How to Love Someone With 'High-Functioning' Anxiety
This piece was written by Lauren Jarvis-Gibson, a Thought Catalog contributor.
When someone has “high-functioning” anxiety, they’re probably skilled at hiding it. I know I’m a master at concealing and covering up my anxiety, but it does come out of hiding when trying to be “OK” becomes too difficult.
That’s when I need you to be there for me.
Someone who has high-functioning anxiety is someone who looks fine on the outside. This person may seem like they have it all. They may look like they take care of themselves, and seem like they have an all-together great life. But you have to uncover that facade if you want this person to heal and to truly open up to you.
I know that for me, first I fool you. But as time passes, you’ll see me biting my nails, the times I want to be alone, the days I put myself down when I have no reason to, the times when I get a stomachache out of nowhere, the weeks I am convinced I am going to get fired and the months spent freaking out over the tiniest of things.
You’ll notice this is more than me just being a perfectionist. I’m not just a people pleaser. This habit of nail biting and pulling out my eyebrow hairs isn’t just a temporary thing. You’ll come to realize, that anxiety is manifesting itself onto me — this person you love.
Don’t act like it doesn’t matter. Don’t ignore it like it’s going to go away. Talk to me about it. Tell me you’re concerned and try to encourage me to acknowledge that it’s not just “stress” or that it’s “no big deal.” Let me talk to you, but don’t pressure me to do it when I’m not ready.
Listen. Listen to me when I come home crying and ranting about a co-worker. Listen to me when I list my worries to you at midnight while I think you are asleep. Listen to what goes on in my mind, and let me know you are there for me.
Don’t brush it off. Don’t nod your head in agreement when I tell you it’s nothing. Don’t kick this to the curb. Don’t act like it’s not important.
Be patient with me. If I need to cancel plans with you last minute, don’t overreact. Realize I didn’t mean to hurt you, it’s just the anxiety taking over. Be understanding in how I deal with the anxiety, and please, don’t judge me. For a second.
Encourage me. Lift me up, instead of picking on me. Tell me why I matter to you. Don’t undermine my thoughts and feelings. Don’t downplay this, please. Know that it takes a lot of courage to let you into my inner world.
Don’t try to play mind games with me and say that it’s all about my “outlook on life.” Validate how I’m feeling and don’t give me a reason to hide this from you.
Don’t give me a reason not to trust you with my whole heart. Don’t give me a reason to run.
Know feeling like this doesn’t make me weak. Know it doesn’t make me crazy or unstable. Please just love me for who I am, and that includes the bad parts too. Just love me as I am. Don’t try to change me.
For others who love someone with high-functioning anxiety, know they deserve someone like you, but most importantly, you deserve someone like them.
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Thinkstock photo via alien185