My husband and I grew up very differently. We’re the equivalent of night and day, yet we work well together. There’s him, the logical realist who looks for solutions and ways to improve. Then there’s me, the anxious and high strung woman who seems to look for problems rather than solutions.
My husband is a fixer. Being the fixer he is, his nature tells him to step in and fix whatever problem there is. He racks his brain for solutions and Googles how to’s. He checks out online groups to see what other people are saying. He’s always looking for the best way to help. He’s a go-getter! It’s admirable and appreciated.
However, Mr. fix-it has gotten into a bit of rut by trying to fix me. I can be helped, but I cannot be fixed. Over the years, we’ve gotten into arguments over this. He’d say things like “Why can’t you just…” or “Don’t worry about it…” He’s been learning about my anxiety and depression for eleven years now and he’s gotten better at helping me out. To help him help me, I’ve developed a list of pre-approved things he can do:
Ask me how I am or how you can help
A simple “how are you doing” helps. If I give you a one word response, feel free to further investigate by asking “how can I help”. Once I answer that, which is usually “just be here”, then please just be here. I know It can be frustrating when I shut down and I feel bad about it. But there’s nothing I can do. It just is. There are times when I can snap out of it and other times I just need to wait it out. Sometimes just asking me how you can help or what you can do is all I need.
Just be there
Following number one, sometimes I just need to know that you’re there. I need to know I can trust you and know that you wont leave my side. Being there provides so much more for me than talking ever would. Your energy and closeness give me strength and I’m reminded that I am not alone.
When I’m ready to talk about, I will. Please don’t push me. Sometimes I have a hard time putting my feelings into words and pushing me to do so when I’m not ready or when I can’t find the words can cause my anxiety to heighten and I can become someone who is rude and mean and I don’t like that person. When she comes out, I feel worse and the guilt of me not being able to express myself for someone’s understanding becomes overwhelming. It does nothing to help me or my anxiety. If anything, it digs a deeper hole and makes it harder for me to climb out.
Try to distract me
Sometimes distractions work. Be funny and make me laugh. Tell me you need my help with something and if I feel well enough, I’ll come to your aid. But, following number three, if I can’t, please don’t push me.
Give me a hug/hold me
I find that hugging is very therapeutic. Being held feels very good when I feel like my insides are going to explode. Being held makes me feel like you’re keeping that potential explosion contained. It holds me together and that can make a huge difference and deter the freak out. Physical contact is a powerful thing and can derail a potential anxiety attack.
This list seems small and it doesn’t appear to be a big deal, but it is. This list is a big part of me getting through my anxiety and depression with my partner. After trial and error, this is what works for us. I hope this list can work for others who have yet to find a way for their partners to help them.