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36 Things People With Anxiety Want Their Friends to Know

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Unanswered text messages. Declined invites. Missed calls. When you live with anxiety, sometimes little aspects of friendship can be hard. But that doesn’t mean people with anxiety can’t maintain friendships. And it doesn’t mean people with anxiety don’t care about their friends.

We asked our Mighty readers who live with anxiety what they want their friends to know.

Here’s what they had to say: 

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1. “It may seem irrational to you, but what I’m anxious about is very real for me.” — Paige Johnson

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2. “I never know when it’s going to hit me. And when it does, I just need you to support me.” — Dani Hazlewood

3. “I’m not just blowing you off. It’s hard to make plans and just as hard to talk on the phone sometimes. It doesn’t mean I don’t desperately want to spend time and talk. I just can’t.” — Marie Abbott Belcher

4. “Don’t give up on me when I isolate myself.” — Jen Jolly

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5. “Just having someone you love and trust reminding you to breathe sometimes really helps.” — Tania Lynne Sidiqi

6. “Be patient with me; it doesn’t always look like a full-blown panic attack. It sometimes comes out in the form of anger or what looks like major frustration.” — Tabitha Rainey

7. “Even when things are wonderful, I’m always waiting for something horrible to happen.” — Lindsay Ballard

8. “When I’m being quiet, I’m not sad, bored, tired or whatever else they want to fill in the blank with. There’s just so much going on in my mind, sometimes I can’t keep up with what’s going on around me.” — Amanda Jade Briskar

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9. “I can’t just turn it off.” — Katie Keepman

10. “Sometimes when I’m feeling the anxiety, I have no idea why I’m anxious.” — Laura Hernandez

11. “Everything can change in less than 30 seconds. Too many people in one area, no known exits in a certain situation — the list goes on.” — Ashleigh Young

12. “For real — it’s not you, it’s me. Generalized anxiety feels like drowning all the time. Most times life in general intensifies that feeling. If I have a hard time making plans, don’t take it personally.” — Cory Lee Tyler

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13. “When you ask, ‘Are you OK?’ you might think I don’t trust you when I say, “Yes, I’m good!” But in my mind, I think you’ll stop seeing me as a kind, funny and calm person if you knew the truth.” — Arianne Gaudet

14. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry for every invite I’ve declined, every time I’ve seemed irrational or nasty because I was overwhelmed or scared. I’m sorry for every time I’ve said I’d do something but then backed out. I’m sorry my anxiety hurts you, too.” — Melissa Kapuszcak

15. “Anxiety doesn’t have a ‘look.’ I don’t have to be trembling or hyperventilating to be anxious.” — Vicki Blank

16. “I need you to reach out to me, even when I’m so anxious I’ve stopped leaving the house. I need to know someone still cares and wants to see me.” — Hayley Lyvers

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17. “Don’t shut me out. My anxiety may stop me from doing certain things, but just being asked to join in can sometimes make my day.” — Vikki Rose Donaghy

18. “I analyze things constantly because of anxiety. I cannot turn my brain off and it can be exhausting.” — Cailea Hiller

19. “Anxiety is not an attitude.” — Clare Goodwin

20.It’s not your job to fix me. Please just love me the way I am.” — Carole Detweiler Oranzi

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21.I want to first apologize for the hundreds of times I’ve bailed on you. The hundreds of times I had to leave early and you had no clue. The hundreds of times I had to tell you no.” — Mary Kate Donahue

22.Most of the time you won’t know I’m having anxiety unless I tell you,” — Kylie Wagner-Grobman

23. “If I’m not comfortable doing something, just let it go. Don’t try to convince me — it makes it worse.” — Jennifer DiTaranto

24. “I’m not a flake. Sometimes anxiety stops me from doing social things. I might cancel at the last minute, but it’s never out of unfriendliness or being lazy. Know that if you need me, I’ll be there for you in any way I can.” — Bridget Hamilton

25. “I don’t know what’s happening in my head a lot of the time either. I understand you don’t get it, but your efforts mean the world to me.” — Avery Roe

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26. “Please don’t tell me to just get over it or that I’m being silly.” — Carla Estevez

27. “When I cancel plans with you it’s because I’m afraid to admit I’m a heaping mess. It has nothing to do with you… and everything to do with my panic attack.” — Dorie Cabasag-Smith

