By Shehr Bano Hassan
CN: Anxiety, relationships, food
Discussions of intimacy, relationships, and sex, often leave out those of us that struggle with anxiety. In fact, when researching, I found that most articles on the topic only talked about how anxiety “kills the magic” of a relationship. This is not true. Anxiety does not have to be a formative feature of a relationship at all. You don’t need to “protect” your relationship from it. It may be a part of your life, but it does not have to be your enemy. It’s taken me a while to realise this, and here are some of the things I learned along the way:
1) You don’t have to tell them – but if you do, be honest and straightforward
Truly opening up to a partner takes longer and more energy because our minds have to process things more closely, focusing on the details. Many times, I found myself analysing each sentence my partner had said, or even a facial expression. But remember – your mental health is yours to disclose. Take your time, think things through and never feel pressured to open up prematurely. When you are sure, be as clear and as truthful as possible. Let them know at your own pace what it is that you want and need in the relationship so that you may be able to work with your anxiety, rather than constantly against it. Trust me, it’s exhausting and will rub off on your relationship.
Communication is the antidote to overthinking. Saturating your partner with every stream of thought that passes your mind may not be the healthiest, but keeping them in the loop about your feelings, doubts and desires is the surest way that you remain on the same page. Begin with sharing feelings and asking for reassurances. If something bothers you or feels particularly triggering, tell them straight away so that you don’t have to dwell on it for long, no matter how trivial it may seem. Whatever is easily resolvable in the moment, make it clear so that you don’t have to carry the burden on your own. It’s not your job. A helpful tip for me was coming home at the end of the day and talking to myself in the mirror. I explained my feelings in detail to myself. Soon, it became easier to explain my feelings to others.
3) Avoid over-dependence
Once you find yourself in a healthy, trustworthy relationship with someone you can depend on, it’s important to practise a healthy level of distance. No, you don’t have to distance yourself emotionally, but taking time out for yourself and your friends is an important way of ensuring yourself and your partner have lives outside of the relationship. During this time, engage in self-care. Working on eating healthy, taking up a hobby or simply meeting up with friends can help give you a new confidence to take into a relationship. In order to engage in a healthy relationship, we must learn to be on our own so that we don’t see our partners as the remedy to our ailments. It’s hard, but worth it.
4) Know when it is time to let go of someone who isn’t healthy for you
This is something I wish every guide included. Recognise the signs. If your partner is not compassionate about your anxieties, it is time to let them go. Like I said, your mental health is yours and not everyone will understand it. Dependence may not be healthy, but empathy in a relationship is essential for someone with anxiety. If they are unwilling to communicate, listen and reassure you even if it feels tedious, they may not be a suitable match. It is so much easier said than done, but always put yourself first and thank yourself later. I promise, you will still be worthy of love.