What I Want My Loved Ones to Know, From Someone With Anxiety

258
258
0

I always want to say sorry.

When someone you know or love has a mental illness, it can be really hard on both of you. I am well aware of this, because I know my anxiety can make other people stressed, as if it’s infectious. Depression is the same – if I am sad and full of pessimism, it can influence those around me in the same way. Sometimes, all I can think to say is that I’m sorry.

When an individual is affected by a mental illness, they are often the ones to receive attention; they are the ones to be pitied. But how often do we, people living with mental illness, think about the people in our lives who become our rocks when everything else is crumbling to pieces?

Here are some things that I want to say to those around me, who may not understand what I’m going through, but who love me unconditionally in spite of this piece of my mind.

1. I’m sorry  I don’t always make sense, that I can’t always articulate how I’m feeling, how I’ve cancelled our plans and ruined our day, how I am cripplingly insecure, how I push you away, how I can’t understand myself— I’m sorry.

2. Thank you – for being there during good times and bad times.

3. You are important too. If you need me, I’ll be here.

4. You are so strong – never underestimate yourself.

5. I know my thoughts aren’t always logical, you don’t have to tell me that.

6. Please be patient with me.

7. I’m not crazy.

8. Try not to change plans at the last minute.

9. Please don’t be angry if I change plans at the last minute.

10. It is an illness, it isn’t “all in my head.”

11. Be honest with me.

12. Be prepared for what to do if I have a panic attack. It’s not pretty.

13. Be prepared for a hundred ‘to-do’ lists.

14. Talk to me – this can’t be an elephant in the room.

15. Forgive me.

16. Research as much as you can about what I’m dealing with.

17. Listen to me.

18. I love you.

There are a hundred other things I want to say to you, to ask of you, but this is enough for today. One day at a time, we can get through this. I am so passionate; I am able to feel emotions so incredibly strongly. This means the bad times are awful but the good times are amazing. Yes, I feel hurt and pain and insecurity and fear, but I also feel passion and love and loyalty. These emotions are the ones I’m proud of, and I want to use them as fuel to make our relationship a good one.

Follow this author’s journey on Piece of Mind

258
258
0
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

5 Ways to Love Someone Who Is Struggling With Anxiety

3k
3k
9

I felt like the worst mother in the world and I yearned for the days when an Arthur Band-Aid and a kiss would heal any hurt. This kind of pain, this kind of struggle made me feel helpless. Although we were getting help, the progress was slow and laborious. Surely there was something left in my mama bag of tricks I hadn’t yet tried, if only I could think of it.

Since my daughter Brooke and I have been open about her battle with anxiety, she’s had the privilege to walk with a number of friends who are experiencing similar kinds of problems. As we were talking yesterday about the kinds of conversations she has had with friends who are hurting, I asked her what she told them. How did she help? She offered these profound words:

I just remember what I wanted to hear.

So I asked her, Tell me. What did you want to hear when you were struggling?

Here are five loving messages she shared with me that might help you with someone you love who is struggling with anxiety: 

1. “I understand what you are saying.” 

Be present and listen. Listen with your whole self. Practice active listening skills by responding with words and phrases which indicate you hear what they’re saying and understand. While there may be a time for figuring out solutions, the most loving response initially is to listen without trying to fix the problem. If what they say is difficult to hear, be brave and try not to react in a way which might shut down the sharing. Some phrases which indicate you are listening might include:

  • “Tell me more about that.”
  • “I’m listening.”
  • “It sounds like you feel…”
  • “That must be hard/scary/difficult.”
  • “What is the hardest part of this for you?”
  • “What would make this easier?”
  • “How can I help?”

2. “You aren’t losing your mind and you won’t always feel this way.” 

When we feel intensely painful feelings, sometimes our greatest fear is that we will get stuck in this awful place and be lost there forever. Part of learning to manage difficult feelings is understanding that feelings are not forever. Feelings always pass. Feelings come in waves and sometimes it seems as if we are drowning in them. Knowing and understanding the temporary nature of feelings gives us courage to keep our head above water and continue fighting our way back to dry land.

3. “I’m here, no matter how bad it gets.” 

