Things to Remember When You Love Someone with Anxiety
I had different plans for today’s post. I had a mapped out schedule and pictures already edited. Then I woke up, and for no reason at all, the weight of an elephant sat on my chest.
Good morning anxiety, thanks for being here today.
Mornings like this make getting out of bed almost painful, because in the back of my mind Iknow, today will not be a good day. Today there will be crying, and irrational fights, and a million things that I can’t explain or that even make sense. I know it’s hard to understand for most people, because on these days, it doesn’t even make sense to me. I know how hard it is to deal with, because when it gets bad I don’t even like being around myself. Why would anyone else volunteer to ride along.
Why would anyone else want to watch a strong person mentally crumble, on a pretty consistent basis?
To those of us with an anxiety disorder, we don’t get why you stick around. We don’t think that we are rational, we know how difficult and confusing and frustrating we can be. When you say we are worth it we wonder if there will come a day when you decide that is not true anymore, and we wait for that day. Loving someone with anxiety disorder isn’t easy, but even though we doubt ourselves we are the people you want to have by your side. Sometimes we all need reminders, so that’s what brought me here today. Ten things to remember when you love someone with an anxiety disorder. Read it, learn it, embrace it, and know that you are making a huge difference whether you know it or not. You are the light at the end of the tunnel.
- We know how irrational we sound… Seriously, we get it. I have had moments in the middle of an argument that I literally stop being able to follow what I’m saying. It sounds ridiculous and I can’t even put into words why I’m so bothered. I can only imagine what that feels like on the other side. We know that when you are 10 minutes late coming home from work, that you are probably fine. That feeling in the pit of our stomach though, it just grows more prominent with each passing second. So we call, and when you don’t answer we call again, and when there is still no answer we picture your truck flipped over on the side of the road. That’s so illogical it’s hard to even believe that someone can go from 0–100 like that, but that doesn’t make the feeling go away. The tears come, and the calls, and more calls until 3 minutes later you pull in and everything is fine. The world isn’t ending, and this crazy scenario we have made up in our heads is gone. To you, it seems crazy and although we get that, please PLEASE don’t call us crazy. The panic is real. The feelings are real. Anxiety disorder of all variations are mental disorders, but they don’t make us crazy. We spend enough of our time thinking it about ourselves and hearing you say the words makes it feel too real.
- We are wired to have a hard time “letting it go”… There is no letting go, and the science behind it is pretty simply explained. When someone is faced with something traumatic in their life, the memory can end up stored in part of the limbic system of the brain that the mind uses to determine if we are at ‘risk.’ This memory is stored in a completely different region of the brain than everyday memories. This causes the brain to react differently to the traumatic memory. The brain is always seeking to make links between the traumatic memory and it’s present situation. This brain cycle makes it impossible to just let things go. When our brain is exposed to pro longed anxiety, it gets trained to stay in this cycle. We can’t just let it go.
- “Just calm down” is possibly the worst thing you can say… There is no calming down in the midst of an anxiety attack. Just calm down is not advice, and it’s not realistic. Our brains are not wired to stop worrying even if there is no rational need to worry. I understand how INCREDIBLY frustrating that can be. Take a minute and imagine how exhausting it is to be constantly worrying. Not just a small worry, that lingers on our mind. Real, gut wrenching worry that makes it impossible to focus on anything else. If we could “just calm down” we would have in the very beginning. Try saying things like “focus on your breathing” or “I’m here if you need me”.
- We may not have the words to communicate how they feel… I’m a better writer than a talker. I get my thoughts on paper and they make sense. When I try to express those same thoughts 1 on 1 the words jumble. I’m not sure of myself anymore, and I question every single word before I say it. Getting issues out on paper gets my actual thoughts out without the static. The same goes for those who sing, or paint, or photograph. Not all of us can communicate effectively through conversation, especially in a high stress situation. People who deal with anxiety disorder know what it is like to have their feelings dismissed time and time again, and eventually it takes a toll on us. We don’t want to open up anymore just to be told that we are “imagining it” or “overreacting”. So even if they won’t talk about it, it doesn’t mean that we don’t want to share it with you. Looks for cues, ask questions about our pictures, read what we write. There’s a million ways to communicate, just because it is out of the norm, doesn’t make it wrong.
