We don’t always understand, either.
I never used to think of myself as an anxious person; I pride myself on being perpetually upbeat and cheerful. So the first time I couldn’t catch my breath and my hands went numb, I thought I was suffering from a degenerative disease.
Now that I’ve been diagnosed with chronic anxiety, I usually know a little better what’s going on. When I’m packed onto a subway train like a sardine in a tin and start to get lightheaded, I go straight for my trusty bottle of Klonopin.
But sometimes I’ll just be going about my business like normal when suddenly my palms start sweating and my mouth goes dry. It might take me a while to figure out that something traumatic has occurred and triggered my anxiety: for example, someone might have left me a voicemail, or been noncommittal about plans. These are the times I wish I could hand out informational pamphlets to my friends and family: How To Deal With Elizabeth’s Anxiety. In lieu of doing that though, here are 17 things every anxiety sufferer wishes you understood. (The last one is the most important one.)
1. We don’t always know how to ask for help.
2. Sometimes just sitting quietly with us is the best thing you can do.
3. Just because we’re anxious doesn’t mean anything is actually wrong.
4. Just breathing can be really hard sometimes.
5. Answering our question with “We’ll see” can make us stress out. We need to know what’s happening next to feel in control.
6. Not picking up the phone when you call doesn’t mean we don’t love you. It just means we’re having a day when communication is too exhausting to bear.
7. Leaving us a voicemail is a cruel and unusual punishment. Voicemails are an exercise in terror; we immediately think the worst has happened when we see you’ve left us one.
8. We might be smiling, but it doesn’t mean we’re fine.
9. We can’t “just relax” when we’re having a panic attack. Telling us this only makes us feel worse for not being able to control what’s happening to our bodies.
10. We don’t mean to be flakes, but sometimes we have to cancel plans when it all gets too much.
11. You can’t ‘talk us out’ of our anxiety. It doesn’t work like that.
12. Sometimes we just need to hide for a while.
13. Even when our anxiety is well-controlled, panic attacks can still sneak up on us.
14. We’re not doing this on purpose to make your life hard.
15. Telling us everything is going to be fine doesn’t make it better. Logically, we know this, but our body just didn’t get that message.
16. Instead of telling us how to act, feel and think when we’re in the thick of anxiety, the best thing you can do is say the words, “I’m here for you” and ‘You’re safe”.
17. We need you and love you, even when we’re too anxious to show it.
Images via giphy.com and tumblr.com.
Comment: Do you relate to any of these experiences? What else do you wish people understood about your anxiety?