When my wife passed 4 years ago, I first experienced shock and then numbness, after that anger and depression, and after that resignation and doubts about my future without her. It wasn’t until around my sixth month of grieving that I began to experience something unfamiliar to me since my 20’s and 30’s, anxiety… and I mean full-blown anxiety.
This coincided with my re-entry into life as I began to socialize again through a Meetup.com group called the Breakfast Club. I also started to date again via online dating services. My self-confidence was nearly non-existent at the beginning, so I had tremendous doubts about my ability to meet and engage with new people. Though I could put on a good front, I would go home after each meeting or date and question my every word and action. It was worse than when I was a teenager.
Soon, I met a widow whose company I really enjoyed, and who made me feel more at ease about the whole dating concept. However, I found that I would think that I had control and then would be overcome with euphoria and anxiety at alternate times (part of the hyper-emotional response). I did not have things under control. It was months before I saw how out of control I was during this period. Anxiety is a normal part of any relationship. While in a heightened hyper-emotional state, anxiety can become overwhelming and dominate your thinking day and night.
The ups and downs, the drama, and the uncertainty about what we really wanted doomed the relationship from the start. As our relationship evolved, I experienced increasing anxiety over possibly losing her, I am sure because of the recent loss of my wife. But I also had fear and anxiety about:
- moving too fast,
- saying the wrong thing,
- how our relationship would impact my friends and family, and
- her deciding it was too soon to be in a relationship again,
The anxiety only got worse as I had more trouble sleeping, causing me to spiral out of control. If you can recognize this anxiety for what it is and confront it before it ruins all your relationships, you will be way ahead of the game.
I first got some help from my therapist, and then from reading Brené Brown’s book, Daring Greatly, which challenges you to engage with your emotions and doubts, to face your fears and self-doubts, and to be vulnerable. However, this vulnerability actually led to more anxiety in some ways. I was still dwelling on past mistakes or shortcomings and fearful of what might happen in the future.
This led me to a spiritual philosopher, Eckart Tollé, whose central message is to stay in the present and turn away from worrying about the past or future. Tollé often quotes Lao Tzu: “If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.”
Once I adopted some of his teachings that I thought useful and combined it with meditation, I began to calm down and learned just to enjoy the moment. You can find some of his talks on Youtube, which you may find helpful. Tollé is an intriguing character with a funny laugh and gentle way of speaking, but his messages often go to the core of feeling and thinking. (With someone like Tollé or Chopra, you don’t have to accept everything they say. Just take in what works for you and is in conformance with your own values and beliefs.)
Whether you decide to look up and adopt some of Eckart Tollé’s ideas or not, the key point is that I encourage you to look outside your normal belief systems and find ones that help you to deal with your grief and often resulting anxiety. Some may find solace in their religious beliefs, others may find help through meditation or yoga. When you go through the kind of trauma and grief that we all have had to do, sometimes the only way out is through a new path… one you have not tried before.
Learn to be courageous enough to try one. You may be pleasantly surprised and rewarded.