Anxiety, Relationships and Self-Esteem: A Love Story
Anxiety can get tangled up with relationships and self-esteem. It’s Valentine's day this week which will also mark me and my partner’s six year anniversary as a couple. I'm lucky. We have a very close, equal and happy relationship. However, the process of falling and being in love has been tricky, and I have been hounded all the way by my depression and anxiety. Anxiety affects relationships and self-esteem.
Anxiety and Self-Esteem Issues in Relationships Cause Complications
The short story version of “us” has been pretty idyllic. I was the shy first year university student who never thought that the handsome, older boy across the hallway would notice her, until he did. The early days of our relationship played out dreamily during long walks around our countryside campus where I couldn’t keep the smile from breaking across my face. Earnest talks over afternoon coffee would turn into impassioned late night discussions and blissful lie-ins where we could have been the only two people in the world.
As we have matured, our relationship has strengthened. I cannot adequately express within the space of a couple of paragraphs how the reciprocated love and support of a kind and wonderful human being can brighten even the darkest of hours. If you yourself have known this kind of love then, of course, I don’t have to express it further.
Low Self-Esteem from Anxiety Hurt My Relationships as a Young Adult
The long story version of our relationship, however, is slightly more complicated. To say that I suffered from low self-esteem as a young adult would have been a severe understatement. Dating was somewhat of a challenge, to put it lightly. I found it difficult to believe that anybody would find me attractive, let alone want to pursue a serious relationship with me.
I'd had bad luck when it came to matters of the heart. I dated people that I didn’t find remotely attractive and let them use me and hurt me, pitifully grateful of being “wanted” in a physical way. I was pressured into doing things that I wasn’t yet ready for. I even lost my virginity to somebody who broke up with me the next day as a joke. My early years of love-seeking confirmed my own assessment that there wasn’t really enough of a complete person in me to love.
Would Anxiety Let Me Have Good Self-Esteem and a Healthy Relationship?
Suffering, as I have done with mental illness, anxiety, I never thought that I would be capable of having a healthy relationship and this is a worry that still rears its head even during the times when I can barely keep myself from singing with happiness. In the early days of our relationship, I didn’t like taking photographs of us and I didn’t change my facebook status for months afterwards. I didn’t want to create anything that I felt I would eventually have to crumble and forget.
I felt as if I was carrying a precious vase that the slightest wrong movement would shatter irreparably and, worst of all, I felt as if I was bracing myself for how painful that would inevitably be. I found myself trying to be as flippant and casual as I could about being in love despite the fact that my heart felt as if it was 1000 stories high, blasting out every Valentine’s Day card cliché in the world.
Although love transformed me, I was, of course, still mostly me with all my various fears and anxieties. As anyone with a mental health issue knows, opening yourself up to somebody completely and letting yourself be vulnerable can be terrifying. My other half suddenly had to deal with a girl who sometimes had to sleep with the light on, shouted and hit herself for no reason and had panicky meltdowns that could last hours or even days on end. Being so close to another human being for the first time can be tense for anyone but for a person with mental health issues, this can be especially testing. Having someone see you at your most tearful and paranoid can be distressing for both people involved.
Forging a Relationship That Doesn't Damage Self-Esteem and Helps Anxiety
It’s a struggle enough for anyone with mental health issue to be able to form a solid identity and to be able to share this identity confidently with others. This becomes even more complicated when you find yourself combining your identity with another. Forging a relationship involves a somewhat messy process of “fitting” yourselves together. When you aren’t exactly sure who “yourself” is, this can feel daunting, to say the least.
Moreover, my other half is opinionated, outspoken and has a much more confident social persona than I. It was, at the very beginning, easier for me to cross over seamlessly into his views and to adopt his music and film tastes. I was frightened of us being separate. I was frightened of getting it wrong. I had to take a very deep breath indeed before I was willing to take the plunge and bring out the real me (Trusting And Expressing Your Opinions With Anxiety).
Anxiety and Approaching Relationships That Benefit Self-Esteem
Anxiety and depression sufferers need to be mindful about how they approach their serious relationships. I am lucky in that I have found somebody who has been extremely kind and patient with me at every step and hurdle for the past six years. You need that. You need somebody who will listen to your anxious, repetitive thoughts as well as your jokes and light-hearted chit chat. You need somebody who knows how to say the right thing at the right time when you feel like the world is collapsing in around you. Don’t settle for anything less.
When you do find someone special, make sure that you can be open with them about your problems, if and when you choose to involve them in this personal part of your life. Talk to them and let them understand. Don’t be afraid to open up and let them know the whole of you. Most importantly, figure out an identity which is separate to his or hers. Make sure to pursue separate hobbies and have time to yourself to consider your own thoughts and opinions. Read books, chat to new friends, order food that is different when out on a date. Don’t forget to grow as a person as well as a couple.
Being in love every day takes time and effort and is a process rather than a state of being. It isn't always perfect like in the movies. However, with the right person it can be so much better than perfect.
How Anxiety Affects Your Romantic Relationships and Self-Esteem
Banim, J. (2016, February 10). Anxiety, Relationships and Self-Esteem: A Love Story, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, August 7 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2016/02/my-anxious-love-story-mental-health-relationships-and-self-esteem