Hello! Welcome back all! Unless this is your first time reading these articles, this is week six, go back to the start and catch up.
So after last week’s slightly funnier article, thought I would give you another slightly serious one. I’m going to discuss what dating with anxiety is like. This is a very personal one as anxiety affects everyone differently. What might trigger or help me, might not be the same for another person. So this isn’t a how-to sort of article. But if it helps one person, then I have done my job. Even if you just take away that you’re not alone.
Dating with any sort of mental health problems is hard, that is just a fact. I, obviously, can’t comment on what it is like dating with other mental health problems but I thought I would let you in my personal experiences with dating with anxiety. To disclaim, I don’t really have that many experiences because, my single life doesn’t really involve a lot of dating and it’s more just unattached sleeping around so there isn’t a lot of time for my anxiety to flare up during dating. But there were times when feelings were caught when I could have done without them that did trigger Gertrude (for those of you who forgot, that’s what I call my anxiety).
So, for me, Gertrude first really appeared after my first experiment with not being single ended. The first year after that I call it my dark year. A year I don’t tend to talk about because it was not a good year for me, but it was when Gertrude took permanent residence in my brain. However, if I’m truly honest with myself, she made visits during my time with my ex, but I never knew what that was. I remember from time to time I would constantly worry that he would find a reason to break up with me, which became a self-fulfilling prophecy. I would also think I wasn’t good enough for him, which is ridiculous because I’m amazing and he was average. I think I was so worried about keeping everything good in the relationship that I forgot to enjoy it and then it ended. Obviously, some of it steamed from not backing myself enough, but, for me, that is when Gertrude really pops up. But during my four years of being single I thought I had pretty much dealt with Gertrude, and she only visits for holidays. However, she really popped up again when I was with experiment with not being single number 2. Old triggers that I thought I had dealt with kept popping up. Overthinking the whole thing, over analysing texts and interactions. Many breakdowns on the phone to my friend happened questioning whether it was all worth it etc. Word of advice, if you ever question if a relationship is worth it and it makes you more stressed than happy, it is a sign that maybe you should leave it. Obviously, it’s not always as black and white as that. But in the first month of a relationship or dating or whatever, you should not be as stressed about things as I was. But it was all a learning curve for me, because I had never dated someone after dealing with anxiety. Another thing I learnt during that time was talking about my anxiety with the person I’m dating, which was an experience for me. So I thought I would break down some things for you all.
Now, as I stated at the start, this isn’t a how-to as everyone deals with anxiety differently and gets triggered by different things, but I wanted to share what helped me in the past and what I’ve learnt.
I think the main thing for me is to start to rationalise the irrational. I know when Gertrude pops up it is irrational things, taken from hurt from my past and what not. So I take a step back and try and figure out why this has triggered me. I either call up a friend and just talk it out with them or I journal it. The most important part is letting my friend know as to whether I want their advice on the situation or just to have them as a sounding board for my thoughts. It’s people’s natural instinct to help a friend out who seems to be hurting, but sometimes, having someone else’s voice in your head, as well as your own can make it even more confusing. This also applies when it comes to talking to your partner if you’re triggered by something that means you need to talk to them. But yes, if you catch yourself overthinking and over analysing seemingly innocent things, take a step and evaluate before you go down into the hole. And just remember, if it is making you unhappy more than it makes you happy think about if dating this person is worth it.
Another thing that comes up a lot between my friends and I and just in general, when did you bring up your anxiety or any other mental health problems with the person you’re dating. And the answer to that, there isn’t a “right” time. I mean, not a great idea to bring it right away on the first date, because the first date is never the time to overshare, no matter what the TV show seems to say. However, the real discussion is if you should sit down the person you’re dating and just tell them all so they understand you better. That’s also a tricky one because that it is a lot of the other to take at one go too. I guess it just depends on the situation. With the last guy I dated, I brought my anxiety up in a very natural discussion after debating as to whether to just sit him down and letting it all come out. The one I went with was a lot better for my mental health because it felt less pressure on myself. So, I feel, my rule of thumb as to when to tell the person you’re dating about any mental health issues, is just let it come up naturally or when you feel comfortable talking about it. But it is something that needs to be talked about. Obviously, you don’t have to give them your whole life story, but if you are going to become serious with someone, they need to know so as to know how to act when you have bad anxiety day or what not. But also, it’s good for you to know if you’re with someone that can handle that, because not everyone can. Obviously, if they are worth it, they can be taught, but it could help you decided whether to cut your losses or not if you’ve already spent a lot of time stressing about the dating part. And one last piece of advice, something that I learnt from experiment of not being single number 2, actions speak louder than words. They may say all the right things, but they might not act in a way that is good for you.
That is all for this week. I don’t know if that helped anyone, or if it made any sense, but it was something I wanted to share with you all. And it was a hard one for me, it gave me anxiety just writing it. Remember, I am not a trained in any sort of psychology, I don’t even have a degree in it, I have a degree in history. Women with anxiety in the past were said to have hysteria (wahay) and were told to basically have a wank and get it over with (which isn’t a bad idea sometimes). If you’re really struggling with mental health remember to reach out to a professional or even just a friend to have someone to talk to.
Tune in next week when I will be teaching you how to boss a one-night-stand, something I know a lot about.
Remember, single life is a choice, just not always your choice, but it’s how you deal with it that makes it worthwhile.
Aunty Raff xx