22 Things That Don't Always 'Fix' Anxiety, Even Though You Mean Well

2k
2k
2

When a person we care about comes to us with a problem, naturally, we want to fix it. But not every problem can be solved by a simple suggestion, and not everyone who wants support is seeking unsolicited advice. This is especially true when someone opens up about struggling with anxiety — and is a key difference between showing someone support and belittling their disorder with a suggestion or a “quick fix.”

Because more than advice, people with anxiety need understanding. To learn what people with anxiety don’t need to hear, we asked people in our mental health community to share one piece of unhelpful advice they’ve gotten for managing anxiety, from people who meant well but don’t get it.

Here’s what they shared with us:

1.Yeah, I’ve been stressed out too. Just remember there are others who have it worse than you. Be happy for what you have.” — Adriana R.

2. “Pretty much any advice that starts with, ‘You just need to…’ is going to skyrocket my anxiety. It’s like telling a downing person, “you just need to stop drowning.” — Carolyn A.

3. “‘You are giving too much power to that anxiety. You have a choice, so choose to not be anxious’ …Ugh. That came from someone who has never experienced anxiety themselves!” — Kristina C.

4.‘Pray about it.’ Although I’m Christian and love my God, people don’t seem to realize it’s a real thing. I need medicine to keep my head from spinning.” — Skylar L.

5. “[It’s unhelpful] being told to think of the positive and be thankful for everything I have. Most of the time that only makes me feel more guilty for feeling this way because I do have a lot of wonderful things in my life.” — Ashley S.

6. “The whole grounding yourself thing. Personally it just doesn’t work that way… So when I try something, don’t get pissy because it worked for someone else but I ‘didn’t try hard enough.'” — Kayla A.

7. “‘Just use your logic. What you’re feeling is ridiculous, you should know that. If you tell yourself that, the anxiety will go away.’ As if I don’t already understand that what I’m feeling is illogical, it doesn’t stop me from from feeling anxious, it just makes me feel worse about myself and my situation. — Liss W.

8. “‘…Oh, everyone gets nervous though so just don’t worry,’ after I’d just opened up to someone about my mental illness to be brave and have them understand a little more about me. It didn’t help, it shut me down and downplayed what I go through (and what others go through). It’s not just nerves.” —  Cathy R.

9. “Anyone that uses the word ‘just’ before providing ‘tips’ needs to consider the thought that if it was ‘just’ that easy then we could ‘just’ ‘get over it.’ I’ve been told life isn’t that bad, read the Bible, remember how wonderful your life is, I’ve had something similar, ‘just’ breathe and meditate and pray. If you’re anything like me, you’ve read books and articles on how to get a hold of it and you’ve tried meditation and yoga and exercise. The brain has its own mind when neurotransmitters are stuck in a loop.” — Mike P.

10. “My biggest pet peeve is when I’m feeling anxious about something or everything and someone tells me to relax. If I could relax, I wouldn’t be anxious. That makes me feel worse about my anxiety because I can’t just turn it off.” — Robin D.

11.‘Just go jogging.’ Every time I saw my psychiatrist, this was all she would suggest. I get this can help for some people, but when you are borderline agoraphobic, it was not the best.” — Karen M.

12. “‘Just get over it.’ This came from my high school teacher who said my anxiety was made up. Yeah, because I wanted to be miserable and afraid of so much for years.” — Audrey Y.

13. “One bit of advice I get given is ‘you need to stop worrying.‘ That really is not a helpful piece of advice to give someone who worries all of the time. If I was able to stop I would. That is the advice that gets me more frustrated because then I think people don’t understand what it’s like to be in my situation.” — Robyn B.

14. “Back when I was undiagnosed and my social anxiety was much worse, I was working with my first job and a co-worker pulled me aside to say, ‘I used to be shy like you, but I eventually got over it! You just need to get out of your shell and stop being so quiet all the time.’” — Skyler S.

15. “‘You’ve just got to stop thinking about [whatever they believe is causing the anxiety].’ I understand their reasoning, but it’s not that easy to switch off and sometimes I don’t even know what triggered my anxiety.” — Georgie R.

16. “Try taking [name your preferred herb/Rx/food/beverage/etc.].” While the attempt to help is kind, please just assume I’ve read 92,832 articles that each told me various ‘things’ I can take to help reduce anxiety, and none of them actually work.” — Jessi W.

17.‘Everyone gets anxious, it’s normal.’” Yeah, tell that to my panic attacks and inability to get a job.” — Rae H.