- We are not always present, even though we don’t mean it… More times than not, I am in my own head. When there is something weighing on our minds we tend to get consumed by it, and before we realize it’s blocking out everything else. There are times when we can be in a conversation and not even hear the rest because one part stuck with us and we cannot stop obsessing over it. We don’t mean to be that way, we don’t mean to be inattentive or rude. A quick nudge and an “are you still with me” is greatly appreciated. It’s hard to be understanding when you are trying to talk to someone who is lost in their own head but most of the time we don’t even realize what we are doing before it’s to late and we’ve missed too much. Give us a chance to come back to earth, and try not to be frustrated if we ask you to repeat yourself. We know how annoying it is, and I promise it’s not because we don’t care.
- We will always take the time to try and understand you… When you live with anxiety disorder you know what it’s like to feel misunderstood. Most of the major fights in my life come from misunderstandings because I don’t always know how to stop my tone from sounding angry or my face from contorting into worried or tense. We’ve lived the majority of our anxious little lives being misunderstood, so we try our hardest to understand and validate the feelings of those we love. I’m a good person to talk to because I reserve judgement as much as possible. You want to go out and shave your head to get a new start, we get that. You want to break down in tears because you feel hopeless, we get hopeless. We get how hard it is to open up to someone, to put yourself out there despite the risk of getting shot down or told your feelings are stupid. It gives us an advantage in that department, and because of that we tend to make excellent support systems.
- Appreciating the little things is our specialty… A little text in the morning to say that you’re thinking of us, a reminder that we are capable of anything we put our minds to just like anyone else, a wave across a crowded room, even a tag in a Facebook post just because, these little things mean the world to us. Building ourselves up is hard to do when we have a constant voice in the back of our head always telling us that we are not good enough. We shoot ourselves down a lot but having supportive and caring people like you by our side is enough to help us re build. These little things, as simple as a coffee in the morning, really just mean the world, and reinforce to us that despite our differences, we matter.
- We will never give up on you… I’ve always been a rooter for the underdog. The one no one thinks will make it, I love a comeback story. I love a story of people doing what they are told they will never be able to do. This is because I have a huge heart, though a little wacky at times, and I have felt like the underdog too. Most of us have felt that way at some point in life. We’ve felt alone, so we tend to do everything in our power to ensure that those closest to us never have to feel that way. Even faced with a million reasons to leave, 9 times out of 10 we will stay. This has always been a part of myself I love. I’ve been through situation in life with people that never should have worked out. Looking back on those days, the absolute shit we endured and the hard times we made it through by the skin of our teeth, I’m so thankful I never gave up. It’s who we are really. We talk about our wired brain wiring as a bad thing, but it also shapes us into persistent, stubborn warriors. We don’t leave until we’ve given it all the fight we have. We carry on, by your side nursing your wounds and showing you our scars because we have been there too.
- We are not weak… In fact , it’s quite the opposite. Every day we fight a war with ourselves, most days we win, on bad days we lose. We are not weak because of this. We wake up everyday unsure of how our day is going to go, because even the littlest things can set off a panic in our brains. I cry a lot. Like, a lot. I cry when I’m sad, mad, frustrated, irritated, overwhelmed, scared…you get the point. I’m a crier and I hate it because it makes people perceive me as weak. I get it, someone who cries as often as I do, if you didn’t know me you would think that I was just a mentally weak person. When you know me though, when you know my story and the adversities I’ve overcome, I dare you to tell me face to face that I am a weak person.
- You’re support will never go unnoticed, and we will love you hard because of it… We are just like everyone else, most of the time. We are funny, smart, loving, caring, adventurous, and just plain awesome. Some days are just harder than others. It’s not constant, and many of us go weeks or months without an actual attack. Just the normal anxious things. We don’t want to be treated with kid gloves, just as much as we don’t want to be judged. We are just regular people, but the support we get from you in all the walks of life means the world to us. Walking by your side, holding your hand, having your arms to melt into every night, it makes everyday infinitely better. It makes every problem melt away if even for a split second in time. We will tell you that too, because we know how it feels to need validation, and we don’t ever want you to wonder. We will tell you everyday something we love about you, we will support your dreams the best we know how, and we will look at you like the sun rises and sets in your eyes. I know that because I look at the man I love that way every single day. It hasn’t been easy, and it never will be. Life isn’t easy, love isn’t easy, living with a mental disorder isn’t easy. It’s all about what is worth fighting for, what makes waking up every morning easy, what brings you back to earth when you can barely breath. For me, it’s him. We love hard, because we know you deserve it. We will ALWAYS be thankful.