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4 Ways to Help Someone With Anxiety Who's Going Somewhere

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Since I’m going somewhere today, I’ve decided to post a list of things I find helpful when going somewhere with someone with anxiety. Please, note these are my opinions. You should always ask someone with anxiety the best way to help them. Not every method is beneficial to every individual.

1. Give us more than 24 hours notice.

If you want to go somewhere with us, then please let us know before 24 hours beforehand. While knowing about a certain event too early may cause us to over-think until we don’t feel able to go, springing on us the fact that you want us to go somewhere or just showing up unannounced will add extra, unnecessary stress!

2. Scope out the place ahead of time and report back.

While this may sound extremely needy, if we’ve never been somewhere before, then sometimes it helps put our mind at ease if we know the lay of the land. If it’s not too much to ask, then maybe even take pictures so we can visualize what the place looks like and how it’s set up.

3. Tell us what time we’re going out.

If you’ll be picking us up, then it’s helpful to know when to expect you. As mentioned in my first piece of advice, showing up unannounced can be nerve-racking!

4. Be patient with us.

This is the most important piece of advice overall. For people with anxiety, going out can be extremely difficult. The fact that we’re trying is a big step. While that may be hard to understand, yelling at us when we struggle will only make things worse. Please, try your hardest to be understanding and patient!

Thank you so much for reading! If anyone has any other advice for traveling with anxiety, then please feel free to comment!

Image via Thinkstock.

This post originally appeared on Getting Through Anxiety.

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On the Days I 'Fail' With Anxiety and Depression

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Today, I failed.

Thus far, in the last 24 hours, I cried at least four times. I panicked three times. I cancelled two appointments and I’ve thought about terrible, nightmarish things I don’t even want to mention.

By all accounts, I am failing. I feel like my depression and anxiety are having a rap battle for the winning spot in my brain. I can’t hear anything but them, and I want to pull my hair out.

Yet, I am here.  

There are days when by all accounts, I suck and I don’t like myself very much. I don’t meet my standards. I let myself down or I am just too much. Days where I feel like I am filled with earthquakes, fires and storms. Days where I feel everything too intensely, like I’m drowning in a sea of voices who all need something different that I can’t give. Days when I call my fiancée too many times crying again because I can’t handle anything. There are tons of days when I want to quit. Days when I wish I could just not exist because it would be so much easier for everyone.

I can’t quit. Every awful day means I am closer to a good day. Every time I make myself do something that scares me is a day I succeed.

That’s what I want to tell you. I won’t lie and say it gets easier. Sometimes, it is easy. Sometimes, it is ridiculously hard to get out of bed and leave the house. Yet, every day is worth living for. You are a fighter and your own demons may be intense, but they are not stronger than you. This is not bigger than you, and although no one can save you, there are people who love you and want you to keep going.

There are some ideas that won’t work. There are some promises you won’t be able to keep.  There are some great plans that will be great disasters, but that is the nature of life. Don’t let it weigh you down. Drop your pack and keep moving.

You deserve to be here. I deserve to be here. We deserve to exist. We deserve life. Keep failing. Keep trying. Keep fighting. Keep living.

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If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

 

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Another Night With Anxiety

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I struggle mostly with depression but also experience anxiety. Sometimes I find myself contemplating which is worse. But without a doubt there are some unbearable nights where anxiety is in control. Many times it not only makes me feel bad emotionally,
but physically. I get a pounding headache, I feel like I’m going to be sick and on a few occasions I actually was sick.

When you eat something bad and throw it up later you may feel somewhat better, but with anxiety you only feel worse because now on top of your worries you feel sick, and then your anxiety somehow convinces you you’re dying.

I want to tell you what it’s like for me at night time as someone with anxiety. Although each night is different and the thoughts and feelings vary, I want someone out there to understand what I — and tons of other people — are going through nearly every night.

I wake up in the middle of the night with my heart racing. I hear a little creak in the house. I’m suddenly wide awake, my heart beating harder than ever. I feel cold and hot at the same time. I’m shaking and sweating. I’m scared. I’m alone.

“There’s a burglar in the house,” my mind tells me. “He’s going to hurt you. He’s going to hurt your dog.”

A takes a few minutes, sometimes even hours, for it to sink in that if the dog’s not barking then no one’s in the house.

I try to go back to sleep but can’t. The voices inside my head are still talking to me.

“Don’t forget you’ve got to get up early in the morning. If you stay awake all night you won’t be able to function properly in the morning”

“Hey, remember that time you were with that person and you… well I bet that person still remembers and is still mad at you. She’s planning a cunning way to get back at you. You’ll be sorry.”

I go on Facebook and start a conversation with someone else who’s online to try to calm myself down. They don’t answer straight away. In fact, they go offline.

Immediately the voices start up again.

“You get on her nerves.”

