When you get involved in a serious romantic relationship with someone, it’s practically inevitable that you become a support system for your partner. The tricky part, however, is dealing with the skeletons that come out of your partner’s closet, and your own for that matter. For me, my skeletons consisted of anxiety, panic attacks, and depressive episodes.
Like many other teen couples, when my romantic partner and I got knee-deep in our relationship, we both realized that we had some emotional baggage to carry. Emotional baggage can stem from family issues, identity issues, mental illness, past relationships, and practically any past experiences that were either negative or damaging to that person’s happiness.Emotional baggage, however, is different for everyone and doesn’t always seem clear or obvious in any two people. Sometimes we hide our emotional baggage at the fear that our partner will see it as a red flag and want to leave, and sometimes we can’t help but let it all out and have our partner along for the ride.
Emotional baggage, however, is different for everyone and doesn’t always seem clear or obvious in any two people. Sometimes we hide our emotional baggage at the fear that our partner will see it as a red flag and want to leave, and sometimes we can’t help but let it all out and have our partner along for the ride.
But the issue with emotional baggage is not really the baggage itself, but how it is handled. For instance, many times in the past when I was faced with an uncomfortable situation or my feelings were hurt, I would choose to either internalize the situation or have a complete panic attack where I exploded all my feelings on to my partner.
Anxiety and depression are complicated mental illnesses that leave us feeling angry, hurt, sad, alone, and confused. When we unintentionally project our angry and confusing feelings on to our partner, we are often wrongly misunderstood by the partner or make them believe that their love and support is not enough to help us get through our meltdown, especially if the meltdowns aren’t a one-time thing.
Well, I’m here to tell those frustrated partners that your love and support is enough, and while it’s hard to watch someone you love go through an anxious episode, remember that your partner isn’t hopeless. Every human being has a chance for happiness, but they have to fully realize that chance on their own sometimes.
Here are a few tips for supporting your partner through their anxiety:
While anxiety can take a heavy mental toll on your partner, you can be deeply affected as well. When your partner is having an anxious episode, try your very best to remain calm.
Anxiety is built upon rational and irrational fears, so remaining calm allows your partner to see that everything is okay, while reassuring them that whatever they’re going through will eventually pass.
Reassurance is Necessary
In the midst of an anxious episode, your partner may feel like he or she is going to lose their mind, have a complete mental breakdown, and even die.
I cannot stress how important it is that you reassure your partner by making them feel mentally safe. One way to do this can be to remind them that the sun rises and sets every day. Remind your partner that they too, like the sun, will eventually be able to fall asleep and wake up the next day just as they did the day before.
“The sun is a daily reminder that we too can rise again from the darkness, that we too can shine our own light.”
Other encouraging phrases include:
- “It’s okay, It’s okay”
- “I’m here for you with whatever you need right now”
- “Take deep breaths in and out. We can do it together.”
- “I know this is hard right now, but everything is going to pass.”
- “You are not crazy, and I love you. We are going to get through this together.”
Take Control, but DON’T Manage
When your partner is experiencing anxiety, it’s likely that there will be a million different thoughts running through their head. First, make sure that you don’t ask your partner to make any crucial decisions.
Now, you are no mind-reader, but it’s not hard to figure out what options might be best for your partner during an anxious meltdown.
Take control of the situation by grabbing a glass of water, even if your partner doesn’t touch it, just have it there.
Here are other calming distractions to encourage:
- Taking a hot bath or shower
- Change of scenery- a walk or drive home
- Yoga, stretching, breathing exercises, meditation
- Spending time with a pet
- Coloring, writing, reading, arts, etc.
- Phone call to a relative or loved one
- Cuddling, touching, massage- make sure to ask permission as some people prefer to remain in their personal space during a meltdown
Remember, you definitely want to encourage some of these different coping methods, but never force anything.
Remember Your Partner Doesn’t Need “Fixing”
Often times, anxious episodes can evolve into fights or disagreements between partners. When your partner is having an episode, yes it will be frustrating, hard, and scary, but that doesn’t mean your partner needs “fixing”.
Anxiety isn’t just a whole in the wall that can be fixed and painted over because anxiety is something that one must learn to manage, not get rid of. Anxiety is at the heart of people’s feelings and personality, it’s a part of them, but that doesn’t always have to be seen in a negative light.
At the root of all anxious feelings is a sense of caring, but your partner may not be able to appreciate, or even understand, this part of their personality.
People with anxiety actually happen to be some of the most intelligent, unique, and compassionate human beings as they are so deeply in tune with their feelings. Don’t make your partner feel like they’re mentally inferior or a problem. Instead, encourage them to achieve a state of understanding, acceptance, and above all, awareness.
When the Going Gets Tough, Talk Therapy
As I mentioned earlier, anxiety and dating is complicated. Anxiety attacks and situations of panic must be dealt with in an appropriate and supportive manner. Otherwise, we could be making our partner’s mental stability worse.
If your partner’s anxious meltdowns feel like they’re constantly happening, calmly discuss therapy or group therapy as an option when your partner is feeling better.
The idea of therapy can be extremely intimidating, so make sure to thoroughly research several therapy options with your partner to find the most comfortable fit.
You will also want to reassure them of this option by offering to come with them to a few sessions, or at the very least, to drop them off/pick them up.
A person experiencing constant anxiety attacks is likely to understand little to nothing of their experiences and feelings. This is why your partner can never go wrong with therapy because it enables them to piece their feelings and experiences together toward a direction of recovery and awareness.
If your partner takes you up on the offer to join the session, make sure to listen as you might learn new things about anxiety too.
By: Julia Poggi de Mendonça, AiT Contributor