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To my wife, who suffers from anxiety

Dear wife,

Life is stressful. Sometimes there's too much work and too little time. Sometimes there are too many bills and not enough money. Sometimes there's a toilet that’s backed up or car that breaks down or there's a strange pain in my lower back that won't go away.

Sure, I get stressed. Sure, I get worried. Sure, I get afraid. But it's different with you.

With you everything is more intense. The stress, the worry, the fear.

An upcoming event that makes me groan with dismay might leave your with muscles knotted with tension and your forehead beaded with sweat.

Something that gives me a little flutter of butterflies might make you nauseous. And while visiting family or inviting friends over for dinner might not be a big deal for me, it might leave you up most of the night, thinking of all the things that could go wrong.

I know all this, but now here's what I want you to know.

Sometimes I feel powerless.

I see the problem. And trust me, I want to be able to just say or do the right thing to fix everything. But I can't be relaxed and calm for you. Yes, I can tell you not to worry. I can tell you everything will be okay. I can tell you to relax. But as much as I wish things were different, we both know that it's not as easy as that. We both know whatever I say is just a whisper compared to that fearful howl in the back of your mind.

Please forgive me when I get frustrated.

I know how I'm supposed to respond to your anxiety—with compassion and patience. I know you can't help it, and I know you want to be better. Sometimes the problem just seems so simple in its diagnosis and its cure. A stressor is causing an unwarranted emotional response. Occasionally I might snap at you and make things worse. I'm sorry. I try, but I'm not perfect either. I'm going to make mistakes.

Sometimes it makes me feel anxious too.

It's hard to have so little control over something that is so powerful and disruptive. And I feel guilty for feeling like I'm the victim, when we both know you struggle so much more.

Sometimes I need to do things that keep me happy and sane (and I wish you would too).

Go for a run. Have some drinks with a friend. Go out to lunch with some family. You need to know that I'm not running away from you, or from us. I'm trying to keep myself balanced and healthy, and I want you to, too.

I can't really help how you feel, but you can help me help you. By talking to me. Walking me through your triggers. Explaining what's causing you to feel overwhelmed. By pointing out the things that cause you the most fear or stress. I need you to tell me these things because your world isn't the same as mine.

But I love you and support you. If you're overwhelmed with life you can lean on me. Trust in me.

That's the one thing you don't ever have to feel anxious about.

Love,

Your husband

Duran Valdez is a teacher, father, and husband. He has 3 dogs and a 15-month-old son, all of whom enjoy growling and biting things. Read more of Duran Valdez’s writings by emailing him directly and asking about his day.

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