“She can’t stand you anymore. She’s just not blocking you because she feels bad for you.”

No one really likes you or cares about you.”

I toss and turn trying to get back to sleep, but more thoughts come in to my head.

“If you carry on like this all night you won’t be able to get up in the morning, and you’ll miss your bus. You won’t be able to get to work, and then they’ll fire you just like when you got fired from your last job due to your crappy mental state.”

I get up and turn on the light. A rush of relief flows over my body. I go back in to bed slightly more relaxed now, but still feeling a little uneasy. I close my eyes and try to get back to sleep.

“If you fall asleep with the light on you’ll run up a large electricity bill.”

I get up and turn off the light, still hoping to get some sleep before it’s time to get up.

Eventually I fall asleep moments before my alarm rings, and it’s time to face yet another day.

***

The anxiety — and the depression — are still there throughout the day. But for that I can write a whole new post.

Image via Thinkstock.

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When Mental Illness Finds a Back Door

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While I’ve spent the last nine months fighting anxiety and a recent episode of depression, the last three months have been fairly easy. Depression can be episodic, so it recently fell by the wayside, but I still remember what it’s like to be in the full swing of it. While I feel better, I can sense it lurking somewhere not too far off in the distance. For me, anxiety isn’t necessarily episodic. It can be more intense at times, but for the most part, it’s always there.

Recovery is never easy. It isn’t always easy to put coping mechanisms and other strategies in place when you’re in the throes of mental illness. The last few months have allowed me to practice coping skills, setting my own boundaries, deep breathing, mindfulness and implementing routines. Mental illness isn’t a “take a pill, feel better” sort of illness. It’s a full-time job that forces you to change your habits, thinking patterns and life in order to survive.

You know how you start going to the gym on a regular basis? You’ve been going for two weeks, and you’re starting to like the routine. Then, something comes up or you aren’t feeling up to it. So you slack off for a day. Then, it’s two days. Before you know it, you are restarting the routine a month later, kicking yourself for letting it slide. It’s hard to start new things. However, slacking with coping skills when you have a mental illness can be dangerous, not just a small sense of guilt for not doing something healthy.

So what happens when you’re implementing everything you know to fight mental illness, but it finds a backdoor anyway? I can be mindful of my thoughts, breathe deeply until I feel more at ease and take my medication. But what about when I am sleeping?

When I was dealing with my worst episode of depression to date, I realized after a while I never remembered my dreams. When I did sleep, it was a blackout kind of sleep that left me feeling more exhausted when I woke up. When I started to realize I was dreaming again, I was excited. I found myself smiling in the morning at the ridiculous and funny things I dreamed about. Dreams were another aspect of life that had somehow been hidden from me, but I hadn’t noticed its absence until I had them again.

As some stressors present themselves or I see them in the near future, my dreams have looked to my stressors as inspiration. I dreamed I had missed my first class of the school year, and the professor gave out a writing assignment. I had no way of knowing what I was supposed to write or do. I was going to fall behind already. My dream-self panicked. I found myself counting pennies in fours to try to calm myself down. Hello, weird anxious habit I have. But alas, it was not working.

I have had other dreams pretty similar to the one above. There’s always some aspect of me being late for something important. I can probably thank my career choice of journalism for that one.

I wake up feeling anxious even though the dreams weren’t real. I am worried my depression and anxiety will come down as hard as they did last semester. I am worried I will not do well, but I can cope with these emotions and thoughts when I am awake. Not so much when I am asleep.

The thing about mental illnesses is they are persistent. They take up residence in the mind, and so do the coping mechanisms. They’re going to find a way around them. That’s why mental illness recovery isn’t a one and done kind of thing. You have to cultivate your mental health. Spend time learning what helps keep you healthy, whether that be checking in with your thoughts, implementing new self-care routines, seeking out therapy, taking medication or a mixture of everything.

These dreams are just a part of my illness trying to gain back control. Mental illness can evolve, but so can the recovery process. So while dreams are a concern now, I can, in my conscious self, be aware of this problem. I haven’t quite learned how to stop or fix these dreams just yet, but I know I’ve made it through worse. These won’t keep me down.

Image via Thinkstock.

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10 Things Only People With Anxiety Disorders Understand

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This piece was written by  Richard Lucasa Thought Catalog contributor.

1. Constantly feeling on the brink of death.

The truth is that we are not literally on the brink of death; in reality, we are quite safe. Nonetheless, our minds believe with great certainty each breath may be our last. When our brain believes, it becomes our reality. The feeling is real, and it’s something no person should have to experience.

2. Feeling like a “crazy” person.

Because the “reasonable” side of us knows we’re being irrational, it feels like we’re going “crazy.” Once we accept the anxiety and learn to manage it, we can accept this is a real illness. Having anxiety does not mean you are crazy.