When Brooke was so miserable and sick, we continually told her we were in this together. However long it took, we would get through it as a family. The fight wasn’t just her battle, it was our battle. We wanted her to know there would never be a point when we would give up and walk away. As a parent, this seemed so obvious we shouldn’t have to say the words out loud. Yet, for the person who is struggling, these reassurances from friends or family are a lifeline of hope. Everyone, at some point in their life, desperately needs to hear the words “you are not alone.”

4. “This isn’t your fault.”

People who are struggling with emotional issues or mental illness often believe what they’re experiencing is a sign of weakness of character. If they were just strong enough, they could snap out of it. For many people of faith, this sense of guilt and responsibility runs even deeper. If I only had enough faith, if I only prayed more, if only I was a better person, I wouldn’t feel this way. Depression, anxiety and other mental health issues are illnesses which require treatment. Helping your loved one understand they are not to blame for their illness is a gift of love.

5. “I love you, so don’t give up.” 

Lost in hopelessness and despair, a person who is struggling may begin to wonder if it is worth fighting. Thoughts of ending the pain become tempting. If this is the life I am destined to live, why even bother? My family and friends will be better off without me. While we may be hesitant to broach such an incredibly difficult topic, if there is any question at all, it is always better to ask to make sure our loved one is safe. Suicidal or self-harming thoughts are sometimes a symptom of depression, and we want to take every opportunity to reassure our friend or family member how much we care about their safety. They need to know their lives are valuable and worthy of the battle. They need to hear us say we love them and we are willing to fight by their side to help them find their way to the other side.

The messages above were Brooke’s five very wise and loving suggestions. Here is one more from me.

“I see your hard work to get better. I know how hard you are trying. You are so brave and I am so proud of you.”

Kelly and her daughter, Brooke, embrace
Kelly and her daughter, Brooke.

If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

The Crisis Text Line is looking for volunteers! If you’re interesting in becoming a Crisis Counselor, you can learn more information here.

Follow this journey on Grace Notes.

The Mighty is asking the following: Create a list-style story of your choice in regards to disability, disease or illness. It can be lighthearted and funny or more serious — whatever inspires you. Be sure to include at least one intro paragraph for your list. 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.

3k
3k
9
TOPICS
, Contributor list
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

What Anxiety Makes Me

280
280
3

Dear anxiety:

You make me feel like a hollow shell of who I really am.

You make me feel like less of a person.

You make me feel isolated and alone.

You make me doubt my faith.

You make me question everything.

You make me miss important life events.

You make my heart pound.

You make me feel faint.

You make my head hurt.

You make my stomach ache.

You make my body sick.

You make my spirit sick.

You make my life toxic.

You make me feel like less of a mother.

You make me feel like less of a wife.

You make me realize I need help.

You make me realize I don’t have to live this way.

You make me determined to overcome.

You make me determined today is the day.

You make me determined you will not win one more moment of
me.

The Mighty is asking the following: If you could write a letter to your disease, disability or mental illness, what would you say?  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.

280
280
3
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

6 Things I Wish People Knew About Living With Social Anxiety Disorder

1k
1k
2

Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) has held a tight grip on my life for as long as I can remember. Since I was young, social situations have filled me with a certain dread that pushed me to avoid anxiety-inducing activities like speaking in class or checking out at the store cashier or talking to a teacher because of the immense stress they put on my already-anxious mind.

In spite of this, I have always pushed myself to work to overcome my fears. Some things get easier, but social anxiety still permeates into all areas of my life and leaves me wondering if I’ll ever be able to achieve my career goals, make friends or fulfill lifelong dreams, especially when people tend to write me off as just a shy girl instead of
seeing my potential.

It still seems that very few people are aware of Social Anxiety Disorder and the crippling effect it can have on the lives of those who have it. I believe that SAD is keeping a lot of truly talented people from reaching their full potential and sharing their gifts with the world… or even from just leading a fulfilling, happy life.

Here are some things I wish more people knew about living with Social Anxiety Disorder:

1. We are not just shy. There are people in the world who are more hesitant to talk than others… this is shyness. Those of us with SAD experience physical symptoms of panic when exposed to social situations, leading us to dread and avoid them. This panic makes it difficult to speak to new people, look others in the eye, make conversation, etc. We obsess over saying the wrong thing, offending others, or embarrassing ourselves. SAD can take over your life and make it lonely and miserable.