28. “Keep inviting me to group things even though I usually decline. Some days I feel stronger than others, so my answer might surprise you. Be patient.” — Kara Edkins

29. “Don’t take it personally when I don’t want to go out. My comfort zone is my home. It’s my safe place.” — Elizabeth Vasquez

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30. “When I say I can’t take on even one more thing, I really need you to understand I really just can’t.” — Christine L Hauck

31. “When I can’t do something, no one is more disappointed than me. Please try to understand that.” — Lindsey Hemphill

32. “Sometimes I just need to be alone. It’s not personal. I’m not mad. I don’t have some problem. I don’t just need to shake it off and do something fun. I just need to be alone so I can reset myself and breathe a little.” — Stacey Weber

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33. “Every time I talk to you, I go over every word of the conversation many times in my head. If I said something I feel I like I shouldn’t have said, even if it’s as simple as incorrect grammar, I will obsess about it for years.” — Chelsea Noelani Gober

34. “I’m still me. I’m not my anxiety.” — Abi Wylie

35. “I know it can seem ridiculous at time, but please, please, please just love me through it.” — Melissa Renee Wilkerson

36. “Give me some space, but don’t forget me.” — Vickie Boyette

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*Some responses have been edited and shortened for brevity

Want to learn more about managing anxiety? Visit Half of Us.

36 Things People With Anxiety Want Their Friends to Know
36 Things People With Anxiety Want Their Friends to Know
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This Eerie Photograph Shows Anxiety Like We've Never Seen It Before

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In one haunting photograph, an Australian photographer took his own internal experience with anxiety — and turned it inside out.

 Beethy’s photograph depicting his experience with anxiety
source: Beethy

The photographer, who goes by the name of Beethystarted having extreme anxiety in 2009. In a reflection on the piece, he told his fans about about his experiences with panic attacks and suicidal thoughts.

At any random point in the day I can get these attacks,” he wrote. “During these attacks I’m overwhelmed with the feeling of imminent death. No rational thinking can erase the thought or feeling. Imagine having a gun held to your head. And you know it’s going to go off. You just don’t know when. That’s what happens when I experience an attack. I get these daily. I hide it well from people around me. By just walking away. Or keeping to myself a lot.”

For a while, the attacks were so debilitating he couldn’t work.

I slowly started to feel like a vegetable,” he wrote.

The image has been made into a popular GIF on Tumblr, making it all the more haunting.

Anxietyby Beethy photography

Posted by The Best of Tumblr on Thursday, 5 November 2015

 

Literally the most accurate physical depiction of anxiety ever,” one Facebook commenter wrote.

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Really glad I found this and the photo,” a reader on Beethy’s blog post said. “Finding this and everyone elses (sic) posts has made me realize I’m not alone. There are more of us with inner demons then society admits.”

Beethy says he didn’t expect the piece would be so appreciated.

The idea of the image is something that’s been twisting and turning in my subconscious for a while,” he wrote. “I’m glad other people with anxiety understand it.”

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This Comic Shows the Daily Battle of Someone With Anxiety and Depression

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For some people who live with anxiety and depression, getting through the day can be a battle. This fight is depicted in a cartoon by Nick Seluk, who publishes comics under the name The Awkward Yeti.

The cartoon, called “The Battle,” is the 21st episode in Seluk’s series, Medical Tales Retold, where he illustrates real stories from the world of medicine.

“I was drawn to this particular story because it broke an imaginary line between physical and mental ailments in my series. As someone who’s experienced and has been around anxiety and depression, it was easy to illustrate in a way that complemented the storyteller,” Seluk told The Mighty in an email. “Sometimes those who haven’t experienced the extremes don’t understand what it’s like, almost to the point of resenting it. This story was a simple explanation of one person’s experience. I think telling these kinds of stories is really important to help people relate and empathize with one another.”

Check out the comic below: 

A cartoon girl sits with depression and anxiety, depicted as two large blobs with faces. Text reads: I have depression and anxiety disorders.

