10 Nigerian Women Living With Anxiety Talk About Navigating Relationships

June 22, 2021

Living with an anxiety disorder can be frustrating especially when in the company of those who do not understand it. In this article, ten Nigerian women living with anxiety talk about how it affects their relationships

Black woman worried and anxious standing

Bimbo, 25

I’m always scared that something bad has happened to my partner, so daily calls are a must for me. The worst thing a partner can do to me is to give me the silent treatment. I would be scared that they’ve been kidnapped or something worse. I broke up with someone a few months ago because of this. 

It’s the second time it’s happened. He ignored me for about a week and when he messaged me, he said I said something he didn’t like. Meanwhile, I kept texting him and calling every day but he never responded. A part of me knew he was ignoring me but I thought he couldn’t do that to me — he knew about my anxiety. I couldn’t forgive it, I had to let him go. 

Bibs, 33

I’m diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Panic Disorder.  In my previous relationship, I couldn’t talk about it because I was still trying to accept that anxiety was a part of my life. I used to hide my pills so they wouldn’t ask any questions. 

In my current relationship, I started out not wanting to talk about it either and it was easier because it was a long-distance relationship. Whenever I went to visit her,  I wouldn’t take my pills because I didn’t want her to find out but then I started having mood swings. Eventually, I told her about it. 

It was heavy for her to handle because she had not met anyone living with anxiety before me. Sometimes, she would think I was overreacting or say, “it’s all in your head”, which was the truth but it wasn’t as simple as that. 

I asked her to educate herself on anxiety and when she was done, she was more understanding — she avoided trigger words and helped calm me down in times of distress. I also try to be more understanding with her because I know it’s difficult. For example, my pills help boost my moods but it also affects my libido so we came up with a plan. On days where I don’t feel like having sex, she can touch me while she gets off on her own with my consent.  

We navigate every day differently but it takes genuine conversations and understanding that the world isn’t as black and white as it might be portrayed.  

Alex, 19

My anxiety comes from childhood trauma. I didn’t attend to it so now it’s way worse. Thankfully, I have friends who are accepting and understanding. Romantic relationships, on the other hand, have not been smooth. I’ve had someone leave me because according to him, I required an unreasonable amount of attention and it was too much for him. 

Recently, I had an argument with this guy I’m getting to know because he felt like my anxiety is “our” anxiety. I’m an emotional person and I love being in romantic relationships but once doubt sets in, my anxiety and insecurities come alive. There’s not a lot he can do about that. I tried to explain to him that as much as I appreciate the effort, it’s not a battle we get to fight together but he thinks he can help me get through it. I don’t like the idea of that because I don’t want to rely on someone to feel better.

Tosin, 21

I have always been an anxious partner in my relationships. Any small thing triggers my anxiety — sometimes when we hug and go our separate ways and he doesn’t look back, I panic. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions every day. I want to end the relationship I have now but I will be sad. He has been understanding but I also think he doesn’t understand the gravity of what the anxiety does to me. I have lost weight because of anxiety. I have been trying to find ways to manage the situation better but there’s only so much my mind can let me do. 

I pray about it now but I still experience anxiety. I think I am too attached to my partner so I’m working on detaching. I try to keep at most two days of communication space between us for a healthy balance.

Oma, 18 

Being in a relationship when you have anxiety is definitely not a smooth experience. I always feel like I’m doing too much or bothering my partner so I distance myself from him sometimes. This has caused a lot of problems between us. I also withhold my emotions because I don’t want to scare him off. Plus, there’s the constant fear that he’s going to leave me because I’m not good enough. Bottom line is, an insensitive person can’t deal with this because he just won’t get it.

Chi, 27 

Anxiety was one of the things that led to the end of my last relationship. He didn’t understand my mental health struggles and wasn’t willing to. The relationship deteriorated because of the constant fights we had. Things weren’t going well for me and it made my mental health worse. With all of the things I was going through, I still found the strength to be there for him because that’s what love is supposed to be about but he didn’t feel the same. I’m glad he ended things because it pushed me to seek help and I’m more in control now. 

Now I am seeing someone who understands and it’s amazing. Even though I’m in counselling, my new partner always knows when I am struggling and is always there to listen. He is truly a blessing. 

Jumoke, 25 

I was in a talking stage with someone for a few weeks and one of the things I used to worry about was that this person absolutely refuses to wear seatbelts. They also wouldn’t call me back when they said they would. Whenever I didn’t hear from them, I would assume that they’d had an accident and died somewhere. 

One time, my brother didn’t get home on time and I was panicking so much. I called this person and they told me to calm down and ended the call. I know not everybody can handle mental health issues but omo, I told them I couldn’t talk to them again.

Ayo, 21

When I was younger, I was sexually molested by someone in my family. Since then, I’ve been wary of men. It’s like a tiny part of me tells me all men are perverts despite the fact that I’ve actually met some great guys. There was a guy I liked for the longest time but I kept sabotaging things with him. I pretended that I didn’t care about him. I kept looking for faults in him, so I could convince myself he wasn’t that great.  Suffice to say, things really didn’t go as planned. Anytime I thought of us in a relationship, I got anxious. I remember one time when I had a panic attack because I was thinking about what it would be like to date him. My entire family watched me hyperventilate and it scared them but I couldn’t tell them what was wrong because I felt foolish. 

We were really good friends and I also didn’t want to ruin that. I suspect he knew how I felt but didn’t bring it up since I didn’t want to talk about it. I still wish we could be more than friends but I’m too afraid of what being in a relationship might entail. I look at my friends who have been in successful relationships and I wonder how they do it. 

I wish I could be different. I want to know what it feels like to love and be loved but I’m also scared that no man would accept me after what happened to me as a child. 

Chisom, 23

When I am in a relationship, I am not scared of things like cheating or how he pressed his toothpaste. Instead, I worry that my partner would fall out of love with me and this makes me withdraw. Any change in mood from my partner and I feel like his feelings for me have changed. 

It’s frustrating and hard to explain. I told a male friend about this and he summed it up to me being a proud pretty girl. It’s even more frustrating when people I trust don’t believe that it’s not intentional. 

Last year I met a guy online, he wasn’t in Nigeria so we communicated through WhatsApp video calls a lot. I loved talking to him but the panic set in and I started to pull away — I stopped replying to his messages as fast as I used to. When he brought it up, I ignored the message. I didn’t know how to tell him that I was worried he’d stop liking me and I’d be the only one in the relationship. Eventually, we stopped talking and I buried the feeling. Sometime this year, he told me that he thought I wasn’t interested in knowing him anymore. LOL. If only he knew.

Joy, 21

It’s as if I’m in constant doubt, no matter what he does or says. I always think my boyfriend is playing me and it has also caused issues in past relationships. Even in this relationship, I am always questioning what he does and what he says. One day he snapped and said, “Joy, you are pushing me. Why do you have to question everything I do?” 

These days, I try to not let my triggers get to me. For example, when he doesn’t call or message me like he promised, I tell myself he’s probably tired and sleeping. Sometimes, I just make the call myself. 

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Mariam Sule

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