I have finally gotten to the point where I no longer need to be convinced that being single is a wonderful gift. Instead of rolling my eyes and thinking “yeah, okay, thanks for the consolation prize”, I shout from the rooftops and to any person that will listen to me that being single is AMAZING! It is so stinking fun.
Whenever this topic comes up I have often trapped people into listening to my monologue on the beauty and fullness in being single, because I did not always feel this way about it. I’ll write more in future blogs on how God has kindly changed my perspective on being single into something life-giving instead of deeply depressing, but for now we are gonna steer away from the singleness topic to hang out in the dating arena for a minute.
Now, oddly enough, I have found myself on the opposite side of where I used to be. Instead of being terrified of being single, which I used to think meant being “alone”, now I’m scared of dating.
I did NOT see that one coming.
I have dated a lot but also not at all (try to figure that one out!) and what I am discovering is that when you date, it lays you out vulnerable in a way that is super uncomfortable. You are in this limbo place of not knowing how much to share or invest because you do not know where it will go or if it will last. You hope it will last, but what if it doesn’t? What happens to all the emotion, thought, and time you put into that person? Is it just gone? That sounds painful. But you have to share, right? Otherwise there’s no chance of getting close and building a relationship.
Dating is a risk. I struggle with finding the balance between guarding my heart but also sharing my heart. Honestly, I am unsure where the line is there. All I know to do, is to take it one day at a time and follow peace. But man oh man, it is terrifying sometimes!! Dating is fun, too. I love talking with someone and sharing life with them, but once the date is over, and I go home alone with my thoughts, that is when the battle in my mind and heart begins.
Will that be the last time we hang out? I had fun, but did they? Do they like who I am? Is it okay that I am introverted and not always outgoing? Do I like them? Can this work? Will this last?
Then the biggest thing I wrestle with, is wondering if I am being deceived. This has nothing to do with the person I date–this is all based on my own past experiences. I do not want to get caught in a situation of trusting someone again who says they have my best interests at heart but really they are all about themselves. Again, it is a risk in dating that I could date someone who sucks, but I would like to be able to see some of the signs early on–and I think most of us feel the same. I do not think any of us are looking to get our hearts broken, but inevitably it happens sometimes. The only way to avoid that is to take no risks, lock your heart in a box, and live an isolated life. With that in mind, I think I would rather risk and trust God to heal any hurt I might experience, then to have not loved at all.
Though I trust God while I am dating, anxiety still comes knocking on my door. I walk the line of overthinking and thinking just enough to remind myself of what is true about a person I date. I actually have to list out loud to myself, as well as in conversations with my roommate, all the things that have been true of that person so far–like what they have said and done (ex. “I like you“, “I value _____ about you”, I tell myself “They haven’t said or done anything unkind” “They have respected me”, “They haven’t crossed boundaries”).
After that, I feel more peace because everything I have listed is truth and so it pushes the anxiety and fear out of my mind and heart. I wish that I only had to do that once and then I was good, but that’s unfortunately not the case. This is a continual process, that I hope(!) as I continue to bring it to the Lord, he will help me to trust and have peace, not worrying if someone is trying to manipulate me.
Walking through years of subtle manipulation changes you. In my particular experience, the lies and the blame I received from my manipulator were laced with just enough truth about my character to cause an identity crisis by the end of the relationship. I no longer trusted my gut instincts when it came to other people, because I did not trust myself—so now I struggle to not need other people’s constant affirmations on my decisions in relationships. I never want to be fooled again. It makes you feel weak, small, confused, anxious, sad, and really really tired.
In the relationships I have had since then, I did not realize that not everyone experiences the sort of anxiety and overthinking that I was facing almost daily. A little bit of overthinking is normal, but my mind was swirling at a record speed, my heart almost beating out of my chest, anxiety paralysis and resisting self-sabotage were a normal occurrence for me.
I asked my close friend, whom I often voice my anxieties out loud to, if she experienced any of this in her long-term relationship, because I was trying to gauge if the anxiety was a sign that I needed to stop the relationship. She said, “no, not really. I have always been comfortable and felt certain about how he feels about me, BUT my trauma is not in relationships like you–I experience my anxieties in other places. With what you have been through, it makes sense that this is really difficult for you, and it’s clear you’re trying to not let the past dictate your present–but it’s easier said than done. You were used by someone who said they loved you”.