Depression and Anxiety are in the girl's over-crowded bed. Text reads: and even with medication, I still have those days when I have to force myself out of bed and I can't rally the energy or motivation to do anything.
A mom is talking while the girl lays on the ground. Text reads: And my mom will say things like, "You were so happy and energetic yesterday, you got so much done." It makes me cringe to just think about her saying that. Anxiety and Depression dressed in football gear. They push her to the ground. Text reads: So I told her this: Depression and Anxiety are teammates and I'm the opposing team. Their one and only goal is to drag me down. Depression and anxiety talk to the girl. Text says: They make me paranoid, they make me feel useless. Depression and Anxiety are holding the girl's energy and motivation. Text reads: and they steal all my energy and motivation. Depression and Anxiety on a boat. Text reads: However, sometimes they go on vacation. The girl picks up her energy and motivation and starts to get stuff done. Text reads: I never know how long vacation will last, but I get stuff done while they're away. Depression and anxiety on a boat. Text reads: Because I never know when they'll come back. It may be a few hours or a few days. I never know. Girl wearing a Viking hat. text reads: I do know that I have to be prepared to go into battle when they return from vacation. Anxiety and depression fall off the boat.

This comic originally appeared on Tapastic, and was republished with permission from the artist.

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A Letter to Those Affected by My Anxiety

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Let me start by clarifying something. When I refer to my “anxiety,” I’m not simply talking about my fears or situations that make me nervous. I’m not talking about the kind of anxiousness that everyone experiences throughout their life. I’m talking about generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) — a mental condition that affects nearly every aspect of my life in one way or another.

You’ve probably noticed my nervous behaviors: Bailing on plans last minute. Making excuses to stay at home. Chewed nails and sudden crying. Shortness of breath, restlessness, fearing new situations, the inability to go to places alone and panic attacks.

I try to hide my struggles but I know you see it. You see it because you care. And because you care, you often try to help. You tell me to take deep breaths. You tell me to calm down or to stop worrying. With good intentions, you quote Philippians 4:6 to me. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” You try very hard to diffuse the situation. But it has never worked. Not even once.

I’m writing this letter because I want to be fair to you. I want you to understand what my anxiety is and what it feels like, because I want you to know I’m not ignoring your advice. I know my emotions can be hard for you to deal with and our relationship isn’t an easy one. For that reason, I feel like I owe you an explanation.

Anxiety feels like an ocean. When it hits, I struggle to keep my head above water. It’s overwhelming and every single moment feels like I’m one breathe away from drowning. It’s so big, so vast and extends further than I can see. The water is dark and heavy. And the more I struggle against it all, the higher the waters gets.

The words “calm down” force me to struggle against my anxiety. And the water rises just a little more.

It should be obvious, but please remember: If I could stop my anxiety, I would have done so by now. These emotions are not a choice, or something I’ve invited into my life. I’m not a victim, but I’m certainly not a willing participant. So please stop telling me to calm down. Please stop using phrases that imply I should be able to control my anxiety.

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I know you want to help me — you wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t — and I love you for that. But you need to stop trying to help me rationalize the feelings I’ve spent my whole life trying to understand. Irrational fears and emotions cannot be understood. Instead, try this: When my anxiety is pulling me under, let me know you see my struggle, even if you don’t understand it. Pray for me, but don’t ask me to do the praying. Listen to me, but don’t offer “easy” solutions. Most importantly, know that you don’t have to fix me or make my anxiety go away. I want you to be my friend, not my therapist. I will never put those kinds of expectations on you.

I wish you didn’t have to deal with this. Ironically, you seem to feel the same way about me. So this is a learning process for both of us. I promise to keep trying to find new ways to cope with my anxiety. In return, I simply ask you keep being my friend. Friendships like ours are often what keep my head just above the water. And that means everything to me.

Thank you,
Your Friend 

RELATED: 31 Secrets of People Who Live With Anxiety

For more on anxiety disorders, visit Mental Health America.

The Mighty is asking the following: What do you want your past, current or future partner to know about being with someone with your disability, disease or mental illness? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Related: Mental Health on The Mighty Podcast

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Gripping Photo Series Portrays Anxiety With Everyday Objects

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When John William Keedy first started using art to explore how anxiety is experienced, he wasn’t intending to get so personal. Now his series, “It’s Hardly Noticeable,” explores the world of a character with an unspecified anxiety-based mental illness, based on both his experiences with anxiety and his fascination with the cultural standard of “normal.”

Keedy graduated from Trinity University with a B.A. in studio art and psychology and moved on to receive a Master of Fine Arts from the Rochester Institute of Technology. During his undergrad he was diagnosed with a anxiety disorder.

