The One Word Your Partner With Anxiety Doesn't Need to Hear
“You’re crazy!” he shouted at me. “You’re freaking out and nobody knows what you’re talking about.”
My stomach lurched, and my heart dropped. Pain welled in my throat, and the tears that now flowed like an uncontrollable fire hydrant washed down my face. My voice was so choked I couldn’t even muster a response. This is how the conversation went the first time my loved one witnessed one of my meltdowns — an all out uninhibited anxiety attack.
Ask anyone who struggles with anxiety and I think they will agree, those words — “you’re crazy” — hurt more than anyone could understand. What we already feel in the midst of an anxiety attack is a loss of control of our emotions, our thoughts, our being. Every word that wants to come out cyclones into a monstrous torrent of incoherent thoughts. Only a few words ring clear through that garbled mess, and for me, they’re not pretty. Dramatic, stupid, monster, b*itch. Those are the only words I can make out when an attack comes on me. Because those are the words I have been called.
Now add “crazy” to that list. It is not an understatement for me to say in those moments when my mind shuts down and my emotions break loose that I genuinely feel like I’d rather die than for the person on the receiving end of this meltdown to see me like this. If it is scary for me, I can only imagine what someone watching it must think. “God, she’s a mess,” you might would say.
Or would you?
The other element to my panic is imagining situations that aren’t real. I mean, that is usually what causes the outburst in the first place, am I right fellow anxious friends? For me it is an imagined situation where I have disappointed someone again, and I am getting ready to receive an onslaught of hateful speech from a loved one for how insignificant I am and how I just can’t get anything right. They don’t love me anymore so what the heck, just leave already.
But the thing is, this usually is not the case at all. Ironic, isn’t it? That what I fear someone else will do is what I end up doing, and by doing so, I elicit the feared response from that other someone? Right. Not crazy? Perhaps that is what you are thinking while reading this lovely story of mine. But I am not crazy. Neither is that person is your life who struggles with anxiety. Because the truth is, we did not ask to feel this way. I did not wake up asking the universe to flip on its axis and catapult an ocean of emotions down my throat. I too am trying to figure out how to understand what is happening. While you are watching this go down I am trying to think, “How did I get here? Why do I feel this way? Where did that come from?” I don’t know about anyone else, but my anxiety attacks usually happen at the end of a good day. I could be successful in all I have attempted that day, gotten compliments from friends or strangers, but by the time I have come home to the one I love, I break.
So what do you say to your loved one with anxiety when they scream, “I can’t take this anymore!” A hug. The best thing you can do is hold them in a tight embrace and say, “Everything is going to be OK. I am here for you. We will get through this.” Because really, the reason all of this is happening is because your loved one is feeling immense pressure to measure up. Whether it be your standards or ones they have placed upon themselves (usually the latter), all they need to hear from you is that they do measure up, there is nothing to worry about, and things are going to be just fine.
If I have scared you with this post, I apologize. But chances are you have someone in your life who struggles with anxiety, perfectionism, depression, or any type of self-loathing temperament that makes them feel less than worthy. Remind them they are worthy, they are loved. Because for people like me, all it takes is an understanding word and genuine concern to ease fear. Unfortunately my loved one has learned this the hard way. But now when I start to freak out about my responsibilities or unforeseen plans or whatever else is stressing me, he smiles and says, “It’s all going to be OK. We’re in this together.” There are still things I have to deal with inside of me, but knowing he is standing beside me makes that job a little less painful.
Follow this journey on More Than Sparrows.