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How to live with a girlfriend with anxiety problems

About My Girlfriend's Anxiety

By Karien Louw

Before meeting my current girlfriend, I had never been close to someone with anxiety. I never really knew much about the disorder and to be completely honest, I passed it up as people being over dramatic about things and creating a problem simply to have a problem. After starting to love someone who has anxiety, I realized that it’s a real issue.

Loving someone with anxiety has been one of the most educational experiences I’ve ever had. Yes, I’ve learned a lot about mental disorders and illnesses, but I’ve also learned a lot about myself.

Let me just start off by saying that being in love with someone who has anxiety is not easy. It’s not all bad, but it’s definitely not all sunshine and roses either. It takes someone who is strong, someone with a lot of willpower and patience, to be in a relationship with such a person. I never knew that I could be so patient until I started to love someone with anxiety.

One of the first things I learned about anxiety and the thing that I find the most difficult to deal with is the fact that people with this disorder are sometimes controlled by their disease. In many situations, the way they are reacting is not something they are controlling; it’s something that their mind is just making them do/say.

To me, this is the most difficult aspect to deal with as a lesbian. Many times, my girlfriend will react in a way that is very overly dramatic or irrational, and where I would normally would automatically feel like she needed to suck it up, it’s something I just have to deal with. I have to let her have her moment of panic and try to comfort her, but I cannot try to stop it. I have learned to keep my harsh comments to myself (which is probably for the better) and to tell myself that I have to try to understand where she is coming from and how her mind is telling her to react.

Understanding. That’s another thing that’s really hard to do as a girlfriend to someone with anxiety. As much as I want to be there for her and understand exactly what she’s going through, it’s impossible. That’s the one connection we’ll never have. Many times, when we get in arguments it’s because I’m overwhelming her and it may lead to him having an anxiety attack. This makes it super difficult because I never know when it’s going to happen, it just happens.

I will never understand why her mind is spinning a mile a minute while we’re somewhere simple like the grocery store. I’ll never understand why we sometimes can’t go to concerts because all the people around her will drive her crazy. I’ll never understand why any sort of change can cause her panic. Our thought processes will simply never match up.

All these little instances that don’t bother people like me and you, can literally ruin her day. This has put some serious limitations on our relationship. It’s really hard to get her to try things outside of her comfort zone that she hasn’t tried before, because she doesn’t know the outcome. To her, just thinking about how things might end up will make her worked up enough to the point where she can’t even leave the house.

With that said, we stay in a lot. Our nights consist of catching up on TV shows that we missed during the workweek, reading books and magazines and sleeping. While I love a little R&R, it gets hard to settle into a routine where you never do anything different.

I’ve started to use my girlfriend’s disorder as an excuse to blame myself and the disorder for things that are truly her fault. All the sudden she has turned into the girl who does no wrong. For example, if she says something hurtful and cruel to me, I simply tell myself “it’s just her anxiety talking. She doesn’t really mean it,” or “maybe I am [insert whatever insult here]. Maybe it’s my fault.”

I always told myself after being in one shitty relationship after another that I would never let another girl — especially one who claims to love me — talk down to me or treat me disrespectfully. I’ve let my girlffriend walk all over me simply because of her mental illness. I’ve let her turn into the woman who used to treat me like a queen to the woman that gets away with anything and everything because I’m too scared to blame her for anything.

The point is not to sit here, put her down and make her sound like this terrible human being because she’s not. She’s a great girl. But like any other relationship, she needs to be held responsible for the things she does and says, even if her anxiety is contributing. Even if something is said or done and anxiety is to blame, your significant other should still be able to take a step back, admit that you aren’t in the wrong so you can stop blaming yourself and come to terms with the argument at hand.

We all know that we can’t choose who we fall in love with. We also all know that everything happens for a reason. Whether the reason I was brought to her is for a learning experience or because things will change and we’ll end up together for the long haul, anxiety is something I’ve sure learned to deal with — whether I like it or not.

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