Help with articles to explain anxious mindset to non-anxious SO
April 19, 2020 5:58 AM   Subscribe

I'm riding the daily emotional rollercoaster, as one does when anxiety is part of life. He's the exact opposite, and can't understand my struggles. Can you point me to articles that will help someone with a stoic, analytical mindset understand what it's like to be me?

I'm an introvert and usually just fine by myself. I have what feels like a "coping mechanism roadmap of the day," and I just do what I need to do to manage.

When things disrupt that, I can spiral out into panic and sadness and all the bad stuff. I avoid news and drama. What hurts is that even facetiming or phone calls with him trigger the worst upsets, because they remind me of how hard it is to be away from loved ones. I want to stay in touch but that can paradoxically make it all worse. Then I'm managing his feelings because he's upset that I don't want to spend virtual time together.

To someone who simply does not have a history of anxiety, what analogies might help? I would like to find well-written articles that approach this dichotomy from a partner situation.

To clarify- I'm not interested in activities we could do, or different ways to connect, etc. We are OK on all that. What I seek are articles and commentary about this specific dynamic, where one person is anxious and the other is not, and how to help the non-anxious person understand the other's mindset.
posted by I_Love_Bananas to Human Relations (6 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Here's an article, but I'm wondering if you can kind of expand on this and add some more personal touches if this doesnt map to your experience exactly.
posted by ananci at 6:21 AM on April 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

I'm the stoic, analytical one, and years ago a friend like you actually did post an article that finally shut up my internal "but couldn't you just... not?" with a firm "no, they really can't," and I'm looking for it for you! I'm not sure however if it was really that one article or more the accumulation of all the things that friend and others share in that general vein. I do know that it wasn't so much analogies as managing to communicate the concept of... overwhelm that's actually truly overwhelming? Because fundamentally I have always felt basically capable of dealing with everything that's happened to me, and I'd have to imagine really extremely bad situations to get to something that I would say "okay, that might stop me in my tracks," and I had to accept that for other people it wasn't like that. And that the feelings I feel when I worry about something actually have basically nothing to do with what people who have anxiety are talking about. I have a friend who has a ton of anxiety around caring for her young child, for example, and I seriously just need to check my impulse to commiserate because when I say I worry about my kid getting sunburn, for example, it's this abstract "it would increase their lifetime chance of skin cancer, and also hurt, so I'll use this good sunscreen I researched and apply it as directed, " and for her it's clearly much more existential and research/rational plans don't actually help but rather become one more aspect to potentially do wrong. So yeah. I hear you and I'm sorry! I will read the links here with my experiences in mind, and look through my bookmarks/history for good stuff.
posted by teremala at 6:42 AM on April 19, 2020 [6 favorites]

I'm analytical and logical and also have anxiety. A lot of it is a physical response, and I hope you have some guidance for dealing with the physical reality - affirmations, relaxation, breathing, etc. My brother taught himself some techniques to reduce time spent perseverating on stressors; sorry, I don't have details.

You have told your partner This is my experience. This is how I feel. Here is the response that would help. Presumably, you are being kind and listening, being a good partner. I'm concerned that you're taking responsibility for his feelings, that maybe you're trying to justify your feelings. You're managing his feelings because he's upset that I don't want to spend virtual time together.

facetiming or phone calls with him trigger the worst upsets, because they remind me of how hard it is to be away from loved ones.
You might be able to set up a schedule for brief calls, and end promptly, to reduce your anxiety.

He's okay. If he wants to understand anxiety, a simple search will find vast quantities of articles. If he is upset by your behavior in response to stress, he should figure out how to cope, ask questions, etc. You're okay; anxiety is a real mental and physical state and is a quite normal response to a very dangerous time. You are coping reasonably well, and do not need to take responsibility for his feelings. Ask him if he's okay. Ask him if he needs help. Talk to him. Otherwise, this is just part of a relationship in an extremely stressful time. I have been really surprised at the reactions of people I know to this event; people are falling apart in so many ways, stress is coming out in so many ways. It requires a certain tolerance from all of us, and lots of kindness.
posted by theora55 at 7:11 AM on April 19, 2020 [5 favorites]

I'm an almost constitutively anxious person and I remember my friend (who basically does not get anxious ever) lost his very beloved dog for one day and after they (fortunately) got reunited, he commented that now he understands what anxiety is like. He really hadn't felt like that before and struggled to understand when other people talked about anxiety being so disabling. Is there some past experience your SO can tap into to help him understand?
posted by needs more cowbell at 10:14 AM on April 19, 2020 [3 favorites]

I am also an analytical person who struggled for a long time with my own internal feelings that I should be able to "out think" depression.

American culture IMO has deep beliefs that mental health is easier to overcome than physical health, and even well-meaning folks have that bias that runs deep.

Funnily enough, your post made me think of Rob Lowe in Parks and Rec, where he gets the flu and tries to will his body to "stop! pooping!" and expects it to work because his character is extremely healthy usually. Maybe the metaphor would help? No one (well, mostly...) expects to simply ignore and out-power the flu. You know that getting up and making toast isn't objectively that hard, but knowing that doesn't help you actually do it when you're sick. I feel similarly about anxiety: you can know perfectly well that lions aren't eating you, but that doesn't magically make the symptoms go away.
posted by nakedmolerats at 3:11 PM on April 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

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