3. Having nobody else know how you feel.

Because anxiety can manifest in so many different ways, it’s easy to believe that nobody else can possibly be feeling this way. It’s an extremely isolating feeling. The good news is that you are not alone. Now more than ever people are opening up about their anxiety, and if you do the same, I guarantee you will find someone who knows exactly how you are feeling.

4. Worrying any mild physical symptom means you have a terminal illness.

A headache means a brain tumor. Stomach ache? Cancer. Sore after the gym? Certainly a rare muscular deficiency that will leave you with only six months to live. Sounds a bit dramatic, but for those who have health anxiety, this is a daily grind consumed by a lot of worrying and a tremendous amount of Googling symptoms. Stay away from the search engines; if you have a real concern, go to a doctor. Self-diagnosis is never a good idea.

5. Only feeling safe at home.

For some, we simply cannot feel safe unless we are at home. Many have lost their jobs and relationships because they simply can’t leave the house. This can turn into debilitating agoraphobia and should be treated immediately.

6. Endless fear.

Fear is a natural feeling that puts your body on alert when you are in danger. It’s also a terrible feeling, and people who have chronic anxiety and panic know this feeling can consume them day in and day out. Imagine a time in your life when you have been truly terrified. Now imagine feeling like that every day. Welcome to anxiety.

7. Becoming a regular at the emergency room.

The nurses recognize you the moment you walk in and already know why you’re there. You know exactly what to expect, how long it will take and what the prognosis will be. But yet we go back again and again. Something about a clean EKG settles the panicked mind.

8. Medication, lots of medication.

We need it, and we hate that we need it. We long for the day when we won’t need to rely on these pills to get through life. We cart our drugs around as if we’ll die without them. If we forget them, all bets are off. Their absence alone will send us into panic mode.

9. Going to the doctor just to talk.

You call the appointment line, they ask what you need to be seen for, and you say just to check up. The person sounds confused because it’s the fourth checkup you’ve had in the past three months. Really all you want to do is talk and be told that you’re OK.

10. People rolling their eyes when your anxiety prevents you from doing something.

Nothing is worse than when you legitimately can’t go through with something because of your anxiety, and some person who doesn’t understand and is completely devoid of empathy rolls their eyes at you and say’s something along the lines of, “Oh, whatever, you’ll be fine.” These are not the kind of people a person with anxiety should surround themselves with. Begone, ye un-empathetic naysayers — we’re having anxiety here.

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This story is brought to you by Thought Catalog and Quote Catalog.

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When You Live Shackled to Anxiety

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Sometimes my brain feels like there is a 360 degree vice grip on my head, pushing and crushing it until it feels like there is no possible way to condense my skull any more without bursting the inside. In those moments, if I close my eyes, it’s almost as if I’m no longer in the confines of my physical body, but rather am surrounded by a whiteness, and all I can hear is my own primal scream. I am usually sweating profusely, my heart is racing and I feel severe discomfort in my own skin, as if I want to unzip my body and dart out to escape the thoughts. I can hardly process one thought, before another chases it out of the spotlight, a cruel cyclical pattern, like a frustrating yet scary merry-go-round. In the heat of panic, are flashes of rage. Pure, fiery hot rage. My brain is protesting the vicious paralyzing attack, while utterly helpless to stop it. My anxiety has reared it’s very ugly head.

Anything could cause this feeling. Major things. Minor things. Things in between. It could have been that my boyfriend yet again walked by the garbage bag and opted not to take it out. It could have been that I saw a video on Facebook that reminded me of the pain I felt when my Dad passed away. It could have been that I couldn’t find a bathing suit I felt comfortable in. It could be everyday things that most people process and move on from within a relatively short period of time, but for me dig into my brain and set up camp.  

It starts innocently, and I never suspect any one thing will cause this mental freezing. A simple little thought can be the seed to a full blown anxiety tree and I’m none-the-wiser until it’s already too late. It goes a little something like this:  

He didn’t take out the trash — again. I can’t believe him. How hard can it be to take out the trash? I never ask him to do literally anything around the house, with the exception of taking out the trash. And yet, day after day, he walks by the same trash bag waiting to go to the dumpster, and doesn’t take it out. He knows he should, but doesn’t. It’s starting to smell, and he still doesn’t. I guess I’ll just do it myself — again. Why do I even put up with this? My Dad took out the trash every single night for the family when he was alive. In fact, if we didn’t have milk, he’d run to the store at 11 p.m., just so that my mom could have her cup of hot chocolate before bed, without hesitating. He’d do that stuff because he loved us, even if it annoyed him to tears. He did it because that was his way of contributing. It was his way of matching the efforts my mom put into their marriage. He was a great husband and father. I want that for myself, too. I deserve that! I wish my Dad was still here to give me advice. I miss him. I wish he hadn’t died so suddenly. That was the most earth shattering thing that could have happened to my family. And the scariest thing is that it can happen at any moment, to anyone. Even if you just lost a loved one three weeks prior like my family did, that didn’t stop the world from taking my Dad less than a month later. It could be hourly. I should learn to appreciate the people I have in my life. Here I am angry as shit about my boyfriend not taking out the trash, when he could have gotten into a fatal car accident on the way to work today. I’d never forgive myself if something like that happened.