2. We are more than “the quiet one.” I’ve gotten to know many shy and socially anxious people over the years, and I’ve come to find that they are some of the funniest, most intelligent, thoughtful and talented people. Because we don’t
talk much, people assume we are just meek people with little to say. People are
often shocked to find that behind those downcast eyes and blushing cheeks can
lie spunky spitfires and irreverent comedians. It is frustrating to not be able
to show others the real you because of your social anxiety.

3. We are not trying to be rude. Sometimes people interpret my not making conversation, joining in groups or avoiding eye contact as me being rude or stuck-up. The truth is, I am terrified of offending people, but my social anxiety makes it hard to join or continue conversation because I can’t think of things to say or I’m too afraid to say them.

4. Social situations are very stressful for us, so please have some understanding. I have had people judge me over the years for cancelling on an event at the last minute. I understand their frustration, but imagine the panic and stress you feel in your body right before you go on a first date, give a presentation, do a job interview, or start your first day of work: your pulse raises, stomach churns, body shakes, mind races, and your mouth freezes up. This is what people with SAD often feel when they go to school or a meeting, the store or a lunch date (even with an old friend). Any situation can trigger these feelings of panic. Please be mindful that this might be the reason for someone not showing up for appointment, participating in class, etc.

5. We do have things to say, but it’s hard to get them out. Please be considerate in group settings of those who may have a hard time speaking up, especially if you are voicing strong opinions or making decisions that will affect the entire group.

6. We have a lot of potential. Most work and educational opportunities depend on one’s ability to communicate and the number of connections one has. Obviously, this presents a huge obstacle to those with SAD. I work very hard to keep pushing myself in spite of my disorder, but I still have a naturally quiet demeanor that can lead some employers, audition judges, etc. to dismiss me as a candidate in spite of my qualifications. I hope people will start to focus more on the ideas people share than the volume at which they speak them.

Every person with social anxiety is different and the disorder can affect people in different ways, but hopefully this gives a better idea of what it is like to live with Social Anxiety Disorder. It may seem like a weakness of character fueled by a lack of courage and petty fears, but SAD is a crippling disorder that requires a lot of courage to get through every day living with. All in all, I hope we can all have more understanding and consideration for the battles people we come across each day may be battling, offering compassion, not criticism.

The Mighty is asking the following: Create a list-style story of your choice in regards to disability, disease or illness. It can be lighthearted and funny or more serious — whatever inspires you. Be sure to include at least one intro paragraph for your list. 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.

1k
1k
2
TOPICS
, , , Contributor list
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

A PSA About My Anxiety Disorder

260
260
1

I don’t claim to be an expert when it come to anxiety disorders, let alone know how others living with them feel about this particular unwanted passenger. This is just a little PSA for all the times I’ve resisted the urge to *face palm* in my mind after someone, not always a stranger, has said something just plain insensitive and ignorant about anxiety disorders and those who have to live with them every day.

1. Anxiety isn’t like a pair of shorts, you don’t simply outgrow it as you get older or wear it out with therapy and medication. You just learn to manage it as best you can, with what tools you have. Because you have no other choice but to keep going.

2. You wouldn’t give someone with diabetes grief for managing their condition with insulin, so please stop hassling people about their medication or treatment for anxiety and any other disorders you don’t necessarily understand yourself.

2. Panic attacks aren’t always conveniently dramatic or obvious. So if someone with an anxiety disorder tells you he’s having a panic attack, please be a decent human being and take him seriously — it’s not hard.

3. Self-care is not a case of being selfish, weak, sensitive or flaky (yes, people actually say things like that). It’s about remaining in one piece at the end of the week so one can do it all again on Monday.

4. Don’t project your idea of what a “real stressor” is onto others. What may seem like nothing to you, may mean a panic attack or trouble breathing for others. This could be anything from making a phone call, driving or answering the door.

5. Most of the time I’m pretending to be OK with everything going on, sometimes I slip up on my routine. Just give me a chance to recollect my thoughts.

