Anxiety is one of my defining characteristics. It has been since I was just a kid. Back then, adults would call me an old soul or a worry wart, but in truth, I was dealing with a serious anxiety disorder that I didn’t know how to express. I was six years old the first time I remember laying awake for an entire night worrying about things I couldn’t change. I was in fifth grade the first time I threw up from stress.
Anxiety has been a constant for me since I can remember. It came to a head in my twenties, and now I work with my doctor to control it. I am doing my best. I’ve learned a lot of my triggers, and most of the time I’m okay.
But sometimes I’m not okay. Anxiety is like that. Sometimes, I’m not alright even when I’m doing everything in my power to keep myself regulated.
In those times, my husband’s mellow, calm, peaceful presence is almost always exactly what I need to get me through. His ability to stand firm in the midst of my most frenzied panic attacks has saved me more than once.
My man handles the stress of a crisis better than anyone else I have ever met. I have been with him for seventeen years, and I have never seen him panic. When shit hits the fan, he keeps a level head and handles the situation without getting worked up. Does he feel stress? Absolutely! But it doesn’t overwhelm him. He is amazing at breaking things down into manageable pieces. My husband doesn’t get bogged down by the weight of a whole entire problem. He is almost always able to see a way through, and trusts himself to solve or cope with whatever we come up against.
It’s completely foreign to me.
He’s not just great in an emergency–he’s an even-keeled, no-stress kind of guy every day of the week. When life throws us a curveball, I go to the panic place, and he remains totally calm and starts figuring out our logical first step.
My mind invents horrifying scenarios at the first hint of trouble. You know that old saying in medicine about hearing hoofbeats? My husband’s mind tells him horses. Mine tells me rabid attack zebras.
He is an endless ocean of calm and my hurricane of anxiety can’t overwhelm him. His peaceful presence helps keep me from spiraling out of control. With his support, I can stop a panic attack in its tracks. I can feel my heart rate return to normal and my body begin to relax.
It’s not that he doesn’t understand how heavy life can be. He isn’t disconnected from his feelings at all. He’s actually really sensitive and able to discuss his emotions without a lot of trouble. It’s just that he is able to see a sticky situation through, and then, when things are stable again, he lets himself dissect all the feelings he had along the way.
He knows how to be a rock when I need to be a mess. He’s done it for me a million times. He also knows that as soon as my mental health is back on solid ground, I will be there for him to express every bit of his own fear, stress, sadness or frustration, too.
Being married to someone who operates at this level of calm can also be frustrating. It means he’s generally not going to react in a big way, no matter what. Someone could knock on our door with a giant check for a million dollars, and he would just grin big and say, “No way!” No jumping up and down. No shouting. Definitely no running around. That’s just not who he is.
Sometimes I think I just want a little more from him. Once in a while, I wonder how it would feel to be married to someone who is able to match the intensity of my big feelings.
But that’s not who he is. If emotions ran on a scale of one to ten, I might be at a two and an eight in the same hour. He is almost always chilling between four and six. Even though his demeanor frustrates me sometimes, I know in my heart that it’s what makes him perfect for me. I’d never change it.
If I’m the high-strung racehorse, he’s my calming goat.
I happened to marry my calming goat out of sheer, dumb luck. It wasn’t by design. We were teenagers when we met, and my anxiety disorder hit an all-time high several years into our marriage. I fell ass-backward into love with the right person.
Everyone who struggles with an anxiety disorder or who is prone to serious stress could benefit from finding a support person with this kind of personality. It doesn’t have to be your partner! You can rely on a parent, friend, counselor, mentor or clergy member. It’s just beneficial to identify someone in your life who is able to maintain a sense of calm when you need it, and whose presence brings you peace. More than one person can fill this space. My best friend and my dad are both on deck for me if I need them, too.
My mind sometimes tells my body that danger is lurking around the corner, even when I’m completely safe. Anxiety is the monster under my bed. I’m grateful to have the love and support of a person who can help me cope. It’s made all the difference.