One day, I'm going to write a New York Times best-selling memoir, and I'm going to call it "Dating with Anxiety."
OK, maybe that won't be the title, but it will definitely be a FAT chapter in the book about my haphazard life.
As the chemicals sifted out of my body, I lay in bed wide awake until 10 am. My eyes were the size of saucers, and the covers were pulled over my trembling head, as the debilitating, irrational fear of the death consumed me.
"This is it," I crazily thought to myself. "I'm gonna die."
The experience was so scary, I quickly became anxious all the time that I was going to be this level of anxious again. And, in turn, this cycle of anxiety resulted in an anxiety disorder. (Ain't life grand?)
Anxiety disorders are a total BLAST when you're dating. But hey, I'm a sexually charged girl. Taking a break from the dating world to actually deal with my "issues" would mean a sexless life, and there was no way in hell I was going to do that. Life is hard enough.
My best friend Lilly* suffers from anxiety, too, but she's also a big dater. After dates, we would always meet for a boozy brunch the next morning and discuss our love lives.
One afternoon, when we were three champagnes deep, we came to the dramatic realization that our dating lives were totally parallel. We were both dating with anxiety and had the scars to prove it.
We concluded that our failed dating lives were a direct result of living in a perpetual state of ~panic~. And while dramatic realizations are always rattling, they also make you productive.
Once we figured out what the hell our problems really were, we were able to modify our habits. In fact, we've spent the past five years working tirelessly to fix our dating screw ups.
So here are five dating screw ups all of us anxious people make and how to fix them, too:
1. Having too many pre-date personality drinks
"Let's have a 'personality drink' before our dates tonight!" I would feverishly text Lilly.
She didn't even need to text me back because 20 minutes later, she would be banging on the door of my apartment with a wine bottle tucked in the folds of her pale blue coat.
It would take one big glass of wine to slightly ease our nerves and another big glass to give us the courage to actually take a taxi to the date.
And occasionally, we would even do a shot of liquor before we went out the door, just in case the taxi ride was long and we sobered up by the time we arrived.
Sometimes, when you're anxious, you don't immediately feel like the booze has taken the edge off your anxiety, so you underestimate how buzzed you really are.
And your date can tell something is off (if your date is a normal human who shows up to dates totally sober). Even if they can't pinpoint exactly what's wrong with you, they'll feel your energy is somehow altered and that you aren't being your true self.
So my advice: Don't have more than half a glass of wine before a date.
When I started showing up to dates sober, it was so much better, even if I dry heaved from nerves on the subway ride there. I could finally authentically connect with my date.
2. Recklessly projecting fantasies onto your date
When you're anxious, you're usually not present in the moment. Instead, you're thinking three years ahead.
Your date is ordering an appetizer, and you're imagining what the faces of your future children will look like.
"Oh wow, she has really straight, beautiful teeth. That's important. Strong genetics are important. But she's a little too vanilla-looking, and I really can't see myself having a vanilla-looking child," you think to yourself.
Girl, STOP THAT right now. I know your brain runs faster than a panther in the heat of night, but you need to chill out and stop acting so crazy. Take a breath.
Stop projecting fantasies onto your partner (she's a person, not an idea of a person), and hook into the present moment. That's all you have to do. Breathe and feel the floorboards beneath your feet holding you up.
Now, really focus on getting to know her. The only way to do that is to actively listen to her, which you can't do when your mind is so far away.
Something about having so much nervous energy makes us anxious people inclined to recklessly spill our deepest, darkest secrets to an innocent victim.
I don't know why. Maybe when you have so many emotions stewing inside of you, everything just POURS OUT the moment you release a little bit.
Or, maybe you just had too many pre-date personality drinks, and your boundaries are out of whack.
Regardless, every anxious creature I know overshares. We're so afraid of NOT connecting with a person, we force connections on them by revealing too much too soon.
While I'm not about playing it cool, and I'm an advocate for revealing who you are early on, calm down, girl. Do you really need to tell your date about what psychotropic drugs you're currently taking or about that terrible thing that happened to you when you were 16 on THE FIRST DATE?
Wait until at least the third date before you start spewing out your demons.
It's not because you should be ashamed of those things. Rather, it means more when you make people earn your trust, instead of serving it to them on a sparkling silver platter. Your connection will be much deeper that way.
Otherwise, you're setting yourself up for a dysfunctional dynamic, where your partner will always see you as the person who needs to be rescued.
4. Acting like a cold bitch
Sometimes, when I'm super anxious, I can be a total bitch from hell. I don't mean to act that way; it's just that I'm so afraid the world is about to end, so I overcompensate by acting too fucking cool for school.
I'm like an actress who isn't feeling her role, so she overacts the drama to fool the audience into thinking, "She's so into it."
But acting like a cool, cold bitch when you're really just a nervous puppy does not make you seem cool. It makes you come across as exactly what you are: an anxious entity who is teeming with feelings and trying too hard to pretend she's unaffected.
It's transparent, and unattractive. You're much better off saying, "Hey, you know what? I'm feeling super anxious today. I'm nervous right now, actually."
Being real will instantly make you feel more at ease, and it will make your date feel at ease, too. They're probably just as nervous as you are, and you breaking the ice is a giant relief to them.
5. Apologizing for stupid shit you didn't even do wrong
"I'm SO sorry, I chose this restaurant. It's so loud." "OMG, I'm so sorry I was 30 seconds late!" "OH MY GOD, I'm SO GOD DAMN SORRY I'M ALIVE."
Girl, stop apologizing for everything. Anxious people get stuck in this stupid cycle where we can't stop apologizing for anything.
Do you realize what over-apologizing does?
First of all, it irritates your date. Second of all, it makes you look weak, like you're afraid to exist and take up space in this cruel, cold world.
But remember, being anxious does not mean you're weak. Having anxiety does not mean your identity has drowned in a sea of "I'm sorry."
Feeling anxious is just a mental state you happen to find yourself in because you're highly creative and very in tune with the general emotions of this world.
And that really is a beautiful thing, so stop apologizing for it. Own it. Strong women own their mistakes, and they own their feelings too, babe.
So stop saying "I'm sorry" to this rando you're on a date with. They're lucky you even swiped right for them.
The anxious people are the blessed people. They're connected to the collective pulse of everyone around them, which is why they're such deep lovers and loyal friends.
So when you're tempted to apologize, bite your tongue. Remember, it's the anxiety that fuels your unwarranted apology, and it's the anxiety that fuels your colorful, dynamic life.
*Name has been changed.