12 Things My Loved Ones Need to Know About Anxiety
Two and a half years ago, I did something I thought I would never do in a million years. I stepped way out of my comfort zone to share an untold story with my closest family and friends. Though trembling and immediately wishing I could rewind time and “un-press” the enter button that day, I am so very grateful I did. Because in sharing something so uncomfortable and personal, I learned I was not alone.
My struggle with anxiety started at a very, very young age. Before I never knew what these nonstop thoughts reeling through my mind were. It’s something I now know a considerable amount about because I have “lived” it for so long. In learning there were countless others out there just like me, a newfound calm formed in my heart, giving strength and volume to my quiet voice, which has become such an advocate for so many.
To those suffering, as I have and still do daily, I understand what it can feel like to wish someone around you even remotely understood how you were feeling or what you were experiencing in a given moment of pure panic. When the words can’t come to mouth or shame still holds its grip, I want you to know you are not alone. I am here to help you articulate those feelings.
See the thing is most of us actually know someone “suffering” from anxiety. We may just not realize it yet or ever. Nonetheless, I want to share with you what so many of us feel about this mental illness and completely wish others understood. Today, I serve as a voice to millions, to stand in courage, to shed shame and to remind you that you are amazing, incredible and destined for beautiful purpose. Chances are, these are the things you would want me to share, too.
1. You may or may not be a part of my “comfort zone” at any given moment.
The thing is, it’s probably not you, at all. It’s most likely something in the environment, or simply a situation that is bothering me.
2. I never want to hurt you.
Ever. I am probably the biggest people-pleaser you will ever meet, which, in itself, can be utterly exhausting. Trying to mask my anxiety, in-lieu of a situation or experience on top of not wanting to hurt you or your feelings in any way possible, breaks my heart to the core.
3. Sometimes, I pull away.
Please, respect me. I just need my space from a moment, from a situation or from an experience. I may be gone for just a few minutes in the room next door or you may not see me for a few weeks until I feel comfortable again. Please, please don’t take it personally. I would love to talk or for you to check in. Please, don’t push me out of my comfort zone if I am not ready.
4. Please don’t tell me, “It’s nothing to worry about.”
Because in my mind, it is. It is real. It’s a worry. It’s not “nothing.” When you say things like this, it can be dismissive and beyond hurtful.
5. I tend to be very protective.
You might call it “overprotective,” about the ones I love the most. I may not hand over my 6-month-old baby when you ask for her. It’s not that I don’t want to, but to me, she is safest in my own arms. I promise to try and be super polite about it. Please, don’t push me into something I am not ready to do. I tend to keep my clan very, very close.
6. Sometimes, I shut down.
This may look different from another person who has anxiety. For me, I may stop talking. My mood may shift. I may try to leave the situation. I may have tears. For some, a full-blown panic-attack may set-in. It’s as simple as asking what you can do to help. I may tell you “nothing,” but I may also talk your ear off or borrow a tissue. I can’t really predict how I will respond.
7. I am great at making excuses.
I tend to back out of things last minute because, most likely, I am worried something will trigger my anxiety and I won’t know what to do. Please don’t stop inviting me to things. As you become more a part of my comfort zone, you will most likely not see me shy away. If you know me well-enough, then I know you will be able to support me when something is making me feel worried.
8. I am super indecisive.
I often can’t decide if something is or is not going to prompt anxious feelings. I may be excited about going on a trip, and at the last-minute, I can’t figure out what to pack, how to get there or where we should stay. Please, bear with me, as my mind is whirling, and I am trying to settle it down. It’s not that I can’t make a choice. It’s simply that I am worried it is going to be the “wrong” one and something bad might happen.
9. I get frustrated when you don’t listen.
If I am trying to explain something to you in regards to why I am worried and you blow me off or tell me I’m “silly,” then I most likely won’t confide in you again. You may lose some of my trust. You may not see me around as much until I feel comfortable once again.
10. I tend to be hyper-aware of my surroundings.
Honestly, I’m super sensitive in general. I may find something in a given area that you would have never even noticed. I may need a moment just to take it all in.
11. I am well aware of my anxiety.
I know I “have it.” I know it is a part of me. I know it can be a hindrance, a speed bump, a shadow. Believe me, I hate it. I completely despise it. Those words don’t do it justice. You don’t need to point it out. You don’t need to highlight it in shame. I know it is a part of me, a part I want to shed. Generally, I am a work-in-progress.
12. I love it when you tell me you are “proud of me.”
For anything, for sharing my story, for trying something new, for stepping out of my comfort zone, for making up my mind, for showing up when I didn’t feel like it. It gives me a great boost of confidence in the right direction and the support I so desperately need.