Let’s face it. If you don’t have the experience, you don’t truly understand the experience.
Mentally healthy people don’t understand anxiety or depression. They can understand it from a theoretical standpoint. Maybe they’ve read the DSM diagnosis. A family member might suffer from mental illness, so they see how the person experiences it from the outside.
However, you don’t have to be part of the problem. You can take steps to help people who have these illnesses. You can take steps to avoid causing them pain.
Please note: I battle depression and anxiety every day. This article is about how I feel and experience the illness. It is not a replacement for professional medical advice.
Do You Want to Know What Anxiety Feels Like?
Imagine there’s an egg in your stomach. It’s small, unobtrusive. The egg slowly rolls to the side, cracking. A sharp claw pierces the shell from inside.
You feel the egg rolling back and forth, sloshing the contents of your stomach.
The egg rolls violently as the claw pulls on the edges of the opening. Hitting the walls of your stomach lining, waves form, sending the egg coursing to the other side. Reaching the other side, the egg smashes open.
A baby dragon flies free.
It struggles to fly, crashing into your stomach contents, churning them, creating whirlpools of chaotic fluids. Astonishingly, the dragon grows faster and faster. The creature bashes itself against your stomach lining, trying to find a way out.
Your body vibrates uncontrollably as the dragon pounds against your insides. The vibrations course down your abdomen into your legs. Your legs pound the ground as though life itself depends on it.
The dragon fights for a way out of your abdomen. Unable to find any exit, it smashes into your stomach over and over.
You lose all focus.
Your brain can only think of one thing. It’s not the dragon. It’s the reason the dragon is growing.
It’s the Worry, the What-Ifs, and the Worst Possible Scenarios Running Through Your Mind.
Slowly, you bring your mind back to the present. Maybe you go for a walk. Maybe you write. Whatever it is, the dragon dies, laying a new egg as it sinks into the pit of your stomach. The body rots, keeping your nausea active for a time.
Here’s the thing. The dragon never escaped. It laid an egg. There’s always an egg waiting for something to crack the shell open. Another dragon wants out.
Why Has My Anxiety Been Low?
I have a series of conventions coming up. This is my first big year promoting my urban fantasy stories, an upcoming podcast, and other irons I have in the works.
Surprisingly, my anxiety has been low.
Because I write. Writing heals me. It calms me down, takes me out of depressive and anxious episodes. As I write this, the anxiety I’m experiencing dissipates.
It can be triggered again, easily triggered.
I need a strong awareness of the things happening in my life to fight the war. I have to take action when anxiety or depression hit before they consume me.
My conventions cause me anxiety. I haven’t done many, and I want them all to go well. As they approach, I wonder, question, and worry. My anxiety grows.
Today I received an email confirming an event. I was glad because every confirmation received decreases my anxiety.
This one didn’t.
The language used was demanding and downright threatening in many areas. I have to remind myself, most people don’t understand language affects others. So I read the email and continued on with my day.
The dragon egg cracked a little. An eye peered out, waiting for its time to strike.
Then I got the next email saying I received the first in error, because I wasn’t registered for the event.
My anxiety skyrocketed. The dragon burst out of the egg, fully grown.
Everything was in order until today. Now, I’m worried. I’m questioning. I’m nervous. The what-ifs are running through my mind.
Some of You Might Think, ‘What-Ifs Aren’t All That Bad?’
For people with anxiety, our what-ifs are always bad. We find the worst possible outcomes and run them through our minds over and over and over.
Anxiety puts the energizer bunny to shame.
We can see the positive, but those negatives keep feeding the dragon. The dragon grows, grabbing our focus, and we find more negatives to send its way.
Language affects people who struggle with depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses.
When you write an email, when you talk to a friend, choose your words. If today’s sender had done these things, my anxiety would have never burst forth.
There Are 4 Easy Things You Can Do to Help People with Anxiety
- Rather than demand, ask.
- Rather than ignore, acknowledge.
- Always greet a person with a smile — even in writing.
Words can be angry and bitter. Excessive exclamation points, capital letters, and bold lettering can seem like ultimatums, sending us into a flurry of what-if worries, cracking the egg open.
4. Most importantly, if something is your fault, apologize.
An apology goes a long way with people who have anxiety. We don’t want to feel this way. It would be nice if you acknowledged the stress your words or actions caused in our lives.
Most people appreciate apologies in any scenario where you’re at fault.
After all this time, I shouldn’t be surprised, but it still surprises me how many people refuse to acknowledge their mistakes. Getting an apology, let alone acknowledgment of a mistake, is a rare experience. It shouldn’t be.
You may not know we have anxiety and depression.
Only a handful of people knew I struggled until I opened myself through writing. Everyone was shocked.
You may not know our names, but we live among you. We try to hide in the shadows, not wanting our illness known. Some of us can hide very well. I have my entire life.
Yet, you have seen our faces.
In the end, we just want kindness, compassion, acceptance, and acknowledgment to help create an arsenal against an undying dragon.