18.‘You need a hobby,‘ is one I’ve had that is pretty ridiculous. I don’t ever choose to be in bed all day instead of out doing other things. I have hobbies; I play video games, guitar, draw, write, bake, lots of different things, but if I’m not doing these it’s not by choice. And to suggest that I ‘join a club or go to a class’ sounds like the most terrifying thing for a person with bad anxiety. Then to add, ‘Maybe you would actually make some friends.’ Yeah, thanks, mate…” — Rosie F.

19. “Lots of advice relating to diet. Go paleo, go vegan, yada yada. Yeah, I’m genetically predisposed to anxiety and depression and an abuse survivor. Never mind that I eat unprocessed foods anyway. But I’m sure giving up rice or chicken will ‘fix’ me.” — Krystal N.

20. “Things like, ‘Just relax,’ ‘It’s all in your head, everything is fine,’ and, ‘You should try ____.’ are really unhelpful. I’m obviously trying to calm down, I know it’s in my head, don’t tell me things I already know, and if what you’re suggesting I try was something that helps, then I would be doing it already.” — Matt A.

21.‘That’s OK. Lots of people get nervous about _____.’ Also, when people talk about real everyday fears and call them anxieties. For example, someone said everyone feels anxious. Some people are anxious about making rent. Yes, it is a very difficult situation if you lose your job and you may get evicted, but that is very logical. It is different than when I just can’t make myself do something in a room full of friends and family and have no idea why it even stresses me.” — Lauren S.

22. “What they hear themselves say: ‘Try not to focus on the anxiety, distract yourself.’ What I hear them say: ‘Try not to focus on the fact that you feel as though you’re choking on air and will die at any given second because that’s what your brain has talked yourself into, just distract yourself from it.’ It’s hard when people haven’t experienced it themselves, and I believe people’s advice always comes from a good place, but when you’re in that situation and you feel as though you have lost control, it can be hard to listen to. I found that it was only when I was out the other end that I realized the people around me only had good intentions and wanted to help.” — Morgan P.

Most likely, the person talking to you about their anxiety doesn’t need advice — they need understanding. 

2k
2k
2
TOPICS
, Listicle
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

When Anxiety Makes Your Life a Blur

746
746
7

Anxiety. On the outside, it appears I have my shit together. It seems that by putting on makeup, doing my hair, showering, getting out of bed (which some days feels impossible), I have my life together.

Inside my heart is pounding. My mind is racing. My legs are trying to keep up with the speed of my thoughts. I feel tired. I’m always feeling as if I am no good and I don’t deserve to be breathing. My life feels as if it is slowly flying by.

My mind is a blur, but no one knows. No one can tell I am fucking terrified of my own thoughts. I go to bed with these horrible thoughts, just to do the same thing tomorrow.

I have struggled with anxiety for a long time. The best way to describe it is a blur. The days are long but they go by so fast. I am constantly worrying about the unknown, tearing myself apart, thinking “what if?” What if I were skinnier? What if I were prettier? What if I wasn’t sick? What if mental illness didn’t exist? What if I lose the ones I love most? Constantly thinking about everything that can go wrong in my life, I never focus on what’s going right.

Constantly thinking about everything that can go wrong in my life, I never focus on what’s going right.

What’s going right in your life? There has to be something. Our hearts are beating and I’m sure at least one soul loves you in this world.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Image via contributor.

746
746
7
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Why I'm Relearning to Breathe Because of My Anxiety Disorder

318
318
0

Breathe.

In. Fill up my belly like a balloon — two, three, four.

Hold

Out. Pull my belly button to my spine — two, three, four, five.

Hold.

Repeat.

Breathing. We are born with the ability to do it. In fact, it is one of those automatic functions of the body. It is one of the most basic and simple things we can do and it comes easily to everyone, right?

Wrong.

Breathing is one of the things those of us with anxiety disorders often get “wrong.”

I’ve forgotten how to breathe, again. I’ve spent the past 15 months training myself to breathe normally using Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). Patiently learning to slow my breath to a calm and rhythmic pace, not hyperventilating, unconsciously holding my breathe, then gulping in deep gasps of air when the inherent need to survive overcomes my anxious brain and fights for oxygen.

I’d gotten pretty good at breathing, or so I thought. But recently, I’ve started to find the same anxious and maladaptive breath holding and hyperventilation creeping back in. Why exactly, I am not 100 percent sure, but the effects are making themselves apparent with daily panic attacks and dizzy spells. I am stressed out, my anxiety disorder is taking back control.

