“How would you feel about going away for a weekend?”
I froze, sitting in the car, suddenly aware of the thrum of the wheels against the pavement, the fragility of the windows, Guy – relaxed and easy, driving, and unaware of my fight or flight reaction.
“No rush on deciding,” he continued, voice easy and nonchalant, throwing a smile my direction before focusing back on the road. “but I was just thinking it might be something fun for us.” His own uncertainty slipped out then, as he hurried to add, to reassure, “I want you to feel comfortable, though, so don’t let me pressure you if you’re not ready.” He offered two location options, and then a third with more of a ‘surprise’ potential.
As quickly as my anxiety reared it’s protective head, it settled back down, coiling up like a wary, sleeping dragon with tendrils of smoke and steam still sidling from its nostrils. It wouldn’t take much to stir it up again, but for now, it lay somnolent.
This was nearly two months ago, and I remember blinking a little at how quickly my anxiety had risen and been vanquished, all in the same breath. Prevaricating, I held off agreement to the plan and first let myself ruminate a bit. Planned a few outings, a day-trip, and one or two nights in the same house but different beds due to plans the following day or a late night. All of these passing without a hitch, I agreed to our weekend away. Despite a little nervousness, I found myself looking forward to our time away. I’ve had a lot going on lately, and I needed a break from the hustle and bustle.
Some people just have peaceful souls, and Guy is definitely one of them. He has a knack for soothing away the nerves that tend to lead to my anxieties. It is hard to accept reassurance, or someone doing things for me, or planning things with no expectations. I keep waiting for the shoe to drop, and realize that any shoes have already been neatly placed right where they belong. It’s disconcerting, in a new way.
Our first evening of our weekend went smoothly, games and a movie and a lovely easy dinner out. One thing led to another, and we shared some more intimate moments. Although not everything went perfectly or in the ways we expected, we were able to laugh a little and still enjoy ourselves.
And then came time for us to sleep.
The first night I’d shared a bed with a man since leaving my ex.
That last year with my former husband I spent a lot of time forcing myself to do things when I frankly didn’t feel safe doing them. Something I feel is a huge contribution to developing anxiety problems, when your instincts, emotions, and logic are all in competition for what is right and healthy to do.
For me, this meant:
- I trained myself not to ever fall asleep first.
- I experienced intense verbal abuse if I snored, which contributed to the above.
- My ex constantly blamed me for his own inability to sleep, but complained if I slept in another room, came to bed late, and refused to sleep anywhere else either.
- The one time I did try to go to sleep first those last 6 months, too exhausted to stay up, my ex came in just after I had fallen asleep. In a mild fury, he stormed around, ranted, and yanked the blankets off the bed (and me). I just huddled in a little blanket on my side and tried to ignore it.
- The last week in our home, I was terrified that I would betray my plans for leaving and stir up his anger. So the man who I was terrified might hurt me in my sleep, would cuddle up behind me for a little while before bedtime and hold me until he decided he didn’t want to any longer. And I felt like I had no option but to allow it.
All of the above, would have made it difficult sleeping with someone again. (Literally sleeping, not figuratively.) But I think it was that last one, alone, that triggered me. I found myself following a circular logic, beginning to obsess about the sensation of being held in that exact way again. What made it so frustrating was that it wasn’t unpleasant, I knew it wasn’t my ex, it felt different, and yet my anxiety began to spike. Before my body could completely betray me, I slipped out for a glass of water, sat out in the main area of the cabin, took a Xanax, and tried to calm down.
It didn’t take Guy long to follow me, concerned. I don’t have solid memories of breaking down, just know that I burst into tears and began shaking so hard that he had to deftly retrieve my glass of water before I sloshed it all over the place.
And here I am, trying to reassure him that it isn’t him, that he didn’t do anything wrong, and feeling miserable because I can’t do anything but convulse like a crazy person. I am hyper-sensitive about being a burden, about keeping someone from their well-deserved sleep, and used to suffering through my anxiety in private. (Gee, wonder why?)
It’s all a blur now, but a comforting blur. Him asking what I needed, asking if he could hold me, waiting for an answer before bundling me up next to him on the couch. He coached me to breathe, counting slowly. He hummed, delightfully, sweetly off-key but I didn’t mind. They say a panic attack will pass in about ten minutes, but it took about thirty for me to calm enough for rational thought to return. Exhausted, wrung out, I needed to try and sleep again.
“I am sleeping on the couch.” He said. “It’s important to me that you know you are safe.”
And he really meant it. We went on to have a truly wonderful rest of the weekend, and the next night I slept wonderfully in his arms.
I don’t know what my future holds, but I feel unbelievably lucky in my present. Even as amazing as Guy is, it is still hard to trust. Hard not to wait for the worst. It is hard to shake suspicion and fear entirely, even when he’s given me no reason.
There are definitely things that will make a relationship with us challenging, the slightly codependent relationship with his family; his weight has made a few things difficult already (though he is striving to be healthier, which I admire). But I deserve someone who treats me right, and he certainly makes that look easier than I ever realized it could be. Without resenting me, and my needs, that make life more complicated.