As someone with anxiety there are certain things I’ve had to explain to friends and family members about how I am feeling. Anxiety is a really hard disorder to understand if you don’t suffer from it which is why I’m putting this list together of the thing I would like you to know. These things may not apply to everyone who suffers from an anxiety disorder but generally they cover most of them so it is very helpful to know them in order to help your loved one.
I can’t “just calm down” or “stop worrying”
In the past I have had many people tell me I should just stop worrying. Believe me, if I could just switch off my brain and stop thinking I definitely would. Anxiety is not something that you can switch on and off. It is something that has to be dealt with every single day. Imagine how you feel when you have an exam. Your body tenses up. Your heart pumps faster. You feel breathless and terrified but it’s okay because everyone else feels the same and in a couple of hours it’s all over. People who suffer from anxiety feel like that every day of their lives over what may seem like the tiniest things. Sometimes we don’t even know what has caused it. That seems pretty crappy doesn’t it? When someone you love is anxious ask them about how they are feeling and ask how you can help as everyone deals with panic attacks and anxiety attacks differently. You can help but acting like we can switch it off is not helpful.
Anxiety has a physical affect on the body as well as a mental affect
Like I mentioned above, anxiety is physically exhausting on the body. For me, I sweat a lot, my muscles tense which often causes them to ache, I get headaches and migraines, my heart beats a lot faster, I sometimes get heart palpitations, I shake, I feel like I can’t breathe, I feel sick, I feel dizzy and sometimes I cry. All of these factors generally make me tired and feel like I want to sleep a lot. It also means I may be unable to perform to my best standard. Not only is my mind going a thousand miles a minute but my body follows suit. Learn the signs and symptoms that affect your loved ones so you know what to look out for.
I am not just antisocial
I can’t count how many times I have cancelled plans with friends and family because of anxiety. It has also caused me to miss school and university. I don’t need you to make me feel any worse for cancelling plans. I am sorry but sometimes pushing myself to do something that causes a panic attack is not going to help me. Sometimes I feel like if I do something the worst is going to happen and I can’t calm my body down enough to get through it. I don’t mean to be a bad friend however my mental health is important to me so I do need to look after myself and if that means cancelling plans then sadly that’s what I need to do.
I am easily overwhelmed
Please do not force me to do things or leave big decisions up to me. I find it hard to cope with these. Weighing up the pros and cons becomes a matter of life or death for me in my head so a lot of the time I need you to accept that and make decisions for me.
Sometimes I need to just walk away
There have been plenty of times in my life I have walked away from a situation due to anxiety. There have also been times I have stayed when I should have walked away and it has caused a panic attack so I have realised when I need to walk. I am not trying to be nasty or disrespectful, I am simply looking after myself. Walking away allows me to go through my calming and breathing techniques and come back to the situation with a calmer mind.
I know it’s irrational
So many people have told me how I feel is irrational. I know that. I know most of my triggers are stupid and silly to you but you telling me that does not just make my anxiety disappear. Instead of focussing on what has made me anxious maybe you should focus on how to help with the anxiety.
Please stop asking if I am okay
I realise you’re doing it to help but it puts me under pressure to say yes. You know I am not okay so instead ask how you can help.
Being around people is not always a cause
A lot of people confuse social anxiety with generalised anxiety or other types of the disorder. I personally can get anxious around large and small groups of people or when its simply just me alone. Learn which type of anxiety your loved one is suffering from.
I am not just “uptight”
“uptight” and “anal” are my least favourite words. They’ve been used to brush off my anxiety and make me feel like how I am feeling is invalid. The same goes for “overreacting”. Don’t use those words. I have a disorder that I cannot change or get rid of. It is something I have to live with which puts a huge amount of strain on my body and my relationships. Personally I would rather be overreacting, uptight or anal than suffering with anxiety disorder but here we are.
I don’t do it to hurt you
Like I said before, I do not mean to be a bad friend by cancelling plans or having an attack. I am trying to look out for myself and minimise damage. Please just be patient and bare this in mind. I really appreciate all the family and friends who have stuck by me and just because I’ve cancelled plans does not mean I don’t care about you. I am not trying to be selfish and I realise it is frustrating but it is just something that happens and will continue to happen.
I hope this can give you an insight into my brain and help with loved ones and friends who also suffer from an anxiety disorder.
Header Image : Katie Joy Crawford Photography