“The images began as a way of revisiting some of the thoughts and beliefs that I had at the time. I didn’t originally intend to display these images widely, but as I continued to make the images, they received a very positive reaction and I realized they had the potential to resonate with others going through similar experiences,” he told The Mighty in an email. “As I continue to add images to the series, I hope they can help to open a wider dialog about anxiety and mental illness.”

You can see more of Keedy’s work by visiting his website.

photo by Keedy

photo by Keedy

photo by Keedy photo by Keedy photo by Keedy photo by Keedy photo by Keedy photo by Keedy

photo by Keedy

photo by Keedy

photo by Keedy

photo by Keedy

photo by Keedy

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5 Ways to Deal With Social Anxiety Without Changing Who You Are

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You’ve probably seen lists like these all over the Internet. Maybe you’ve even purposely looked them up like I have:

“Got Anxiety? Read This List On How To Conquer It!”

“Introverted? Here’s a Step-By-Step Plan For Coming Out of Your Shell!”

“Socially Awkward? Here’s How to Become the Life of the Party!”

Please.

I know what it’s like to read a headline like that and think, “There’s something wrong with me I need to completely fix right now.”

But instead of telling you how you should change yourself, I’m going to tell you you’re an all-star. If you struggle through tasks and experiences most people think are a walk in the park, I’m going to tell you you shouldn’t give up.

But most of all, I’m going to tell you it’s not your fault. I know you’re already trying your best to stay strong. Here are some some guidelines to cope with social anxiety without changing yourself in the process.

1. Try to reach out to people.

When I actually muster up the courage to talk to someone, I become this mumbling, bumbling, ranting person who doesn’t know when to stop once I start. Once someone finally gives me the time of day, the flood gates break. Despite this, a few weeks ago I reached out to an old co-worker. Non-anxiety filled, and mostly not awkward social interactions take time and practice! You don’t have to be the next Martin Luther King Jr. in public speaking, just start a conversation with, “Hi, how are you?”

2. Don’t permanently live in your comfort zone.

Even people who don’t have anxiety have comfort zones. I imagine mine is a warm, comfy padded cell with lots of books. Comfort zones are made for just that: our comfort. But that doesn’t mean we should permanently unpack and live there. It’s difficult, but I have no doubt you can enjoy life every once in awhile without hiding from it or being terrified of it. Sometimes I picture myself tucking my problems into a filing cabinet in that padded comfort zone room and putting it away for a rainy day.

3. When your fight-or-flight response is making you want to take flight, remember that sometimes you can stay and fight.

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In that moment of hesitation when entering a social gathering, you always have a choice. You can choose not to run away or hide behind a mask of “I’m definitely having tons of fun over here!” Anxiety doesn’t control you. You do. That’s probably the most important lesson I’ve learned in the midst of an anxiety attack or an urge to run after an especially awkward and embarrassing social encounter: If you can acknowledge that you’re in control of yourself, everything else starts to fall into place. You are so much stronger than you think.

4. Discover where your triggers come from. 

Sometimes you can feel like the coolest of the cool. Sometimes a certain song comes on and you want to scale the wall like Spider-Man. I can assure you, you’re not losing it. Certain triggers that initiate our anxiety can be unbeknownst to us. While I still don’t understand most of my ridiculous reactions to social situations, I assume that some of it comes from not being social enough as a kid. Triggers are sometimes amidst the dustiest corners of our mind. Don’t be afraid to dust them off — knowing your triggers will only help you conquer them in the future.

5. Never, ever feel like you’re alone in this.

If you’re like me, I hope you read this and know you’re not alone. I hope you know that someday you will get better, and that every fear you have is conquerable. Big or small, you have a support system. Even prom queens have some anxieties, so don’t stress thinking you’re one in a million. Sure, we all have different levels of anxiety and introverted mindsets, but in many ways we’re all one and the same. Growing up as a socially-awkward, anxiety-filled introvert made me feel like I would always and forever be alone, but that wasn’t true. When you eventually open the door of fear that you’ve been shut behind, you’ll realize how many people were actually waiting for you on the other side.

Stay strong fellow socially-awkward, anxiety-filled introverts! You are so much more than meets the eye.

Follow this journey on The Moments In Between

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