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anxiety

Welcome, anxiety

anxiety

I remember thinking at least twice per day: “I can’t do this anymore”. There was a gigantic mass of tension in our house, so dense that I couldn’t breathe. The air got caught up in my throat and I had to get out several times a day to feel free again. Almost all of our days were like this.

He used to wake up, look at me with fury eyes, walk into the bathroom, and come out already showered. He made himself a black coffee and went out to the balcony to smoke a cigarette. He opened his computer, started typing, and about two hours after that, we would make eye contact and speak. That’s when our day began for me.

Every morning I tried to be compliant and calm, hoping that nothing would trigger him because it meant that the day was lost. If that happened, I could expect no eye contact and no talking. He would leave without notice and return without saying hello. He wouldn’t eat well, sleep, or interact with me in any way. When he was in this state, I felt he hated me. It felt so bad.

He said it was anxiety and, at first, I didn’t believe it. I thought it was the easiest way to avoid responsibility for such a horrible behavior, to blame something you can’t control. After all, this had been happening in a very subtle way since we first met, and although it intensified when we moved in together, it took several months for him to say it aloud. I realized it could break our relationship for good.

It went on intermittently for months but there was this weekend in which I decided to let him go and move on with my life. After all, I had convinced myself that he didn’t love me and I felt I was responsible for letting it happen. I said enough is enough.

When the storm was gone he started talking and the truth was far from encouraging.

“I suffer from anxiety since I can remember, even when I was a child. At one moment I’m okay, and suddenly some horrible idea crosses my mind. The next thing I know is everything is going dark. I can’t escape from these negative thoughts, they take complete control over me. All I can do is wait, wishing they will go away. I feel like nothing matters anymore, I’m hopeless. I know this is breaking you and that’s why I try to avoid you, but I hate myself for it. I can’t deal with anything, not even with myself, the pain is so intense that I can feel it not only in my mind but aching in my bones”.

How can you respond to that? The only thing that came to mind was “how can I help?”, and the answer that I feared came in the form of “I don’t know”.

I started reading about anxiety because I didn’t know it could turn into a generalized anxiety disorder. Moreover, till then I wasn’t aware that this anxiety was living with us in our own house. Where had I been all this time?

Anxiety is a disorder that someone suffers from, but that affects their entire environment as well (naturally, at different levels). We can’t cut it off and deny it won’t make it go away, so we made a few changes to our lifestyle that includes anxiety as a guest.

Yes, we say welcome to anxiety.

Just like you make room for a friend to crash on your couch for a night, we prepare ourselves for when anxiety comes knocking on our door. These are the little changes we’ve made in our routines so far:

  • We quit smoking
  • We started eating healthier
  • We exercise more frequently
  • We try to read more
  • We meditate every single day

Because my boyfriend is the “carrier” and feels anxiety in a very different way than me, he is also trying out new things, like CBD oil and therapy. I, on the other hand, am the person that accompanies both of them, so my job had been to teach myself how I can bring support.

Now that we know exactly what we’re dealing with, we can at least implement some strategies to deal with it. It was name-it-to-face-it, and it did all the difference in the world. We certainly feel better, the episodes don’t crush us as they used to and we feel closer and more confident than ever.

Does this mean that we’ll say goodbye to anxiety any soon? We can’t know for sure and knowing it won’t make much of a difference.

All we know is that, for the time being, we live with anxiety and, because of that, we have adapted our lives to make our coexistence as compassionate as it can be. It’s a team effort, and we’ll hold on to it as long as it needs. After all, it forced us to face the worst part of ourselves, and we can bravely say that, far from breaking us, it only brought us together.

Originally published in Medium for Bravely. November 5, 2019.

Thanx for reading

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