And so begins the merry-go-round of thought.

Somehow, I’ve devolved my boyfriend not taking the trash out, to thinking about how a loved one can die at any time, within a matter of seconds. Once I’m there, it’s virtually impossible to stop the flood of thoughts that race through my mind. The mental energy it takes just to keep up with how quickly ideas race through in my brain is immeasurable.  These are the moments I wish desperately to escape from. I can’t accomplish anything.  Work doesn’t get done, housework doesn’t get done; there are even times when I find it difficult to shower or feed myself. 

Anxiety is the reason I second guess everything. Anxiety is the reason for my progressively intensifying fear of losing a loved one. Anxiety is the reason I have little patience and a hot temper — I don’t have enough mental stamina for any other emotional hurdles. Anxiety is the reason why I’ve distanced myself from people. Anxiety is the reason why home is where I want to be almost 100 percent of the time. Anxiety is the reason why it may seem like I don’t enjoy myself. Anxiety is the reason why I fake some of my smiles. Anxiety has prevented me from fully enjoying my life. The sickest part of this illness, is that it even attacks itself. I feel anxious about my anxiety. I put my entire world under a microscope and feel anxious about all that I miss out on or have not done because of my anxiety. It’s a self-perpetuating prophecy. It’s cancer’s cancer. It’s like the flea of a flea. It’s a mental prison, and I’m shackled to it unwillingly.  

My thoughts sentence me to days of what seems like “irrational worry.” Many people in my life are not able to understand why I think like this, or why I allow anxiety to grip my mind, as if it were my choice. I’ve been told a variety of cliché pieces of advice, the majority of which are along these lines, “take the broken record out of your head,” “just don’t worry about those things,” “you’re borrowing trouble,” or “think positively.” I’m so aware these people are only trying to help, but I can’t help but feel bitter in those moments of receiving unsolicited advice. I acknowledge they’re telling me what works well for them, but if it were so easy to do those things for me, I would have done them already. It’s almost insulting when I hear advice like this, because it is a painful reminder that mental illness is gravely misunderstood, even in 2016.  

Anxiety is an invisible illness, but an illness none-the-less. The inability to see many of the effects of this illness makes it difficult for those who don’t suffer from it, to respect it as an illness. I was recently discussing anxiety with a friend, and they said, “I feel like you use your anxiety to get out of doing things.” I was floored. That casual sentence perfectly embodies the general public’s understanding of mental illnesses. Because my anxiety is confined to my brain and heart rate, it is somehow reduced to a scapegoat.  

I replied, “Anxiety hinders me, even if you can’t see it, and I’m not using it for anything. I don’t want to have anxiety, and it’s certainly not an excuse.”

I feel defeated when I need to explain this to people. Sure, I may appear to be an average person who has a good life, and good health, but many people neglect to acknowledge mental health is equally as important as physical health. If someone suffers from a mental illness, they are not weaker, they are not less than, they are not crazy. They have a mental illness. Period. Even typing that sentence made me cringe, because society’s view of mental illness has such a negative stigma, it is ingrained even within myself, a person who admittedly suffers from anxiety. I, and others like me, should feel no shame in our diagnoses. 

To those reading this piece right now, I won’t lie and tell you I’ve found an escape route out of this mental prison. Even if I had, everyone’s journey is personal and unique, so my solution would have no footing in your reality. I’ve been seeing a doctor for two years, and still feel like I’ve barely put a chink into the concrete walls imprisoning me. I will say I have hope that there will be freedom one day. I’m not sure what will do it, but I have to believe there is more to life than spending time thinking terrible thoughts. I see joy on other people’s faces and know I’ve been there before and will be there again. All I can do now is learn what works for me (baths — lots of baths), and what doesn’t. I may seem like I’m moving at a glacial speed throughout life, while everyone around me looks like an Olympic sprinter, but that’s OK with me. I know I am doing my very best given the circumstances, and that is all anyone can ask of me.

For now, it makes me feel good to share my experience with others, and educate those who are open to understanding mental illness. Hopefully one day there will be no negative stigma attached to mental illnesses.  One day, you will be able to talk about seeing your therapist or psychiatrist, without the whispers of judgment. There is nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to health, whether it be physical, mental or both. Everyone is different, with different stories and different challenges. As soon as we can learn to respect each person for their individuality, the world will be a far better place in which to live.

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