themighty logo

To the People Who Laugh at My Anxiety

To the people who laugh at my anxiety,

My generalized anxiety disorder¬†tends to leave my stomach constantly feeling as if I’m on a roller coaster. It¬†also leaves me with more specific anxieties. Some¬†of these are surrounding things¬†that many¬†people simply may not like,¬†but for me, it’s more than that. Something¬†that others just ‚Äúdon’t like‚ÄĚ can lead to a breakdown or panic attack when I’m¬†faced with it.

I know you may think my concerns are unnecessary¬†and over-the-top. Believe me, I do, too. But I need you to stop telling me that.¬†What starts off as manageable anxiety can suddenly become magnified when you¬†laugh or point out how ‚Äúirrational‚ÄĚ it is. I know nothing bad is going to¬†happen if I call the pizza place to make an order. But the moment you point¬†that out, my anxiety can shift. Now, it’s not just the phone call. That fear is¬†still there, but on top of it is the feeling that you’re mocking me or judging me¬†or are disappointed in me, or that you are feeling some sort of negative emotion¬†directed towards me. My anxiety then becomes person-based instead of¬†situation-based, and while I can usually exercise control over situations, I¬†can’t exercise control over people, and my anxiety surrounding your perception¬†of me is much worse than my anxiety over the phone call.

This extends beyond phone calls.¬†Anytime you joke about how tightly I’m holding onto the handle in the car or¬†‚Äúhitting the brakes‚ÄĚ on the passenger side, I feel worse. Anytime you poke fun¬†at me for wanting to fix every single minor detail in a project, my anxiety¬†skyrockets. I know it might seem like¬†pointing out how ‚Äúunreasonable‚ÄĚ I’m being could shock me out of it. I know you’re probably hoping I’ll be able to laugh at myself¬†in that moment and that will help me. But right then, my anxious situation is¬†escalating, and you’re a bystander who’s egging it on instead of working to¬†defuse it.

You’re trying to help me, and I get¬†that. Or maybe you’re not, and you’re actually just annoyed with me (same).¬†Whatever the circumstance may be, please know the best thing you can¬†do to help me is to either demonstrate understanding or not react at all. If¬†I’m having trouble calling the pizza place, tell me if I can’t do it, it’s OK, and you’ll call this time. There’s always next time. If you see me in the¬†car, eyes closed, hand gripping something, feet on my imaginary brakes, please don’t¬†comment. I’m doing my best to stay calm in a situation that unsettles me, and¬†I’m trying to get to a point where I don’t have to be doing that.

I constantly have to hype myself up¬†in order to do things that might be considered simple tasks, and I need you to¬†understand that overcoming my anxieties is not as simple as being talked out of¬†them. I don’t need you or me to believe my fears are rational, but I need you¬†to treat me as if they are and help me work through them instead of trying to¬†get me to ignore them. It may seem counterproductive, but the best way to help¬†me overcome my fears is to let me have them and work through them at my own¬†pace with a little bit of help from you.



Image via Thinkstock.