Me, Dating and Anxiety – Rant of the week
Everyone gets anxious about something, some more than others and about almost anything you can think of. Their weight, their jobs, their face, their knees, their height, if anyone heard that fart that squeaked it’s way out and so on. Then it hit me, like a runaway car full of epiphany, a lot more people seem to suffer from anxiety than I realised.
I’ve been in a few (like 3) serious relationships in my life and each one has taught me something about myself, the opposite gender and in this case how anxiety is more common than runny poached eggs and brunch, it’s everywhere and it can get on everything. Today’s rant is about an education and realization about what I believed to be true of the people in the world and more specifically the people I choose to share my time, morning coffee and bed covers with. Hopefully without offending anyone in the process.
Anxiety by definition
For any of you who don’t know, here’s a super short course. Anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, that can be mild or severe. People that suffer from anxiety tend to have it participating in their daily lives and makes a lot of situations difficult to deal with if not managed properly. The anxiety can manifest in several different ways such as panic attacks, anger, seclusion, lack of sleep and much more.
You can read more here if you’re curious.
You are not alone in your anxiety
I consider myself to be quite secure and confident but I wasn’t always this way. I recall a time, possibly when I was 14 or 15 when I used to avoid looking at myself in the mirror because I didn’t like the person reality insisted on sending back to me, to this day I don’t completely understand why. Maybe it’s just one of those things everyone faces when growing up.
I thankfully grew up in a time where mobile phones and the internet were only just becoming a thing. When you agreed to meet someone at that phone box or store at 13:20 you bloody well did because there was no efficient way to bail. So it’s not like I was bombarded with unrealistic body and facial expectations from Instagram or Facebook, or a victim of cyber bullying, I just wasn’t a fan of the way I looked and was generally clueless about every aspect of life, but what teenager isn’t?
I was also perpetually broke which took a more damaging turn when I started paying Rarely Encounter Nice Tenants money. That runaway epiphany mobile hit me again and I realized nothing was going to change unless I made movements in my life to make things better, working harder, knowing that mistakes are there to be learnt from and thanking my chocolate stars that I at least have a pair of healthy arms and legs in order to do that.
Whatever I didn’t like I worked to change and whatever I couldn’t change I learned to accept and live with.
Although it seems that my way of thinking is actually not as common as I thought, the problems not as simple and the answers not as obvious.
That anxiety isn’t a symptom owned by a select few and a large majority are battling a little internal monster, telling them they’re not good enough and that they’re better off not trying because they’ll probably fall over and fail anyway.
The concept is amazingly illustrated by Jamie Squire’s comic Brain Fluff.
I’ve recently heard from my closest friends that they suffer from some sort of anxiety, something that I thought wasn’t a factor in my social circle. My brother and my sister have suffered from some sort of crippling anxiety and I wouldn’t be surprised if more people I haven’t asked are going through or have been through something similar.
Dating and Anxiety
At 30 I joined dating apps and was bulldozed by new anxious thoughts freshly baked by the reality of dating. I developed an insecurity about my height, questioned my level of general attractiveness and battled a strange wave of anxious thoughts born from being ghosted, rejected and receiving responses that were two days late. I see you online Jenny!!
My initial experience of dating was a feeling of inadequacy, like I wasn’t good enough for the type of person I wanted. The second was a nervous fear of texting the wrong thing in the wrong way to the wrong type of person and being dropped like a piece of underwear that you suddenly realize isn’t yours. The third was over analyzing and deconstructing received messages to try and find hidden intentions or agendas, is she actually interested, did she get the wrong idea about what i said, should I have sent two “xx”s or three “xxx”s and “OMG I said their instead of they’re”.
And so I ended up lowering my standards or allowing certain behavior that I would normally frown upon or raise the loudest alarm bells just to try and validate or measure my worth.
Which in it’s own way caused me to use dating apps even more than I needed to.
I tried to create a system or make sense of the anxious chaos I associated with dating, I tried to crack its code, I didn’t want it to feel anxious in it. So I did just that. Created methodology and causality in my head to make things easier to deal with because all of a sudden they made sense, well… more sense than usual.
To many this is a strange and somewhat weird way to process dating. I mean it’s only dating right, what’s the big deal. But I like to think it was just my way of managing this new mental struggle and this blog is like a by product of my experience of dating. Although not many are able to manage the anxiety associated around it.
What I learned from dating the anxious
I have occasionally been told that I have a Hero Complex because I seem to be with women that suffer from major anxiety. That perhaps I crave the feeling of being someone’s pillar of support, their cup holder or that wooden peg that restaurants use to hold overly stuffed sandwiches together. I’d roll my eyes and make a huff in disagreement trying to bat away the label.
Instead I think that support is something that you should offer to someone you care for, although perhaps my level of support is somewhat unnatural and detrimental.
My mistake: During my relationships I struggled to understand what I needed to do or say in order to absolve the issues that plagued the individual I cared for. Be it better words, better actions, more forward thinking, less forward thinking, tough love, patience, the moon on a stick.
Little did I know that it was rarely about what I did, said or thought, almost like there was another version of me they pictured, made from mud and various emotional elements. Re-enacting a script that they predicted and foresaw in their minds, an inevitable bomb-like future where every action only cut time off a predetermined fate.
What I learned: I learned that sometimes I was powerless in trying to find a solution to an issue that I didn’t quite understand. I put pressure on solutions that made sense to me but didn’t resonate with the individual I was with. This sometimes caused friction and frustration when that same issue popped up again. Almost like trying to put out a forest fire with a bucket of water.. while facing in the wrong direction.
My mistake: I also found myself down playing the effect of taxing conversations, where I had to almost prove my standpoint in the relationship. Reciting what I thought was logical evidence to uphold what I thought was present reality. Keeping my feelings in check when my character was questioned or almost assaulted in order to match my mud man impostor.
What I learned: I eventually learned that sometimes, maybe even most of the time, it was rarely to do with anything I had done or failed to do and more about how they feared the relationship would eventually coming to an end. In hindsight I should have been more honest about how I felt and tried not to take things too personally, focusing on the fact that it wasn’t completely about me and telling them that everything was going to be okay.
Of course it’s not like I am without fault, I’m sure I made actions that triggered some of the anxious feelings in my relationships.
I mean I have a blog called “Diary of a wannabe f**k boy”, happen to have numerous female friends and still buddies with an ex or two. Some would say I may be the common denominator in these anxious relationships, that the majority would feel like dating me was like building a foundation upon restless jello sat on a hot stove.
As someone who’s quite logical and isn’t necessarily an anxious person it’s hard to relate to and understand what goes on in those who happen to be anxious. I am somewhat lucky that I have been able to date individuals who I considered to be quite anxious.
It has taught me a lot about understanding the worries and thoughts around anxious behavior and to be more understanding and patient. It also caused me to go off and dig the web for information about it in order to try and understand it better and to maybe become more supportive and mindful.
Anxiety is something that we as a society are now becoming more and more accepting and understanding of.
As a guy it is quite uncommon for us to share our thoughts about how we feel, sometimes putting the ball of chaotic feelings in a little box that we occasionally feed distractions to keep it at bay.
I encourage others to really ask how their loved ones are feeling and just being an ear or shoulder. And if you are someone who suffers from anxiety it’s more than okay to seek help and support, be it professional help or just a beer, burger, gin or vegan meal with a friend. It definitely isn’t easy but its most definitely worth it.