Man–I really do not know what I would do without good, wise friends who know the depths of my life and heart. They can see the feelings I do not know how to express and they understand the fear even if they have never faced it. I have said it before—anxiety cannot be faced alone. You desperately need a community of people to support you and remind you of truth.
Due to my chronic illness (PCOS), anxiety is something I will most likely always face in some capacity. Each day I am learning a little bit more about how to not let it control my life, but also practicing grace in recognizing there are aspects of it I cannot control. Just like someone who breaks their arm, I can put my arm in a sling, but I have to follow the process for healing, and sometimes there are parts of your arm that are never the same.
Here are some ways that I reduce anxiety in my life:
–Movement that I enjoy (ex. running–yes I actually find this fun, for you it could be dancing or riding a bike, or walking)
-Routine/SelfCare: This is a hard one to stick to for me (so lots of grace is necessary), but this does a world of good (ex. Reading in AM/PM, skin routine, Bubble baths, putting my phone away at night, sleep/wake up at same time, daily time with Jesus)
-Counseling: I started going in August 2020 and WOW, I have grown so much since then. Everyone should be in counseling for a little bit.
-Community: I make time for friends every week, no matter how much work I have to do. Relationships are necessary.
-Knowing who to Call: I have friends I call for friendship anxiety, friends that I call for work anxiety, friends I call to speak truth to me, friends I call so I can cry, friends I call to be reminded of who God made me to be and of how far I have come, friends I call when I just need someone to listen so I can get out of my head. Some friends have been all of those types.
I spread it out so I am not relying on one person–and it’s important to note, that these are two sided friendships, these are relationships that have earned the right to speak into each other lives because of years of work put in. So just as much as I need them, there are many times when I am the listening ear or voice of truth for them. It’s not healthy or kind to treat a friend like a counselor and not support them in their lives, too.
-Nutrition: Learning how to make sure my body has what it needs so chemicals are less unbalanced and I am able to feel more stable. (ex. less coffee, more vitamin D, magnesium, etc) *If you have anxiety I highly suggest seeing what your body is lacking in nutritionally
-Rest: Just like I make time for friends, I always create and protect times of rest. There will always be more work to do, so if you don’t make time to stop, you could keep going forever. God rested and he commanded us to do the same. (ex. movement, coffee with a friend, a nap, a date night with yourself) Trust me, I am a recovering perfectionist and over achiever combatting the pressure to do more—but if I don’t rest, my body will eventually force me to (chronic fatigue)
-Fun: Sometimes I look back on my week and realize I didn’t really do anything fun, so no wonder I am so wound up! I love watching TV, but I wouldn’t necessarily put that in the fun category. (ex. going on a road trip, walking somewhere new, exploring a bookstore, going to a concert, deep conversations with a friend, singing, spontaneous dance parties in the living room, playing video games, etc)
Anxiety is never fun and our thoughts are not entirely a choice. But I believe we don’t have to be held captive to our thoughts—we can examine them and then throw out what doesn’t hold truth. This takes time, GRACE, community, and is not a practice that you can become the best at—you just keep doing it. I think there will be times when this is easy to do and times when it will be hard, it will ebb and flow, just like life does.
I encourage you to pick one or two of the ideas above to practice in your life and see if it helps reduce your anxiety.
Some days, all I can muster is a desperate prayer asking God for peace and truth. If that’s all you can do today, friend, that is more than enough.
P.S. For more on anxiety check out The Lie That Unravels Us
P.S.S. My counselor recommended a book called How to Avoid Falling In Love with a Jerk 😂 Highly recommend. Good balance of faith, psychology, and research studies on relationships.
P.S.S. Relationships, Singleness, and mental health are some of my favorite things to write about—that being said, I’d love to hear your story and how/if anything I write about connects with you! Writing helps me process, but more than that I pray that my experiences somehow encourage and remove shame from you—that you’re reminded that it’s okay to not be okay and God is still good and faithful, always!