Tanisha Shah opens up about her anxiety and how it turned her disaster date into a positive accepting experience.
An anxiety attack on your first date lands you and your date sitting outside a very cute cafe on the dark, gross staircase with your cold, hot chocolates. What does that sound like to you? A disaster, right? Let me start from the beginning.
This was right after the lockdown was lifted in 2021. We were friends since Year Six and grew apart in high school. We got close again during the pandemic. One day we decided to go out on a long, overdue first date to a cute café for coffee, after dinner. Things were fine until that point. We met, we hugged, and made our way upstairs. We took a seat at our table but I started to get a little restless. I figured it must be just nerves and brushed it off until my leg started shaking and I felt nauseous. It was hard to pretend that everything was okay but he picked up on that.
A couple of minutes went by but they felt like hours. We sat there with our hot chocolates and my face in my hand. I kept telling myself to just breathe and take a minute - it’s just nerves. He tried his best to give me space and rubbed my knee occasionally but I could tell he was terrified, too. I mean, who wouldn’t be? After another couple of minutes of not being able to control the spiraling, we just decided to leave and get out from the brightly-lit space, which was extra loud for a café on a Tuesday.
We sat on the dark staircase outside the café, watching the cars pass by outside. It was a cold winter night and my hoodie sleeve felt wetter after wiping my tears in an attempt to wipe my face off the Earth because I felt so embarrassed. I have struggled with anxiety all my life, but it punches me in the gut when it shows up at the worst possible moment and I can’t help but feel like an idiot. The fear of feeling stupid in front of a guy I really liked added to the fear of messing up our friendship.
We barely talked the entire night with the exception of him mumbling, “It’s okay,” and, “Do you want to go home?” I would usually reply by nodding my head. At this point, as far as I knew, the date was done, but I still wanted him to stay. I spent a minute with him rubbing my back which ended up lasting for about an hour. Many people gave us weird looks as they passed by, but I didn’t have any more embarrassment to spare.
After an hour or so, we stood up and started walking downstairs when he turned to me and asked me if he could hug me. Literally after our first-ever hug an hour ago, and after an hour of me crying, he asked me if he could hug me again and I said yes. And to this day, I still remember that hug. It felt so warm and comforting. He was never good with verbalising his feelings, so he would show them instead, and that big hug felt like it would be all okay.
Feeling terrified but also ecstatic at the same time, I left the café and went back home. The entire time on the way back, I couldn’t keep the bad thoughts at bay. So, the moment I reached home, I burst through the door and went straight to my room and into my bathroom. I sat in the dark and wrote him a huge paragraph explaining my anxiety. I tried my best to tell him that I didn’t mean to ruin the night for him and that I would understand if he didn’t wish to continue dating. After all that, he simply said:
“You didn’t ruin anything. I was actually a little happy that I got to be there for you and comfort you.”
And that turned out to be the best worst first date ever.
We have been on numerous dates since then. My anxiety has troubled most of them, but it has gotten less scary over time.
I was reluctant about discussing my anxiety because everyone else had made it feel like it’s not a big deal. I grew up thinking that my anxiety was just me exaggerating my feelings. But after this date, I ended up opening up a lot more to him about this and he kept showing me that he would still be there for me.
Anxiety does stop us from doing a lot of things we want to do and, in the end, we are just left with a pile of regrets over not speaking up, not going out, not doing something we really wanted to - anxiety takes a lot from us. I can easily think of five negative incidents where my anxiety messed me up and made me overthink for days, but I choose to remember this instead of those moments that made me inadvertently cringe.
You just have to remember that it’s the anxiety that sucks, not you.