Maybe it’s the pressure I’m placing on myself to achieve wellness. I’ve been receiving treatment for mental health issues for more than a year and sometimes I think I should be “cured” by now and I question why I’m still struggling more often than I’d like. Possibly it is that I’m attempting to socialize more instead of isolating myself like I have for the past year — ater all, being able to integrate into society again is an integral part of health.

Mostly I think it’s the cracks showing from having my mother back in my life for the past couple of months. Her manipulative and baiting ways are terribly draining on me and I continually worry about when the next confrontation or smear campaign will happen. If you’ve had a manipulative person in your life, you will understand only too well the damage even moderate contact does to you.

I’m finding my nightmares are bad again. They have been now for several weeks and I feel haunted by them during the day. I’m not depressed by them, but I am frightened and left with a sense of impending doom. I feel overwhelmed and out of control. I need to stop watching and reading the news — the horrific headlines and threats of an all out war only feed my fears.

No matter what the reason or reasons though, the fact remains I’m falling down the rabbit hole and it scares me a lot. I am terrified of my anxiety attacks. I’m living in fear of them again and the way they can totally obliterate my sense of peace. The frantic speed of my heart, the spinning of my racing thoughts, the cloying nausea and sense of claustrophobia as I feel the walls are pressing in on me, is all too much to handle at times.

I remind myself recovery is not linear and there will be ups and downs. I’m reinforcing the knowledge I learned before on how to breathe and remind myself I can do it again now. I must refocus on the basics for now. I can gain control over my anxiety, but I have to work hard to do so. Letting go of the things that are making me anxious and taunting me is going to be difficult, but there is no other option.

I repeat to myself again and again, “recovery is not linear, recovery is not linear, you are not a failure!”

Follow this journey on The Art of Broken.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via ParfonovaIuliia.

318
318
0
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

What My Son Taught Me About My Anxiety

39
39
1

There are a million ways parenting is made harder by mental illness. Probably more than a million. I don’t have time for self-care; I can’t work through your emotions right away when you’re triggered; every minute of every day I am needed by this other human being who relies on me for everything. It’s exhausting, having to put my needs aside every day to make sure my child’s needs are met. It’s terrifying, doubting my every move and parenting decision. It is just plain overwhelming to have to push my anxiety down to be fully dealt with and worked through later when my child is asleep. The thought of my anxiety bleeding over onto his experience has literally kept me awake at night.

You know what, though? I wouldn’t choose any other experience for my life right now.

My son is the reason I sought help. My anxiety reached peak levels after having him and forced me to see it for the illness it was, instead of ignoring it as a personal flaw. My son pushes me to be my best self every single day. The best illustration of this happened in therapy a few days ago.

I did a guided imagery for PTSD for the first time. I wasn’t sure what to expect, just lots of emotion. I have a very active imagination so it turned out to be a great exercise for me. The recording starts out having you picture yourself walking on your heart, seeing all the damage on the surface. Walking through and past the trauma, the pain, the shame, the anger. Then you are supposed to picture a tunnel with a light shining through it; this tunnel would lead down to the safe, pure, undamaged, loving part of your heart. My tunnel was guarded. A large grizzly bear blocked the entrance. It was not threatening, it simply said: “People are not allowed here.” With my husband by my side, we eventually stepped into the tunnel and the bear walked through with us. When we reached this room of love and light, which I keep so well guarded, I saw my son.  He was sitting on the floor, playing like I have watched him do millions of times. He looked up at me with his beautiful, joyful, smile and seemed to say, “Hey mom, welcome to my room.”

The beautiful, loving, undamaged part of myself that I keep so walled off I cannot even reach it myself is where my son lives his life. I may not be able to accept love from others, or able to love myself yet, but my son has just nestled in without my realizing it. He has helped me to open my heart to others’ love. Most of all, he has helped me to open my heart to myself. I have no doubt he is the reason I can picture a safe and undamaged part of myself at all.

I can never thank him enough for the influence he has had on my life. I can never fully express the impact motherhood has made on my mental health. I can say with full certainty that I would not be on this road to healing if he had not shown me that it is possible.

