View Full Version : Am I an enabler?
12-01-2007, 11:38 AM
I do not suffer from anxiety really but my husband does. Hence my name. He has struggled with this on and off for years. My concern is how best to help him without inadvertantly helping him to stay this way by "fixing" everything. Such as making things easier for him in social situations...filling in the gaps of conversation when he is nervous (I am a talker, he is not), making up reasons as to why he won't go places so he doesn't appear "weak", going with him everywhere so he feels more comfortable etc. I want him to not suffer but I can't take responsibility for his illness either. Suggestions?
12-01-2007, 12:29 PM
Speaking from a sufferer's point of view, I used to have a girlfriend who was absolutely brilliant with my anxiety problems. Whenever I started to have a panic attack or I felt particularly anxious, no matter what time of day or night, she would say "come on, we're going for a walk" and she'd chat to me about what she was doing at work or something that had been on TV - anything to distract my mind from the anxious thoughts. She would make it impossible for me to dwell on the anxiety.
I used to get really worked up about the physical symptoms that come with anxiety but she would just dismiss them out of hand and wouldn't even let me entertain the idea that there was anything physically wrong with me. She was sympathetic to my problems but she would be hard with me because it was the only way to get my mind off it. As you say, it is easy to be too sympathetic and risk sending the message that it is ok to be anxious.
12-02-2007, 02:35 PM
Thanks Rabid (I hope you never encounter a rabid badger!). We have been married 24 years and he has (and we have) struggled with this for about 17 years. He won't take medications which is fine with me as they don't work well for him, but he tries very hard to overcome the problem other ways. He can go a long time being fairly ok only to have to flare up once a year or so. I can find myself becoming resentful about it and downright angry sometimes as it seems so unfair and then I feel selfish. I think perhaps I need to back off trying to be so helpful--always going places with him if it involves other people or family etc. and stop "owning" his syndrome. Have you found ways to help yourself?
12-02-2007, 02:50 PM
I think you do have to accept that you will not be able to "fix" him and, indeed, to try to involves an assumption that he is some way "broken".
What you have that he dopesn't have is the ability to keep a rational perspective and to see that the only thing wrong is that he encounters fear in situations where there is no material danger. As a sufferer, it is very easy to lose sight of this fact amongst everything else that you feel is happening. You have to be the one to keep his feet on the ground.
I know how hard it must be for you. Unfortunately, my girlfriend left me in 2001 and I couldn't even consider imposing this on anyone else.
12-02-2007, 03:07 PM
Well, he knows full well what is happening as he has done so much research on it. My wanting to fix the problem stems from the fact that I love him and want him to feel good. He doesn't want this in his life any more than I do. In addition to my doing research and making suggestions etc. I also have the paradox of not wanting to be responsible for everything, including the cure to his problem. While I would love to make it go away I also never want to hear about it again! Only the spouses and family members of sufferers can know that torment of being on the other side. Not to diminish his stress of course. It's like your husband vanishes and an alien takes his place.
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