should not say to someone who is feeling anxious. People mean well when they say these things, but they do nothing but make you more anxious! I’m talking about things like, “Can’t you just relax?” or “It’s all in your mind. Just stop thinking about it.”
My husband knew early on that none of that would be helpful for me. Instead, he did the exact thing I needed him to do. He didn’t offer advice. He didn’t try to change me, or my mind. He just listened. He held the space for my feelings. He helped me feel like I wasn’t totally out of my mind for feeling how I did.
I don’t know how he knew to do the right thing, but he did. He wasn’t a therapist. He wasn’t the one who sorted through my past with me, and helped figure out how my childhood traumas caused me panic and anxiety disorder. But he listened as I poured it all out to him. And he seemed to really “get me,” on a deep level.
Thanks for bringing your utmost patient self to the table anytime my anxiety rears its ugly head. Thank for not running away from it, or me, when the going gets tough.
That’s a pretty huge deal for anxiety sufferers: to find someone who understand them. And I’m not just talking about someone who understands what it’s like to suffer from anxiety. I’m talking about someone who truly accepts you for what you are—the anxious parts, and all the other parts that make you you.
I’m talking about someone who doesn’t just see you as someone who suffers, or who is weak. Someone who knows that just the fact of dealing with anxiety on a daily basis means that you are, actually, strong. Someone who sees the other side of your anxiety: your creative energy, your drive, and intense thoughtfulness (yes, overthinking can be both a good and a bad thing!)
My husband is by no means perfect. We are coming up on our 16th wedding anniversary, and although I have much to celebrate about him, I certainly have my lists of gripes. He could certainly remember to do his household chores the first time I ask him to do them. I would appreciate it if he didn’t leave his dirty socks on the kitchen counter. And I would be totally smitten if he’d spend less than 45 minutes on the toilet.
But as someone who has had serious mental health issues her whole life, I absolutely don’t take it for granted that I have someone for a partner who has always, always been there for the truly important stuff.
So, thanks, babe. Thanks for bringing your utmost patient self to the table anytime my anxiety rears its ugly head. Thank for not running away from it, or me, when the going gets tough. Thank you for always treating me with respect, kindness, and compassion. Thank you for being the one who I can share the darkest stuff with, and who has never judged me for any of it. Thank you for encouraging me to get help for my anxiety, and nurturing me through that sometimes difficult process of healing.
Most of all, thank you for believing in me—for believing that I was more resilient than I understood. Thank you for remembering that my anxious thoughts were just thoughts, and that I was so much more powerful than they were. Thank you for reminding me that my strength was beautiful—and always there, right before your eyes.