It’s really, really likely that you know someone who has some sort of struggle with anxiety or a full fledged anxiety disorder. You would think that since anxiety is so common (literally everyone experiences it from time to time, just with some to a higher severity), that people may be a little more understanding, but sometimes, it can be hard to find sympathetic people. There are definitely moments where you want to look at people and just scream, because they just don’t get it. And thats fine! Not everyone is going to understand the struggle, and thats okay. However, here are some things that I am tired of hearing as an anxiety sufferer. Disclaimer: Everyone experiences anxious feelings on different levels and has different experiences. Yours may not be the same as mine and thats okay!
“It’s all in your head!”
Well.. no duh. Things that make us anxious vary from person to person, but if you’re like me, sometimes you don’t need much of a reason. I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD for short), which makes me anxious for no no reason most days. So yes, it is all in my head, but that doesn’t make it any easier or less real. Everyday comes with its own challenges and little uncertainties, with some of those challenges being unseen.
“Can’t you just snap out of it? You’re being dramatic!”
This one sucks. I manage to keep my anxiety under wraps for the most part, but when it comes to the surface from time to time, all I want is a hug and some encouragement. I promise that I’m not trying to act like a baby or be annoying, but the physical responses that my body has to anxiety can be terrifying. Sometimes it can cause me to act on the strange side, but only in dire situations where I have no other escape. While it might seem dramatic or aloof to the outsider, it’s just an attempt to get to a safe place to calm down my physiological responses.
“You’re no fun! You never want to go out!”
Ah. This one. A true favorite.
I am wholeheartedly an introvert. I would rather spend the day snuggled up on the couch watching documentaries, eating snacks and with a glass of wine than going out to bars or partying. This might just be a personality trait, but it’s probably affected by my anxiety as well. Places like parties, bars, and other crowded places just add fuel to the fire, and I need rest with all that social interaction. It really wears on me. A couple hours where I have to work hard to keep my anxiety in check can leave me totally dead. Its like a mental marathon for me.
“Can’t you just get over it?”
I wish. Lord.
I’ve had anxiety and anxious feelings way back to when I was maybe 7 or 8. Things didn’t start to manifest more until I was around 11, but trust me, if it was something I could just “get over”, I would have done it ages ago. For me, I have a feeling that anxious feelings will likely be with me my entire life, but working towards better coping skills is always on the fore front for me. As I grow and my anxiety changes, I learn new ways to circumnavigate the issues and deal better. So in a way, this might be “getting over it”, but not quite. It’s my constant companion, just like any other chronic illness. I’m working hard everyday to learn how to thrive more!
“Oh my gosh, I’m having a panic attack over this exam!”
Oh boy. Somehow, this became a thing, and I hear it ALL THE TIME. “Panic attack” seems to be a synonym for freaking out or the like, and I hate it. I don’t have full fledged panic attacks frequently, but the ones I have had have been some of the most terrifying experiences of my life. If you haven’t experienced one ever, to put it into perspective, people sometimes will go to the ER when experiencing their first attack because they think they are having some sort of cardiac event. They’re absolutely no joke, and not your synonym for being nervous about a test or for “freaking out” over school. It’s a symptom and an illness, and not really much of a joke.
However.. here’s what you can do for your friends and family when they aren’t feeling their best.
I know, you’ve read through this and probably are like “Could you complain any more?!”, so I wanted to be sure that I included the things that my friends and family could do to alleviate the pressure that comes with daily anxiety.
- Encourage me! The little pats on the shoulder and encouragements mean the world and I NEVER forget them. I log those little moments away for when it gets tough again in the future.
- Hugs. Not during an attack (please no.) but after or the next day always are nice. I’m often really run down the day after a bigger attack, so a hug always makes things a little bit better.
- Ask! If you have a friend who struggles with anxiety, ask them what you can do to help! Everyone is different, responds differently, and might have a suggestion for you that can help them in the future. Plus, understanding how someone else feels during those moments is just about priceless.
For more information about mental health and anxiety disorders, feel free to visit the National Institute of Mental Health’s website.
Awareness and education is key to better understanding of those around you. As always, feel free to reach out in the comments below if you have any questions regarding my experience or anything experiences to share of your own.
Much love, Emily
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