We often use the terms “anxious” and “anxiety” to describe our nervousness or apprehension about something. But, for those who suffer with recurring anxiety attacks, we know all-to-well how real anxiety can interrupt our lives, steal our joy, and greatly affect our role as husbands or wives.
I have been suffering with anxiety since I was a young girl. What started as a little worry would quickly turn into a full-fledge crisis within my mind over time. There is a distinct difference between the non-anxious mind and the anxious mind…
Imagine that you are jumping off of a diving board into a swimming pool. As you plunge into the water, you start to sink down but quickly move your arms to make your way up to the surface to breathe.
This is how we are supposed to deal with worry. The worry may enter our minds, but we quickly find a way to find our way out of it…whether it be through talking about it, thinking about it, reading scripture, praying, etc.. When we handle worry normally, it is not a STAYING place. We just pass through it.
Now, imagine that you are jumping off the diving board, and the minute you hit the water you begin to sink lower and lower. Your arms don’t move. Your chest feels the pressure from the lack of oxygen. You feel the enormous weight of the water all around you. You begin to move your arms back and forth, but you can’t make your way up to the surface.
You are stuck. Paralyzed by fear. You want to make it up to the surface, but the weight is just too heavy.
This is exactly how it feels when we experience an anxiety attack or ongoing anxiety over time. It’s more than a worrisome thought. We want to shake it off, but it’s a much more complicated process for us. For more on this, read “Hope for Those Who Worry”, by clicking here.
Some of you know exactly what I am talking about, while others might see this kind of recurring struggle in their spouses. I am writing this blog to help all of us gain a greater understanding of what it really means to be anxious and how husbands and wives have a great capacity to help each other when one is facing anxiety. Here are 5 things your anxious spouse wants you to know:
1. We are not crazy.
As I described earlier, an anxious mind certainly works differently than a non-anxious mind, but that doesn’t mean that we are “crazy”. Many times, an anxious person is hard to spot because we often put on a “happy face” and are highly-functioning. We try to hide our anxious episodes because we don’t want to burden our families. But, we are not crazy. In fact, we are all-to-aware of our anxiety…and that causes us to spiral into more anxiety. The anxious person has a hard time emotionally and mentally coping with life during a season or many seasons.
2. We can often recognize our own anxiety for what it is.
Most of the time, we KNOW that we are not thinking clearly. We realize that we are anxious. We sincerely desire to get better, but we often don’t know where to start. We feel like a sailboat just waiting for the wind to catch our sail. But, we can recognize that we NEED the wind and want to get out of our anxious downhill spiral.
3. Our anxiety can be emotionally paralyzing and physically limiting at times.
I believe that this is the the hardest one for those without anxiety to understand. When we experience anxious moments, our thoughts become stuck on the worry or stress that we are enduring. It’s like a bird making a nest in our heads and then laying eggs. Then, the eggs hatch and, yes, more birds. Anxiety has a way of multiplying, and sometimes, it manifests itself into a full-blown anxiety attack. During an attack, our heart starts racing, we sweat, we can have stomach pains, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, trouble breathing, and even heart palpitations. It paralyzes us for that moment and eventually passes, but it is as real as any sickness. And, therefore, we must get help.
4. We need your patience and compassion.
Overcoming anxiety is a process that often takes lots of prayer, time, and counseling. Sometimes, medication is needed to help our brains regain and maintain the proper levels of serotonin. I went through years of counseling before I felt like I was able to overcome my anxiety.
My husband, Dave, played an instrumental role in my recovery. He NEVER told me to “snap out of it”. He would listen to me talk about my feelings for hours on end. He prayed with me constantly and would remind me of the truth of God’s Word. He helped me to find a good counselor and showed me great compassion during the many nights I would cry myself to sleep.
I often felt guilty that I couldn’t shake the anxiety, and I remember telling Dave that he deserved a better wife who wasn’t crazy. He would always take my hands, stare straight into my eyes, and assure me that I am his one and only and that we would get through this together. I don’t think I would have recovered without his steadfast support, patience, and compassion. I am forever thankful to him for truly living out the marital vow of “in sickness and in health” during those long, difficult years.
5. Don’t give up on us; there is HOPE in recovery.
I have experienced first hand that there is tremendous hope in recovery from anxiety. More than anything, we need to know that our spouses won’t give up on us. Spouses, we need to know that you believe that we will get better. Please don’t add to our anxiety by trying to rush our recovery process or doubting that we will ever be able to recover in the first place.
Please choose your words carefully. Encourage us to get help. Take us to the doctor/psychologist/counselor. Just don’t give up on us or decide that we will never be able to have a life without constant anxiety. That is simply not true. We must remember and cling to these scriptures:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and love, and self-control.
2 Timothy 1:7
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
God clearly doesn’t want us to live with an anxious mind. It is my prayer that both the anxious spouse and non-anxious spouse work together to find freedom from anxiety and peace in the home.
For more on supporting your spouse and building a stronger marriage, please check out our latest resource, “The Marriage Minute”, by clicking here.
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Thanks so much for reading and sharing. Be blessed!