Dating is hard enough at any age but add anxiety disorder and it sometimes leads to disaster.
My last serious boyfriend before I was diagnosed with “anxiety disorder” was my high school sweetheart. We went everywhere together: weekend trips with his parents, restaurants, batting cages, concerts and many sporting events. I was comfortable with him always driving because he had a pretty cool car (and he looked hot driving.)
We broke up when I started my sophomore year of college. I was devastated so I really didn’t want to date anyone for a while. I just wasn’t ready. Instead, I focused on my academics. Right before my junior year, I started getting serious with someone. He was funny, attractive and just a really nice man to be around. Unfortunately, this was right around the time my anxiety disorder reared its ugly head. I went from spontaneous dates to, “Want to watch a movie tonight at my apartment?” Pretty soon, he dumped me telling me that I was boring. I couldn’t blame him, to be honest. I never wanted to leave my apartment.
For the rest of college, I never had a serious relationship.
First dates consisted of meeting at the campus coffee house. If it went well, a second date would be at my apartment usually starting off with a movie and ending up in bed. That’s pretty much all I wanted at that point in time. No commitment, just sex. If he wanted to go out again, I ended it. I wasn’t ready to divulge my dirty little secret – my anxiety disorder. See, in bed there usually isn’t a lot of talking. Outside of the bedroom? There was no way I would be able to handle a relationship.
After moving back in with my parents after college and started my job, I still wasn’t confident enough to begin a relationship. Not to sound egotistical, but at that time in my life, I was 5’9, weighed about 120 pounds and was a size 4. I was extremely confident in my looks. I wore trendy outfits to work and crop tops to show off my abs to the clubs on the weekends. Dancing with a guy at a club? Great. Making out on the dance floor? Even better. Asking for my phone number? I was the girl who gave out the wrong number.
It wasn’t until I was 24 that I met someone that I was ready to take the plunge.
I met him through a friend. Our first date was at a restaurant, but I met him there. I was definitely not ready to give up my control of the situation. If I drove, that meant I could leave whenever I wanted. This new man in my life let me get away with that for about a month but then he confronted me. He asked why I never wanted him to pick me up for a date? Why did we always have to drive separately? Why were a lot of our dates at my apartment watching movies? I knew it was time to tell him the truth.
I explained that I had anxiety disorder. I started from the very beginning: the onset, the therapy, the medication I was taking and most important, how my anxiety disorder makes me feel. I told him that I thought he would laugh at me it I got sick in public. What if he got made at me if we were at a party having a great time and I needed to leave? Was he going to be embarrassed that I carried Xanax with me all the time? He listened, not really saying too much.
I couldn’t stop babbling because I was so nervous. He looked at me and told me he loved me.
Of course, then I started babbling for a whole other reason. This was the first relationship and ever had with my anxiety disorder and I was scared to death of what a man would think of me. Shame on me for distrusting so easily.
We dated for about a year but unfortunately things didn’t work out. We kind of drifted apart. But I will never forget the best piece of advice he ever gave me that night. He said, “Everyone has issues. You are not alone.” That’s so true, isn’t it? The woman sitting next to me on a plane might have anxiety about flying. The man who sits next to me at a work meeting might have depression. I learned a wonderful lesson from my ex-boyfriend: