When I first started dating my now-husband, Taylor, I was scared.
I don’t mean scared like, “I’ve never dated anyone seriously and I don’t know what to expect”, I mean scared like, “I can’t sleep, I’m short of breath, I cry at least once a day, and my mind is constantly racing.” I was in full-fledged panic-attack-mode for four months straight.
Why did I stay with him if the relationship seemed to be impacting my life in such a negative way? Because it had happened to me in the past more times than I could count. I’d never been in a serious relationship because I never let it get that far. As soon as the romantic feelings would start to creep up, so would the anxiety. Suddenly, my mind would attack itself with fears and questions, my breathing would become a minute-to-minute struggle, and the tears would flow as I no longer enjoyed being in a relationship that caused me such pain.
It. Was. Awful.
When Taylor came into my life, I knew I wanted to stop that cycle and experience a truly peaceful and God-honoring relationship for the first time in my life. I just didn’t realize how hard that was going to be. Taylor was worth the fight, but I’d gotten really good at giving up at the first sign of fear, and I didn’t know the first thing about pushing past it.
I tried anyway. I pushed and fought and clawed my way through four of the scariest months of my life. I thought about breaking up with him every day and saving myself from the hard work and the sleepless nights. I didn’t want to keep going, I wanted to give up, but I knew if I did I’d have to go through it all over again with the next boy. And I knew Taylor was worth the work.
Before I tell you how I worked through my fear, I just have to take a minute and celebrate the real MVP here. I mean, Taylor went through four months of severe panic attacks from me and still wanted to marry me. He endured daily texts and phone conversations (did I mention this was all long distance?) from me saying things like, “I don’t know if I can do this anymore” and didn’t complain once about how I was dragging his heart up and down the rollercoaster of my emotions. His only response was to continuously encourage me and pray with me. What a guy!
Here are a few “tricks of the trade” I learned, without which I guarantee I wouldn’t have been able to get through it.
Prayer. Outside of classes and counseling, I feel like all I ever did was pray and read my Bible. Not because I’m a super awesome Christian or anything, but because that was the only thing that seemed to quiet the voices in my head. I made a list with a bunch of verses that reminded me that fear wasn’t God’s intention for me (Phil 4:6-7, 2 Tim 1:6, Joshua 1:9, 1 John 4:18, etc.), and plastered my walls with verses and prayers and quotes.
Friends. I had one friend specifically who was monumental in this process. She constantly encouraged me and reminded me that Taylor was a great man and I needed to stick it out. She prayed for me and over me. She answered my incessant stream of questions without growing tired. I’m so thankful for her! But I also learned that I needed to heavily guard myself from friends who would unknowingly bring me down. In the Christian sphere, anxiety and other mental health issues are often unfortunately looked down upon. Friends would hear what I was experiencing and discourage me from continuing the relationship because of what it seemed to be taking me through. I don’t have any ill-feelings about those friends because I know they didn’t mean me any harm, but it taught me the importance of discerning who I needed on my team and who it was wiser to keep in the dark.
Counseling. Wow. I am such a fan of counseling. In my opinion, it’s something everyone should do, even if you don’t think you need it. My counselor listened without judgement, asked questions to make me think, and was an incredible source of accountability for me.
If you’re struggling through fear and anxiety right now, trust me, I know how it feels. I know how sucky it is and how badly you want it to end. I know how all-consuming, relentless, and seemingly hopeless it is. I get it.
My encouragement to you: Don’t give up. It’s worth the fight. I promise!