I have many days in my life that I wonder “How in the world does he handle all of the things that MY anxiety causes him to have to deal with? Like, I don’t even think I would be able to handle being married to me!” I mean, come on ya’ll, I’ve only got about three different anxiety disorders! It shouldn’t be THAT hard to handle, right?!
You guys, there are so many ways that my anxiety affects Brian, as my husband. He is AMAZING at dealing with both of us, me and the anxiety. I know he thinks he doesn’t know what he’s doing or that he just plain stinks at it, but I tell him almost daily that I literally do not think I could do this without him. I think that if I was married to anyone else this would have killed me already. That’s the truth.
Brian is a fairly out-going guy. He loves meeting new people. He can talk to any one. So, he is, of course the complete and total opposite of this “I have social anxiety, can I please not meet any one that I have to actually converse with today” girl right here! For him that means few social gatherings; especially if it’s people I haven’t met before. It means having to leave a gathering early. It means me ONLY wanting to be near HIM. This part of the anxiety also keeps him from being able to surprise me. (In my favor, it also means that he can’t play practical jokes on me or startle me). It means that he can’t put me in a situation where I can’t get in touch with him if I need him. (I do TRULY mean IF I NEED him. Emphasis on IF and NEED; think “emergency.”)
Brian has never been the “finance” guy in our marriage. Now, he has always worked and made the money, but he didn’t care about the numbers part and the details, so it became my job to do. My severe anxiety means that he has to double check me when I pay bills or balance the checkbook. It means that He has had to deal with me straight up forgetting to pay bills and things being shut off. It means that he has dealt with me running up close to $15,000 in credit card debt…twice.
Way back when I was a child, my “hobby” was to clean my room, or organize my toys, or yell at my sister because “her side” of the room was a disaster area. When I married Brian, when I was twenty years old, I was what some people would call a “neat freak.” Our first little apartment stayed CLEAN, and organized, and well taken care of. I’m not really sure why my anxiety manifested itself as “neat freak” in my younger years and as “it’s clean ‘enough'” in my older years, but that is exactly what has happened. I say all of that, to say this; Brian deals with me going from one extreme to the other on household chores. I am either cleaning the baseboards with a toothbrush and organizing closets by color, or the trash hasn’t been taken out in days, the sink is full, and I can’t remember the last time I changed clothes. The “in between” on these two extremes is when I do at least manage to remind the kids to do their chores.
One of the hardest, most frustrating, most annoying, irritating things that we have had to deal with is the issues of anxiety that I have in the area of intimacy/sex. I had multiple sexual traumas in my childhood. It has come to my attention over the past several years, as the anxiety has reached an all time high, that that trauma is still affecting me today, in a very real way. Brian has not ever, and I do mean EVER, done anything to me, said anything to me, or treated me in a way that even remotely resembled the things the other men did when I was young. He has always been very gentle and tender with me, has never done anything that was not consensual, has always taken care of me before himself. If you know him, you know how much this man adores me. He still, after 16 years of marriage and over twenty years since the trauma, deals with things like me not being able to turn off the lights, me not being able to be touched in certain areas or certain ways, something small and insignificant causing my body to SHUT DOWN. Or, me having a panic attack in the middle of… and having to stop completely. Brian is so good to me. He is so careful and does his best to not hurt me or cause me any unnecessary anxiety…that it causes HIM anxiety. It’s a vicious cycle. We take frequent “spins.” My therapist has us going on weekly dates; just us. Just to reconnect. Just to hang out and be friends. We don’t spend much money; we go walk at the park or go to one of our workouts and grab a bite to eat. It’s helping. I’m optimistic.
When this anxiety crap is getting the best of me, Brian frequently tells me “I’m sorry, Baby. I’m sorry you’re going through this. I wish I could fix it or take it away.” While we know that our spouse can’t really fix it or take it away, Brian and I have learned some ways that a spouse can help/ease anxiety. One of the biggest, I can tell you from personal experience, is SUPPORT! If your spouse truly has anxiety…IT. IS. NOT. ALL. IN. THEIR. HEAD. They need encouragement to take care of themselves (in all areas). Brian has stood by my side as I went to the doctor and asked her for help. He was with me with I picked up and started taking the meds. He encouraged me to call the therapist and make an appointment. He cheered me on as I started working out and taking care of my physical body. He found the money to make sure that I could do all of those things. Of course, the most important thing (to me; anyways) is that he has carried me in prayer.
If patience could earn you a ticket to heaven, this man would have had his LONG ago! I mean patience like JOB, ya’ll! I’ve already talked about a lot of the ways he is patient with me. I, honestly, don’t even know how he does it. It shows in every area of our lives; our home/home management, our finances, our own ‘personal stuff.’ Anxiety affects so much of my life that he has learned to be patient with me in more ways and in more areas than I think most people ever realize.
Another way that Brian has come to help me when I am anxious is that HE learns my triggers and warning signs. The triggers that we have identified so far are sex, social situations, too many people (crowded Wal-Mart sent me to the hospital), being startled, any of my kids saying that they don’t feel well/have an ache/have a headache/etc. (especially if it is too often) There really isn’t enough room in the “cloud” or enough time in a day to list them all. Sometimes, there are no triggers. It just happens. Those times usually come with some warnings; shortness of breath/tightness in chest, fast heartbeat, sweating, sudden upset stomach, tingling, muscle spasms/tightness.
Friends, this stuff is not easy, it is not for the faint of heart. It is worth it, but it’s not easy. Brian doesn’t experience anxiety like I do, so it’s not something that he truly understands on a personal level. Ask him about what an addict experiences; he KNOWS addiction. Ask him about what a dad, whose kid’s mother is NOT wanting to let him be in his kid’s life, experiences; he KNOWS losing a relationship with a child. Ask him about that same dad’s experiences when he DOES earn having his child back; he KNOWS about restored relationships. There are many things that he has experienced, that he does understand, anxiety just isn’t one of them.
If I haven’t mentioned it already, it is my firm belief that anxiety is the stupidest thing I have ever had to deal with. It is not logical and, in my case, it is NOT just thoughts in my head. It would be exponentially easier to deal with if it was! I can control my thoughts; I could kick anxiety’s ass if it was all in my head.
The panic attack/depressive episode that happened in June was the first time that Brian got a glimpse of what this anxiety can really do to me. The detailed story about that was previously posted and you can find it here. He saw me fighting it. He saw me trying to “push through.” He heard me telling myself “You are fine. There is nothing to panic about. Brian is here. You are FINE.” Then he saw what it did to my body any way. I don’t want it to sound like he has not always been supportive, or encouraged me to do WHATEVER. IT. TAKES. to be healthy and okay–he has. That day, though. That day he saw what I’m really up against and it changed him and how he handles/helps me fight this crap. Anxiety certainly isn’t for the faint of heart. It is a day by day, week by week, month by month, battle that is fought hard for, and won.
Brian, when I can’t breathe, you are the reminder in my head to slow down and breathe deeply to catch my breath. When my heart is racing 95+ beats a minute and won’t slow down, you ground me and bring me back to resting. When I can’t stop the nervous ticks/shaking, you are my solid place. When I can’t sleep, because the anxiety has followed me into my dreams, you hold me and comfort me until the sleepiness and peaceful dreams return. When I want to quit, you are the reason I don’t. Thank you for being my husband. Thank you for helping me fight this fight. Thank you for loving me so completely and so unconditionally. YOU, Sir, are my heart!
Forever In His Grip,