Hey everyone, apologies in advance for this insanely long post…
I should probably mention that I don’t suffer from any pre-existing conditions, (mental or otherwise), am not on any medication, nor do I suffer from alcohol, gambling or a drug addiction, but am posting here as my life has recently been severely impacted by a partner with General Anxiety Disorder.
I’ve been in an amazing relationship for almost 3 years now, and in the first week of August, my girlfriend abruptly left, put all her stuff in storage and flew back to Denmark (we lived in London). The background; About a year and a half ago, she was diagnosed with GAD after starting to see a therapist on a regular basis, on my suggestion and the urging of her GP. Some of the accompanying symptoms included fairly severe hypochondria, migraine headaches, disproportionate fear of loved ones dying, OCD, and separation anxiety whenever we were apart (She is also a victim of a sexual assault that occurred during her late teens- she’s 25 now). She has also been diagnosed with Hypothyroidism. She also went through a phase of self-harming when she was younger. From the time we started dating (about 2.5 years ago) up until the end of June/beginning of July this year, everything was beyond amazing. We never fought, argued or had any unpleasantness at all. I always tried to be understanding and supportive of her fears and condition(s). We took amazing holidays to exotic locales together, her parents and sisters liked me enough that her father was in the process of hiring both of us into his transportation company to send us down to South America to open and run a shipping office down there. Our sex life couldn’t have been better, and we often spoke of marriage, a home together, and a shared future. We were very close, and would text or call 3-4 times (average) daily. She always told me that she loved me more than anything, that I was her whole life, and that I made her a stronger, more confident person (confidence and shyness are things she has always struggled with-I accepted that, and tried to build her up into a more confident position). She often told me she imagined her first name with my last.
Stress has always been a major factor that affected her life. I was aware of that, and always went out of my way to be supportive and understanding of her Anxiety Disorder. About 8 months ago, the position in her fathers shipping company (the South American office) opened up. She and I both love travel and foreign adventures, so we talked it over, and finally put a proposal to her dad that we would like to work for him in that capacity. After thinking it over, he agreed, and said that it would be September/October that we’d be sent down after several weeks’ training. From that time onwards, we were both very excited for this opportunity, and hugely looked forward to it. Things carried on in that manner until roughly the end of June/ early July, when she got a huge promotion at work (rising up from sales assistant to full boutique manager overnight, in a top end jewellery shop in Central London). Almost immediately I sensed a change in her. She became constantly stressed out (effectively non-stop), exhausted, and would have to be answering txts and emails as late as 9 at night after she was home. To me it seemed as though there was a real shift in personality- she seemed to stop being the happy, sweet, fun girl I’d fallen in love with- it felt as though the job were draining the life out of her. After several days, I told her that I was worried about the impact of this promotion, on our lives, and the possibility of a shared future. I said I was worried it might lead to a breakup, but that that was the last thing I’d ever want. We made up the next day (I promised to give her space and support during this stressful time), she promised there was nothing to worry about, and that was that, there was nothing more to be mentioned. The following days and weeks, she simply seemed to get more stressed (often accompanied by a huge, angry looking rash on her chest that seemed to show up at times of high stress), and it was as if there was suddenly a glass wall between us. All she would talk about and think about was the job (but not in a positive way, only in a stressed, overburdened way). I had promised to give her space, and I kept that promise and held my tongue, while trying to be as supportive as possible. I began to feel a bit frustrated that not only was there no sign of this lessening, but if anything it seemed to be worsening. She grew distant and withdrawn, and whenever I’d ask if there was anything she’d like to talk about, or if there was anything wrong, she’d just say it was work. I wrote all this stress, exhaustion and the aforementioned ‘glass wall’ of distance and withdrawl, down to work stress. We still spoke frequently about our upcoming move to South America, and she always seemed excited. We even discussed getting married once we were settled down there. I made a special effort during this (apparently) stressful time to make our spare time together fun and distracting, taking her out to dinner once or twice a week, and film or two. She mentioned around this time (several times) that she wanted to get her thyroid levels checked as she thought they might be off, and she’d need an adjustment in her medication. She eventually told me she was seriously thinking of quitting her job, as she hated it, and just finding something short term in between then and when we left. I said I thought it was a good idea, in the hopes it would lessen the tension. She still seemed withdrawn and stressed, but I thought, if this patch could just be weathered until we moved, all would be well. At the end of the first week of August, she came home, and I could instantly tell there was something wrong. I eventually dragged it out of her; she burst into tears, and told me she didn’t think she could do ‘this’ anymore. When I asked if she meant the job, she said ‘no, us’. I asked her what it was, what wasn’t working for her in the relationship, what issues it was that could be addressed, and she said ‘I don’t know. I just don’t know. I wish there was something I could point to, but there isn’t.’ I asked her how long she’d felt this way and she said about 5 weeks, (going back roughly to the end of June, early July). She said ‘I still love you, but I’m not in love with you’, and ‘You’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve been nothing but amazing, and you don’t deserve this, I’m so sorry etc etc’, and ‘you’ve helped me so much’, and also ‘I’m not happy’. All this was accompanied by fits of sobbing. I told her that if she was having second thoughts about moving to South America, that was natural, and if she didn’t want to, we could easily forget it, and not go. She said no, that she didn’t want to go, but that wasn’t just it. I asked ‘is this it then? Are we done? Are we breaking up?’, and she said ‘I don’t know’. I asked if she loved me enough to try and make this work, to try and work out whatever seemed to be the problem, she said ‘I don’t know’. This whole delivery sounded (to me anyway) panicked. The next day, I suggested that given the situation, the best thing for both of us was time apart to give us space to breath, relax and calm down, and gain perspective and clarity. She agreed (but said ‘I don’t want you to be blindsided and think this will be a quick fix’- I said no of course not, but it might give us just the first step to repairing this), and that night, packed all her things, and put them in storage. The next morning, she packed the last of her stuff, said ‘bye’, and moved in with a friend. There followed a series of bizarre texts and attempted phone calls (which I didn’t return as I was far too emotionally raw, and knew that nothing productive could come from a conversation so close to her departure). 48 hours later she was on a flight back to Denmark. Only 2 days ago did I send her the first text, and we’ve had a 1-text-per-day thing so far, nothing remotely committal, or deep, simply neutral, low investment, almost small-talkish stuff, with an almost formal tone (on her part anyway). Everyone who knows us has said how sudden, random and unexpected this is as we were apparently so amazing together. In the days and weeks that followed this separation/breakup (?) I put time and insomnia to good use, and read up on GAD, hypothyroidism and consulted with a therapist who specialises in both relationship counselling and stress disorders. Her opinion of this matter was that the multitude of stressful events (both current and future- the huge promotion and all its accompanying stress, the imminent change of job, continent and culture, plus the prospect of marriage), stressed her to breaking point, and she’d ended the relationship before it ended her. From what I’ve read on various anxiety/mental health forums, I’ve found very similar threads of relationships where people who suffer from GAD felt they were losing control due to stress, (for whatever reason- job, education, marriage proposal or moving), so took control by ending it. Other threads I found showed situations where there may not have been a specific ‘trigger’ for the anxiety (such as job change, marriage etc), but their anxiety caused unfounded and intrusive thoughts about the relationship, almost like ‘relationship hypochondria’- looking for and imagining problems where there are none. I don’t know if this rings true, or sounds familiar to anyone here, but hoped I could find some insight into this frankly horrific situation, hopefully from someone who suffers from GAD and can relate.