You meet, fall in love and this develops into a long-term relationship … and the last thing you’re expecting is for your partner to develop anxiety. You just don’t see it coming, and yet when anxiety comes, it really comes, and everything changes.
I’ve been on both sides of this: first as the person in the relationship who developed anxiety, and then as the person who was there for my partner, Rhoda, when she developed anxiety.
Both times were tough. Both times we survived.
This is the second post in a two-part series from Dr Nic Lucas on living with anxiety in a relationship. You can read the first part, in which he speaks about his own battle with anxiety, here.
When Rhoda had anxiety
So, about 10 years later, the roles were reversed. Rhoda developed anxiety for completely different reasons and with completely different symptoms.
By now we’d had children, and at that stage they weren’t great sleepers. We hadn’t had more than 3-4 hours of uninterrupted sleep for 6 years. One of our kids had also developed epilepsy, and we seemed to be constantly at the doctor—so this was thrown into the mix.
Rhoda was sleep deprived over many years and was deeply worried about our child. All this strain had to show up somewhere in her life, and it started as the physical symptoms of heart palpitations, numbness, headaches, and blurred vision. Because she didn’t feel anxious, we didn’t think anxiety was the cause.
As the symptoms persisted though, she then got worried about her health—really worried. She’d had a couple of friends develop neurological disorders and another had breast cancer. Rhoda was sure she’d also developed a horrible disease and was worried that she’d miss out on seeing the kids grow up.
Because of the physical symptoms, we went to the doctor and a series of medical tests were orders. Biopsies. Blood tests. MRI’s. X-rays. This all took the best part of a year to sort out, and during all this time Rhoda became highly anxious and our conversations were preoccupied with discussions of her health and our kids health and lot of ‘what ifs’.
Again, looking back, I don’t know how she kept it all together. She still had her work and kept up being a great mum. We were both still up all hours of the night with one or other of the kids. On top of that, we had multiple hospital visits with one of the kids who had a total of 6 weeks off school in one term.
For the most part, I handled it all pretty well, even though I was deeply saddened by the situation we were in. At times it felt quite hopeless and I felt powerless. Neither us, nor the doctors, knew what was wrong with Rhoda and we had no idea what was going to happen to our child with epilepsy. It all just seemed so random and unpredictable.