I am so excited for you to listen to this episode! Today, I’m interviewing my husband, Adam. Adam and I have been together for 11 years and have been married for 5 years. We met while I was struggling with anxiety, panic disorder, and agoraphobia, and he hugely supported me through much of my recovery journey.
Before I sat down with Adam, I polled my Instagram community to see if there were questions that people wanted to ask Adam specifically. And oh my goodness, there were so many good questions! But before we dive in and get the perspective of somebody supporting someone who is struggling with an anxiety disorder, I want to tell you one of my favorite stories!
ONE OF MY FAVORITE STORIES
One night while I was out with friends at a restaurant, I experienced a panic attack. I remember leaving the restaurant, in tears, and I sat on the curb and called Adam. And I’m not even sure why I called him because we barely knew each other. But without hesitation, Adam said, “I’ll be right there,” and he was, within minutes!
When he got there, he walked across the parking lot and he embraced me. And in that moment, I felt so much comfort and peace. Adam then drove us to a nearby gas station where he bought me Zebra cakes, Cheez-Its, and a strawberry milk, all in an attempt to make me feel better. It was super cute! But, I didn’t want any of it and so he ended up eating and drinking all of it on the ride home.
This story is actually in our wedding vows because it’s just such a testament to how supportive and loving Adam has always been.
ADAM ANSWERS YOUR QUESTIONS
Have you ever dealt with anxiety, panic disorder, or agoraphobia yourself?
Adam shares that he has never struggled with panic disorder or agoraphobia, but he of course, has had anxious moments. He shares that he feels anxious in a couple of situations, like when we’re going to a place that may be busy, he worries that the parking lot will be full, or that there will be large crowds and the place will be really busy and therefore will make the experience unenjoyable. But Adam has never struggled with the anxieties that I have struggled with, like panic and intense fear.
What did you think when I shared one of my biggest fears with you?
One of my biggest fears was the fear of pooping my pants. I often felt nauseous when I felt anxious, and I’d sometimes have to run to the bathroom, and so most every time I felt anxious I’d worry about pooping my pants. And I didn’t tell Adam this fear for YEARS because I was so afraid that he’d think that I was crazy, or weird, or that he’d shame me, or wouldn’t want to be with me. But when I actually shared this fear with him, his response was… “Oh, I’ve pooped my pants in the car before.”
I held this fear in for years and let it consume so much of me! And the fear had never even happened! And Adam just told me, in such a nonchalant way, that my biggest fear had happened to him and that it really wasn’t a big deal. This was so huge for me! It taught me that holding in your fears, worries, and experiences only gives these things even more power.
Did you ever feel like you could fully grasp what Shannon was going through when she was struggling?
Adam shares that he could never fully understand what I was going through because he had never been through it himself, however he could understand the signs of when I was feeling anxious, and he slowly better understood how to help me in these situations over time.
Adam and I talked about my first flight, which was a flight from Maine to NYC (which is only a one hour flight). Adam remembers me panicking while sitting on the airplane, and of course, I remember panicking almost the entire time.
But it’s so important to acknowledge that it’s natural to feel anxious in some situations, like flying on an airplane for the first time. And many people feel anxious when flying! Just because you struggle with an anxiety disorder doesn’t mean that you aren’t allowed to feel anxious. Remember to give yourself some grace.
Did you ever feel like our relationship struggled specifically because of my struggle with anxiety?
Adam doesn’t feel as though our relationship ever struggled because of my struggle with anxiety. He expressed that at times he’s sure he was frustrated, but he never held any sort of resentment.
And for me, I don’t think our relationship struggled specifically because of my struggle with anxiety either. But I think a big part of this is because I was consistently taking healthy action, like going to therapy and working through past traumas. I took ownership of the work that I needed to do to ensure that our relationship didn’t struggle because of what I had or was going through.
We also talk about how we both went to individual therapy, and also couples therapy, which was super important for our relationship.
Did you feel like what Shannon was struggling with put more responsibility on you?
Yes, in a couple of ways. Adam shares that he felt like he had to take care of me more. He was always very mindful of what I might need in any and all situations, and so he would think about what he could bring with us to make situations more comfortable for me.
But Adam also shares that he often didn’t think about what I was going through on a daily basis (like the panic attacks), because again, he wasn’t living it and so it wasn’t at the forefront of his mind like it was for me. He continued to plan adventures, and do fun things, and hoped that I’d always join him.
And Adam has always been a planner, whereas I’m not at all, and so he probably takes on more responsibility just for that reason.
How did you support Shannon without enabling her?
Adam shares that in the hard moments, it honestly just came down to seeing if I needed anything and just being there for me. While from my perspective, I think one of the most helpful things that Adam did to support me was allowing me to panic and not trying to help me find a way out. He always encouraged and supported me to just keep facing it all and live while feeling anxious.
Did you ever get frustrated with Shannon?
Adam says that he can’t really remember specific moments, however he shares that my relationship with alcohol was incredibly frustrating to him because I would often lash out, especially at him, when I drank. And I would often feel incredibly anxious hours and days after drinking.
I can now admit that I never had a healthy relationship with alcohol. I drank to feel less anxious. I drank to find a better balance. I drank to run away from deep hurt and pain and emotions. And this is something that Adam could see and had communicated to me for years. One of the healthiest decisions I’ve ever made, and wish I had made earlier, was to say goodbye to alcohol.
How did you cope with Shannon not always being willing to go places and do things?
I definitely need to preface this one! I struggled with severe panic disorder and agoraphobia but I was never housebound. I’ve moved to several different states, have traveled all over, and have always just continued to try to live life as best as I could while struggling.
And I want to share with you one of the most beautiful parts of Adam and I’s relationship, and it’s that we share so many similarities. We’re both adventurous and love the outdoors. And when I met Adam, I saw how much he loved adventure and just lived for it all, and I wanted that for me. And deep down, I knew that he’d always push me to keep living and to keep being adventurous. I knew that he’d help me to get where I am today.
And most importantly, I knew that Adam would always support me in a loving and supportive way.
What advice do you have for those supporting someone who is struggling?
You have to mold yourself to be supportive for the other person, but not so much that you create a shell or a case for them to not get better. But, also not throw them off a cliff in an attempt to support them.
I want you to acknowledge this… The people you need in your life will love you, they’ll support you, and they’ll stick around. And those are the people who are meant to be in your life. But they can’t do the work for you. You have to do the work!
And remember, if you’re supporting someone who is struggling, you can’t “fix” or “cure” or get over somebody’s struggles for them, they have to do the work and all you can do is support them along the way.