My life with Kainene

I’ve been seeing Kainene for 3 years, we moved in together last year. She is the most phenomenal woman I know and I am incredibly blessed to have her. She also happens to have anxiety.

We got together and I don’t think any of us was ready for the roller coaster our life was to become. The most mundane events — date night, meeting parents, meeting friends — were in fact little landmines that were likely to go off at any time. I couldn’t understand the sheer wave of fear that some of these moments caused her. These moments would cripple her and often lead to cancellations.

For people who don’t know what its like, this is a common theme amongst anxiety sufferers — most times there isn’t a reason for an attack to happen, it just does — she would be overcome with anxiety. The best way I can describe it is that you’re faced with someone who is just paralysed with fear, unable to communicate effectively and on the verge of total panic. In my Kainene’s case when she suffers from an anxiety attack she struggles to sleep, such was the severity of physical symptoms. Laying next to her I swear I could feel her shake as adrenaline coursed through her. Sometimes she’s freezing cold, sometimes she’s boiling hot, she tossed and turned desperately seeking comfort. Then there’s the chest pains. She describes these as a tightness so intense that she feels like she’s having a heart attack. The lack of sleep was becoming greater and greater.

Then the guilt began. The guilt she felt for getting me caught in this world — this world where the person you love more than anything can stand in front of you trapped by a fear, and a panic often set about for reasons unknown to them.
She tries to protect me — she tells me to run away, to forget her, to go and find someone without “complications”. More evenings with no sleep, coupled with a 2 hour commute (mainland to island with all that traffic) means she is exhausted. Our way of life soon became a frantic bid to survive. It was us vs the world. It was us trying to work out what we could to help her get through each day. Being a web developer, I could afford to work from anywhere and I decided to work more from home so that I could have dinner ready and waiting, other house chores done. I’d have the bath run for when she got in at 8pm. We bought a great assortment of those fridge magnets with which we pinned stuff that needed doing to the fridge so it emptied her head as much as possible. All of these things helped but we were not living — we were surviving in a world where anxiety had taken over.

I often think that love, real love, is doing whatever you can do to make a person happy and immune from any hurt. It is reaching within your deepest self and high above your highest self to touch someone else. Doesn’t make it less hard to have to put someone else’s happiness before yours even in seemingly impossible situations, but the things we find hardest to accomplish are the things we’re most proud of. The best feeling in the world (having made a decision to never have kids) is to see the person you love smile, laugh and genuinely content and knowing that you’ve played a part in that. Equally, the worst feeling in the world, is to see the person you love on the floor at 6AM having not slept and a body that is shaking, a face that is pale with fear and knowing that whatever you suggest, whatever you do, would probably not help. That you can’t ‘cure’ her. That you can’t make it all better. That this person is suffering and all you want is to stop that, and you can’t. That right there is the worst feeling in the world.

So we were in a place where we were just surviving. All we had was each other. Our lives were consumed by efforts we put into trying to beat this anxiety and there was no obvious way out. But the thing we had in our favour is that we talked — I was as understanding as I possibly could be. I read about anxiety, we read books together and even attempted meditation together. Turns out I am not the meditating type! But I gave it a good shot. Sometimes I’d wake up to find I had been asleep on my yoga mat and she had already made lunch. We identified what we thought were triggers and eradicated them — for example, a simple thing like picking out what she was to wear the next day the night before instead of that morning removed a very small anxious thought. We created what we like to call “positive routines” — things that were good habits to get into — like planning our meals for the week. We even tried to identify if foods and drinks contributed in some way and modified diets. Truth be told she modified her diet, and I continued down the "I don’t eat anything much" line.

We took control by going through a rather large number of therapists till we found a doctor she was comfortable with and I attended appointments with her on occasions she wanted me to. Most times I just sat outside the doctor’s office waiting till she’s done because you never know, she’d leave some sessions feeling worse than she was when she went.

We talked about the sessions and tried to put into practice some of the advice we were getting. We also made big and courageous decisions like Kainene quitting her demanding job(which meant I had to work extra hard). We bought a puppy too, we named her Bo. I’ll admit that buying the puppy wasn’t a well thought out decision because while we were out visiting friends one day, we walked past a pet store in Gbagada and what started as an innocent "Can I pet the puppies?" Became "isn’t she cute? Let’s take her home".

At a time in our lives when things were the shittiest, I asked her to marry me. I knew I wanted this woman to be my wife, Most of the best memories of my life had her in them and even though it feels like not enough time to get to decide to be with someone I was convinced I had found the one. She gave me a confidence that I didn’t know I had. I could be myself around her. I didn’t ever have to apologise for who I was. Simply put I loved her. I wanted her to know she would not face anxiety alone. She will never face anxiety alone.

I suppose she’ll always have anxiety, but we’ll keep finding ways to deal with it. Right now she’s happy doing what she loves, she’s taking coding classes and she’s loving every minute of it. I’m really proud of the great team we’ve become and what we’ve accomplished together.