How To Help Your Loved One Recover from Anxiety

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Brittney is taking the week off so that leaves everything up to me for the week.  I don’t want to break tradition so this is my Mental Monday.

The last couple of weeks have been all about overcoming the worst of depression and anxiety from first person.  This week I figure I’ll do something out of the norm and write about my experience.  I’m not too sure with how to start this off so I’ll just come out and say it. Helping a person who is battling depression and anxiety is really, really tough.  Moods change in an instant. My words are taken as a negative when they were meant to be a positive, but because of a change in my tone of voice Brittney’s mind almost always goes to negative. As exhausting as it is, I know that Brittney is going through much worse than she may be telling me.  So why do I do it…  Call me an optimistic but I know that inside of that mind is the exact same wonderful woman that I fell in love with 2 years ago.  All she needs is a little help to be reminded.  I know that there may not be a complete ‘fix’ but all we can do is baby steps in a positive direction. 

From the moment that Brittney walked up to me on 17thAve for our date at Ox and Angela I knew.  I knew that this shining, happy, beautiful woman would be the one for me.  I only found out after a few months (maybe a year) that she was battling a hangover that morning; she hid it very well!  She would always have a smile on her face, even if it meant waking up at 6:30am on a Monday.  She would always have plans with friends at one point or another during the week whether it be for a cup of coffee or a full meal.  Britt just had this way about her that oozed confidence.  And then the subtle changes started creeping in after her try at an Oil & Gas job.

Suddenly the smile isn’t always there, or the upbeat attitude is replaced by one of deflation.  The small things too, little reassurances that needed to be said from time to time eventually became every day instead of every so often.  I should’ve put two and two together then and maybe we might not be here today discussing the baby steps needed on the road to recovery.  Instead we might be doing a ‘Music Monday’ (I just picked the first ‘M’ word that came into my mind).

For me, I think the major light bulb moment came when my job at the time had sent me to the UK for business.  Britt was lucky enough to be able to tag along for the first two weeks however I had to stay for 4 weeks.  After Britt traveled back we would facetime every morning and night.  The morning that stands out to me is when Britt had just woken up and she was so sad that I was 7 time zones away that she just couldn’t stop crying over facetime. I, being my optimistic self, kept saying that it’s less than two weeks until we will get to see each other.  After our facetime conversation, Britt had sent me a text, upset that I didn’t share the same emotions when it came to the distance, and then it hit me. The upbeat, insatiably happy Britt I had falling for has hit a rough patch, and I couldn’t do anything to help her.  I was 7 time zones away and I felt useless. I was faced with a decision to help or to flee, and not once did anything other than help cross my mind. This was somebody who I sat beside in a car for probably more than 80hours on multiple road trips, and still wanted to hear her sing along to Bieber.  Heck, I’d even join in from time to time.

After the UK, Britt’s workload worsened to the point where she would have to call a therapist because she wasn’t sure if she could handle everything at once. Tasks that she routinely used to be able to complete was gradually becoming more of a challenge to get through without her thinking 'am I doing this right?', 'what if they don't like it', and especially 'what if I let them down.'  These and other phrases would keep creeping into Britt's mind and all I could do was bare witness. I would try to oppose any of those thoughts but by this point Britt's anxiety & depression had put up a massive wall that anything I did wasn't going to break it down.  Britt bounced around from job to job for a little bit after that however she wasn't able to hold anything down because the bad thoughts were getting worse and worse. The therapy that Britt was going through wasn't helping at all. Instead of trying to deal with the anxiety or depression this therapist was just trying to get Britt to suppress those feelings. That never works. Eventually, all of the suppressed feelings culminated and hit Britt hard one day while working a retail job in the mall. I received a call from her manager saying that she had just had a conversation with Britt, and Britt had told her that she wanted to commit suicide. I had been laid off from my regular full time job prior to this so I was working retail as well at the time and since I couldn't leave because we needed to be able to pay rent, I just felt helpless. It was time to get professional help.

Britt fortunately checked herself into a fantastic program at the Rockyview Hospital here in Calgary that deals specifically with people who have depression & anxiety.  It was a month long program and it was structured, unlike therapists that just listen to you talk, this was a much more engaging program to help the person try and deal more with the up's and down's of a anxiety attack. There were some days that Britt just absolutely did not want to go.  Those were the days where I would give a little, but helpful, reminder of why she was doing this.  Also if she didn't go, then she wouldn't be able to get the Good Earth coffee as a treat for making it to the hospital that day. Britt was improving with each day she went to the program, she had to miss some due to illness which set her back slightly because then she thought she was letting everybody down by not being able to make it in. After the month, I was so proud of Britt for being able to finish the program and take away valuable information on what it was she needed to do for herself in order to lessen the grip her anxiety had on her.

Britt's weeks after the program were tough.  Since her days no longer had any structure to them (class, group work, one-to-one sessions) she didn't know what to do and would become overwhelmed with even the simple tasks.  At this point all I could do was remind her to take baby steps.  A task, such as getting out of the house, simple to do prior, would have to be broken down into baby steps.  Step 1; get out of bed. Step 2; get dressed. Step 3; put on shoes. Step 4; open the door. Step 5; lock the door.  If Britt was able to do this, then there would always be a "reward". Something to give her ratification that she had achieved her goal. Phil & Seb, or Analog coffee always helped. Prior to all of this Britt had no issues with taking on multiple tasks at work, or writing a large document for school. Baby steps was never something Britt needed to even think about, but that's what happens when your dealing with anxiety. In order to build up your self confidence, set smaller goals, ones that are doable and then assign a small reward for when a goal is completed.  It could be as simple as a cup of coffee, just as long as it makes the person feel good.

I feel as though I'm getting away from my story and just repeating everything that you may already know. Sorry about that, I tend to ramble on and re-explain everything.  With the lack of structured days, and us spending more time in our home, it only naturally seemed like I would keep triggering Britt's anxiety. She would keep telling me not to take it personally but what else can you do? I'm the one who is causing it, so in a way I'm harming her, of course I'm going to take it personal and in doing so I overcompensate with trying to help that I would sometimes cause everything to be worse. Those days were tough, but there was always a voice in my head saying that the Brittney I first met and the Brittney that I know her to be is still in there fighting and I couldn't just abandon her now. I know Britt might not be able to become the exact same person, and that's fine, I'm not expecting her to be.  I love her unconditionally and I will continue to on where ever this journey of ours takes us. I want the best for her, like any partner does for their significant other, and I know it won't be an easy journey, but I also know that we will be able to conquer whatever we want to together.

Brittney is taking the week off to get back to the baby steps.  She wants so much out of this blog and to collaborate with so many great people, she has forgotten to take time for herself and to give priority to herself first and foremost.  Hopefully I can make her proud by taking over the blog for the week. Thanks for following along with my rambles, hopefully the next few posts this week won't be quite as all over the place as I feel this one was.

Cheers,

Isaac