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It is easy when you are anxious to forget about those who are near and dear, who cope with the depression, the questioning, the doubts, the pain and the tears.  When I first started experiencing anxiety I was in a new relationship with the man who would become my husband.  I remember the baffled look as I pounced upon him sobbing because he was late home from a trip away, and his futile attempts at reassurance as my  fears of imminent health failure reached a crescendo.  He really had no idea about what was happening to me, why I couldn’t be reassured, and why I couldn’t just get on with things and be normal!   

 25 years on I thought it was a good time to ask him about the ways that he has coped with living with an anxious person, and perhaps what advice he would give to someone in a similar situation.

J: What was your first reaction when you realised that I had anxiety?

SJ: Probably to be worried! And then to think how could I help?

J: What happened for you when you realised that you couldn’t help?

SJ: Well it took many counselling sessions for me to realise that the best thing to do was actively listen, to not offer advice but to just be attentive and talk.  Just hang in.

J: What advice would you give to someone now?

SJ: the best way is just to “be”. It’s about being attentive, making time to be together and to share.

J: How do you look after yourself?

SJ: Having work and pleasure apart from you is important, at the same time as also making time and sharing things with you too.

J:How important is the time away?

SJ:Time apart is important in any relationship, I don’t think it is any more important when living with an anxious person

 J:  What have been some of the frustrations?

SJ: Mainly that I couldn’t wave a magic wand and make it all better.  Also when I get a bit down and tired myself, and don’t take the time to listen and share things with you, I can get a bit frustrated.  Sometimes I worry that I can’t make you laugh.

 J: Are there any gifts from living with an anxious person?

SJ: It has made me develop good ways of talking and listening.  I hadn’t realised that listening was so hard! It’s about really hearing what the person you are talking to is on about, without trying to solve everything.  I learnt to ask open questions, and to encourage conversation rather than to stifle it.

J: We have done couple counselling.  What do you think the affect of this has been?

SJ: I was struggling to cope with your anxiety at that time, and counselling helped me to cope and to look after myself, as well as become really aware of what would help you.

J: Could you have done this without counselling?

SJ: No I would have struggled much longer.

J: What advice would you give to an anxious person?

SJ: I would say to keep talking about it.  Sharing an anxiety or a vulnerability brings people together.

In the end there is no magic answer.  I think that for us it has been about listening, talking, challenging my thought patterns at times, getting help when we needed it, and trusting and respecting each other.  Doesn’t sound any different from any other relationship does it?

"Drag your thoughts away from your troubles... by the ears, by the heels, or any other way you can manage it." -- Mark Twain

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