6. Like many people I have social anxiety disorder, and as a result, I don’t go to crowded events. Sometimes I can be present in body but too tense and unwillingly consumed by all the thoughts racing through my head to enjoy the moment like someone without anxiety would. Don’t take it personally. It’s not you, your event or even me as a person. It’s my anxiety.

The Mighty is asking the following: Create a list-style story of your choice in regards to disability, disease or illness. It can be lighthearted and funny or more serious — whatever inspires you. Be sure to include at least one intro paragraph for your list. 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.

260
260
1
TOPICS
, , Contributor list
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

The 2 Questions I Ask Myself When I Can’t Control My Worrying

241
241
0

I’m a naturally anxious person. I like things done a certain way; change is hard for me; I do not like the unknown. This isn’t a new development – I was an anxious kid too, but what is a semi-new development is how I am handling this anxiety.

Spoiler alert – it’s not always great.

For example, I was feeling particularly anxious about something the other day and somewhat ironically, happened to have a midwife’s appointment scheduled. After the nurse called me back into the room, she asked me the usual innocuous questions and then unvelcro-ed her blood pressure cuff.

“What is your blood pressure normally like?”
“Oh yeah. It’s sort of low. I’m usually around 110/70.”
“Well, it’s not low today. You’re up around 140. Can you take a deep breath?”

So I took a deep breath – and my blood pressure stabilized.

At first glance, this episode didn’t provide me with any great insight, but during a conversation with my brother later that night I realized something – things I worry about, things that aren’t even actually happening, are affecting how my body functions right now, in a very real way.

Like the time I laid awake in the middle of the night with heart palpitations because I was worried I was going to be worrying about something that might happen during Oliver’s birthday party.

Or the time I worried myself sick all during our annual Christmas lights pilgrimage because I thought I might have to start my clinical fellowship over if some paperwork had not been filed appropriately.

Those benign moments were tainted because I was so focused on the “what-ifs” of the future. What-ifs I had absolutely no control over – no matter how much or how hard I thought about them. Now granted, I have made great strides with my anxiety (and right now you’re thinking, “These are great strides? What is she smoking? And also, how can I get some?”). But there was a time when these kinds of triggers would absolutely cripple me to the point of not being able to function. I have moved through that time, and for that I am extremely grateful. I have moved through to a place where I can recognize there will be things in my life that are going happen, and they are going to be out of my control. I can choose to perseverate on these things until they drive me crazy or I can recognize them as a stressor and tell them to get the F out of my way.

These days, I try to ask myself two questions:

  1. Is this useful? Because there is a “useful” kind of worrying. You might worry about your tires on your car being low. So you realize you should stop at the gas station and fill them up. Problem solved. What you shouldn’t (and I sometimes tend to) do, is replay how you are going to get to the gas station step-by-step, mentally tackling potential obstacle along the way – over and over. What if the pump is broken? What if I don’t have enough quarters? What if it’s not just that I’m low on air and something is really wrong with my tire? This is not a useful line of thinking. If I get to this point, I know I have gone too far.
  2. Can I do anything to change this? If the answer is yes, refer to #1, create an action plan and move on. If the answer is no, I have to let it go. (I don’t have daughters, so I will not be making the expected “Frozen” reference here.)

It’s a pretty simple two-step process that more often than not, I mess up in some way; however, when I get it right – it yields powerful results. Results that don’t cause a nurse to tell you the calm the heck down when you’re sitting in her office for a routine appointment.

It’s been a long and winding road (as The Beatles say) to get to this point. Of course, there are still times when I think I have everything under control, only to find out I am about to step off a cliff; but I’ve found that those cliffs are starting to become far less arduous and much easier to navigate around. I’m certainly not in a place where I feel like I’ve got this whole game of life figured out and I don’t worry at all any more, but I am in a place when I can see some of my worrying for what it is: useless.

**Points #1 and #2 were gleaned from Dan Harris’ “10% Happier” and Alan and Nikki Lawrence of “That Dad Blog.” Check them out!

Editor’s note: Not everyone experiences anxiety in the same way. This is one individual’s experience.

241
241
0
TOPICS
, Contributor list
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Real People. Real Stories.

8,000
CONTRIBUTORS
150 Million
READERS

We face disability, disease and mental illness together.