Kerrie Wilkinson blogs about her experience with anxiety and how it impacted dating and life with her boyfriend.
Kerrie is a 20 year old journalism student who has suffered from panic attacks and anxiety for 12 years.
I don't remember a time when I haven't obsessed over the worst possible outcome of every situation I've been in. The most painful part of it is, there's a place in the back of your mind that's totally rational and it tells you you're being ridiculous - but it can't shout loud enough.
"The simplest of tasks, such as getting on a bus, can consume me with dread."
I had never been able to open myself up, completely, to anyone. I've actively and totally avoided friendships. Relationships were totally out of the question.
"Last September I began speaking to someone and, for once, it didn't make me nervous."
I didn't feel like my every word would be scrutinised. My anxiety just didn't switch on. I was entirely comfortable.
It was a bizarre, alien feeling. Much of my social anxiety revolves around men. I feel ever so slightly more relaxed in the presence of women. Perhaps it's a maternal thing, I don't know. So for this person who made me feel secure to be a male was frankly crazy.
I decided I needed to tell him about my anxiety troubles before I met him. In fact, it wasn't a decision, it was a necessity. I had to explain why it took me two months to muster the courage to go on a date with him.
"You might not want to tell someone immediately. But I think when you find the right person, it becomes easier."
Write down what you're going to tell them beforehand, if that helps.
We met in a local pub. I was fuelled by a number of vodka and cokes - I don't recommend this but it helped me. Two dates later, he was my boyfriend.
I would like to say "and we haven't looked back," but that would make it sound like it was easy. In a sense, we haven't looked back. I'm still comfortable, amazed and very in love with him. But to say anxiety hasn't plagued parts of my mind during my relationship would be a lie.
I still think the worst in almost every situation. I sometimes still think the worst in him. It's a difficult task, as however crippling my anxiety gets for me, I imagine it's just as bad for him.
"It's hard for anyone who doesn't suffer from anxiety and panic attacks to understand why you're the way you are."
I can see that it's incredibly frustrating for my boyfriend. But what astonishes me is how hard he tries to understand. If you can find someone like that, you're lucky - and luck isn't something anxiety sufferers tend to believe in - unless it's the bad, don't walk under that ladder or step on the cracks kind.
My boyfriend has managed to push me enough to live but not push me too much to worry me. I, like I imagine many other anxiety sufferers have, have missed out on so many experiences, so much life. Right now, I feel like I've been given a new chance. As I say, I still have crippling thoughts, and that little rational voice in the back of my head still can't quite shout loud enough for me to hear it.
To tell you finding a partner will cure your anxiety wouldn't be right of me, but I feel like my mind - overthinking, irrational, nervous - has been coupled with the most rational, laid back mind. He has neutralised me.
Again, I am incredibly lucky and thankful to have found someone who doesn't judge me and actually tries to help me, in terms of my anxiety. No anxiety sufferer should settle for anything else.
"You cannot be made to feel like you are a problem, an inconvenience."
Sometimes, your anxiety will annoy your partner, in the same way it annoys you. Sometimes, they will get fed up of having to order your food too. They will scorn having to tell you they're alright for the thirty-second time that day. But they should never make you feel any worse than you do already. Try not to feel guilty.
"You're going to have days when you feel like a burden, but I try to remember what I do for my boyfriend."
He deals with my anxiety, and I deal with his inability to remember anything - including my birthday. Ebb and flow, give and take.
It's difficult to give advice, as every relationship is incomparable. But I hope everyone will find someone who neutralises them.
You might not hear that little rational voice in your head, but someone else will.
Read about anxiety and panic attacks
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