I’ve gone on a handful of dates with this new girl who I really like and the other night she asked me about my anxiety. I’ve never talked to anyone about my mental health before, let alone a girl I’m trying to date, so I sort of froze. I want to tell her about myself but am nervous she will get scared or I’ll do a crappy job explaining myself.
It’s understandable you would feel hesitant to share this side of your life with someone you are just getting to know. Not only is she someone new in your life (and therefore trust has yet to be deeply established) but you also are in the beginning stages of an intimate relationship. This means you are still doing your best to be your “best” self, most likely.
Since you are entering unknown territory that also requires you to be vulnerable, remind yourself to not feel pressure to share more than you are comfortable. At least at first. While it is important to help this other person understand you, it is also important that you are respecting you own need for taking things slow. If you are unsure of where to start, simply begin by thanking her for being open and interested in better understanding you. By thanking her you are showing appreciation for her and revealing you are receptive to what she has said.
You may consider starting with some early memories — what are some of your earliest memories of having anxiety? How do you remember experiencing anxiety as a child. Were you always nervous for the first days of school? Did you dislike birthday parties? Was there a particular presentation at school you remember dreading?
You could also ask her to share some memories where she has felt anxiety, nervousness, or shyness. While she may not struggle with actual anxiety, she most likely has experienced nerves in one way or another and can help ease you into sharing by sharing some of her own memories. It is nice to find some common ground.
Sharing something as intimate as anxiety with another person shows a great deal of courage and trust. It will probably make you feel vulnerable. If you’ve never shared your anxiety with another person, it was done most likely out of self-preservation. You were hoping to protect yourself. Or you were hoping to project an alternate exterior to your interior-self (which, in itself, can create more anxiety). Don’t worry about explaining your anxiety perfectly — it is a complex thing to try and describe and will take time. If the desire to explain it accurately is acting as a roadblock, begin by sharing how this is new terrain for you.
Thank this woman for wanting to know you better. It is a precious thing for someone to want to know us fully. Then, as you feel comfortable, start sharing what it is like to live in your body.