This post was written by BIA contributor, Chelsea M. Becker
I’ve talked about my struggles with anxiety before, and I know I’m not alone in dealing with it. It’s a problem that’s unfortunately become somewhat common in our busy culture, and one that I’ve accepted I’ll likely deal with for life.
But just because I know what it feels like, when it’s coming, and how it affects me, something that was really hard for my husband was understanding it. He doesn’t have anxiety, never has, and probably never will. So years ago, as we moved in together, he was able to see how it crippled me at times – and honestly, I know it freaked him out. He’d do his best to help me through it, but naturally, it caused some hiccups in our relationships.
You see, I deal with pretty intense sleep anxiety, which trickles into other areas of my life. If the house is a mess, it makes my anxiety worse and I can’t sleep until things are cleaned up. If someone is watching TV late or making noise, I can’t sleep. It’s hard for me to deal with vacation houses or trips with friends, which affects our travel. It’s a pain in the ass, but it’s simply how I function.
When we started sharing a life, there was a constant struggle to essentially live under “my terms” – or what felt like it. I was constantly nagging him to clean up or be quiet or whatever suited my anxiety, which I hated, and of course he felt like he couldn’t live his life without affecting my anxiety or stressing me out. It sucked.
It was about this time that I went to see a therapist for the first time – to deal with my anxiety. And like a lot of people say that therapy does, it instantly affected me in a great way. The therapist told me that instead of simply nagging my husband to do something a certain way – I needed to understand it was actually the stones to my happiness (and not to look at it with anxiety as the root, but happiness).
Just like it was important to him to have food in the house and NFL Network to keep him happy, it was important to me to live in a minimal, clean home and to have quiet time after 10 p.m. It was just a fact. I wasn’t a horrible person or even selfish, it was simply the facts that made me happy. Surely, I did things that made my husband busy (like deal with sports on our TV 24/7), so I needed to allow myself to request certain things that made me happy as well!
After discussing this with my husband, then boyfriend, he definitely saw it differently, like I did when the therapist brought it up. And he was a lot more likely to clean up that plate or to buy headphones for the TV late at night. Because it made me happy. Looking at happiness vs. a necessity for my anxiety totally changed the game for us, and our relationship.
If you’re struggling with how to either understand someone’s anxiety or are the one who has it, I urge you to try this idea of what makes someone happy vs. looking at it as an answer to anxiety.