If you’re taking someone out on a date, chances are you want the date to be a success – I mean you’ve already put the effort into either asking the person out, or agreeing to go out with them in the first place. So, naturally, you’ll want to pick a spot that’s of interest, will be fun, and hopefully end the night successfully (wink, wink, nudge, nudge… whatever your definition of successful is). The more consideration you give to what your date will be interested in, the higher your success rate.
Now, if you’re going on a date with someone who has an anxiety disorder, the same rules apply – but like, maybe super exaggerated – like throw in that consideration and multiple it by 10. Here are a few things to consider before you plan your date.
Rule #1 – Shhhh
The first rule of Fight Club is, you do not talk about Fight Club… (if you don’t get the movie reference, go watch Fight Club now… you should be ashamed of yourself!). Basically, don’t spend the entire date talking about their anxiety disorder. They’re not broken, they’re not defective, they just have to work a little harder at getting through their day without extra amounts of worry. Chances are if you’re going to shine the light of attention on their anxiety, they’re going to get anxious. So back off. If they bring it up – giddy up, they’ve already broken the rule so feel free to discuss it. But for the love of all that is holy, don’t be the dick who brings it up first.
Rule #2 – A Little Friendly Research
What does their anxiety involve? Take the time to find out a little more about your date’s interests and comforts – chances are if you’re at the point where you know they have an anxiety disorder, then you’re at the point where you can ask them pointed questions about what their comfort zone is. Don’t ask this ON your date (see Rule #1) – this is research people, you’re trying to find out where they would be comfortable going FOR the date. Probably a discussion to have when they’re home and already in their comfort zone.
For instance, I’m scared of puking, so planning to take me on a rollercoaster or to see a really gory movie (both of which will most likely make me gag), probably not a great idea. I’ll freak the fuck out, either flat out refuse to go (I think I see where my Toddler gets it from…), or if I’m too embarrassed to admit to my fears and by some miracle do join you, I may just end up crying or hyperventilating (let’s not forget the gagging, SUPER sexy). All this will result in you most definitely not getting laid – I won’t thank you for it, and you most certainly will not thank me.
Rule #3 – Pick Something Tried and True
If you’re not sure, pick an activity that is fun, but low key – not something that’s overly overwhelming for the senses. Sometimes anxiety and panic can be induced by sensory overload – so a Rave is probably not the best idea, I’d stay away from noisy house parties too (I mean why are you even thinking about going out on a date to one of these places… it’s not very romantic or personal, get your head in the game).
Going to a family friendly movie – probably a safe bet, chances are no one is dying or being cut open in a gruesome fashion. You get to sit down and relax, eat some junk food, maybe even hold hands (I’d say you could just ignore the movie and make out like teenagers, but something about making out in a family friendly movie seems like I’ll get a lot of over-the-internet judgement). A film is also a great option for someone who tends to be shy, if you’re worried about warming up to one another before having to dive into conversation, a movie is a good bet.
If a movie is too G rated for you, and you’re ready to interact with one another on a more personal level try one of the old true and tested activities. You’d be surprised how much fun you can have bowling or playing glow in the dark mini golf with the right person. If you don’t have enough chemistry then not even the right locale will make the date a hit, but if you’ve got chemistry in spades, then chances are you can laugh your ass off at how funny you both look in bowling shoes, slipping and sliding down the hardwood with a heavy ball in tow. Nothing sexier or more reassuring than light-hearted laughter.
Rule #4 – Coddling Ain’t Sexy
Now this one is kind of two-part, and even a little contradictory. Be conscious and considerate of my anxiety, but don’t coddle me.
I’m not a china doll, don’t treat me like one. Okay, so you’ve mastered the art of not bringing the anxiety up on the date. Thumbs up you’re doing great! Now keep in mind actions speak louder than words. Don’t coddle me, don’t baby me, don’t ask me if I’m okay five thousand and fifty-five times when I haven’t even given you any indication that something may be wrong (this part is VERY important, read on). You parenting me… not sexy. It makes me self-conscious – then I start to question if I’m giving off some kind of psycho signal. If you’ve asked me twice if I’m okay, and I’ve said both times that I’m fine, it’s a safe bet that I AM fine. Act normal, return to the date, stop psyching yourself up and assuming that I’m a ticking time bomb that will just burst into panic at any moment. If you can’t handle that and all you can think about is this small part of me, this anxious part that lives inside and sometimes comes out, then maybe you can’t handle being with someone like me.
Now if you notice I’ve suddenly gone quiet, or I’m not acting like my usual self, then yes – ask if I’m alright, better yet ask if I need to be taken home. Panic attacks and anxiety don’t always manifest in a physical way. I know from personal experience I can be having a full-blown panic attack and no one around me has even noticed that something is off, other than the fact that I’ve gone quiet. The turmoil is in my head, and it looks big and bad and scary (got that one straight from one of my son’s Thomas the Tank Engine books), you may not see it right away but it’s there, and there are signs that it’s there. Look for these signs – like a very rapid and sudden change in mood, suddenly going silent and fidgeting – other such nervous gestures. Try to read your date’s body language. Asking me if I need to go home, rather than starting an entire conversation about how I’m feeling or if I’m “okay” is a very generous life raft, it’s not always easy to vocalize that you need help when you’re stuck in your own head.
It sounds like a lot of work – I know. It’s not easy dealing with an anxiety disorder, and it’s not easy dealing with someone who has an anxiety disorder. But keep in mind – my anxiety has made me a stronger, more empathetic person. I have struggled with it, and I am surviving it. Every. Single. Day. That’s right, I’m a freaking BOSS. It’s also made me pretty attuned to other people. Chances are I can see your side of an emotional situation, because I know how hard it is to be around people who can’t see or understand my side. I can help you cope when life’s overwhelming you, because I’ve spent most of my time learning how to cope. My anxiety does not define me, and I’m worth it. Plus, I deal with all of your stupid crap, so you can definitely deal with mine!