Is parenting hard with a mental illness? Abso-fucking-lutely. But, parenting is what makes my daily struggle a little brighter. It is what forces me to live in the moment. It is what shows me multiple times a day that life is beautiful, no matter what my negative voice says. On my hardest and darkest days, I still have moments of clarity and love because of the little boy who lives in a room of light and love, mirroring it back to me, showing me what I’m capable of every time I forget.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via Archv

39
39
1
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

7 Unexpected Benefits of Living With My Anxiety and Depression

757
757
0

Most people with anxiety or depression can attest to how debilitating it can be. But after starting to work through all the negative feelings that come with it, I started to see there is, in fact, a silver lining.

After I started seeing a therapist and opening up about my anxiety and depression last year, I’ve actually seen some benefits to my anxiety and depression. So, here are seven things that remind me there is still some goodness that can come out of my struggles.

1. Depression puts things into perspective.

Don’t get me wrong, depression sucks. But when faced with depression, I become more in touch with my emotions. I think I developed a certain self-awareness and have become more introspective. I constantly ask myself why I’m feeling a certain way.

2. I developed a deeper sense of empathy for others.

Depression makes me feel like anything but myself. It makes me feel alone and unloved. It’s a terrible feeling, but it does give me a greater understanding of what other people are going through.

3. I have the opportunity to expand my interests.

Once I started working through all the negative feelings, I also started to find new ways to keep myself happy. In the past year, I’ve started taking improv classes and I’ve started to volunteer, mentor and give back to the community.

4. I formed bonds with people I may not have had the chance to meet otherwise.

As we know, depression and anxiety are not rare. They can may make us feel isolated and alone. I started to realize not only was I not alone, but there is a whole community out there filled with people who go through exactly the same things I do.

5. I developed my relationships with family and friends.

Opening up about my struggles not only serves my well-being but also enhances the current relationships in my life — including those with friends, family and coworkers. Before opening up, I had a tendency to isolate myself and push people away. But after starting to open up to my friends and family about my struggles, I found myself getting closer to them. When I opened up to them about my vulnerabilities, it created emotional intimacy.

6. I developed a greater appreciation for the happy moments in life.

Anxiety and depression doesn’t necessarily mean I will live a miserable life. There are highs and lows. But I’ve experienced enough low, dark moments to appreciate the happy ones. For me, because I’m so used to thinking negatively, I find I’m pleasantly surprised when things go my way.

7. I’m dedicated to improving myself.

Because anxiety feels awful, it does serve as a catalyst for change. It motivates me to do something meaningful in my life, improves my self-confidence and helps me find new ways to live happier and healthier.

Instead of fearing my anxiety or depression, I should treat it as a friend — something I can learn from. When I have those dark days or thoughts, I should acknowledge them, but not judge them. Instead, I can use them as inspiration to make profound change in my life.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via Igor Sinkov.

757
757
0
TOPICS
, Contributor list
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

The Phrase I Tell Myself on My Worst Mental Health Days

134
134
2

There is a message I have shared with my friends as I have helped them through their mental health issues. Occasionally, I have even shared it with myself, though I rarely give myself such good advice and encouragement.

In all the times I have said it, I never knew exactly how to phrase it. How to tell myself “this too shall pass,” in different words. That phrase never seemed impactful enough for me. It was always like telling myself or my friends, one day things would get better. It is a very indefinite phrase, and people like myself with anxiety and depression can’t always see the truth in such phrases. The other day however, I came across a phrase that summed up everything I had been trying to say all these years. In one elegant sentence, it told my story and it told the story of those I love. It provided concrete hope that things would be OK.

“You have survived 100 percent of your worst days thus far.”

I turned the phrase over and over in my mind. It was true of course, but the more I said it to myself the more true it became for me. I thought back through every one of worst moments. I thought of the day someone very near and dear to me was diagnosed with depression. I thought back to the moments when I would cry alone in my room. I thought through every dark moment in my life. Those moments when you truly don’t believe you will make it to the next day. I thought about my own diagnosis with polycystic ovarian syndrome, or the first time I talked a friend off a figurative ledge. I thought about the night I first told my parents about my depression.

I remember standing outside the house with my mother, screaming, crying and refusing to go in and tell the rest of my family what I had just told her in the car. I remember barely being able to stand. I wanted to melt into the soft dirt beneath my feet. I wanted to dive into the cold lake that sat just on the other side of the house. I didn’t think I would make it through that night, but I did.

There can be countless moments in life when we don’t think we will see the next sunrise. Where something so heartbreaking happens we can’t possibly imagine going on. But for those of us fortunate enough to still be here, we have survived 100 percent of our worst days. We will go on surviving these awful days because the human spirit is strong. It is stronger, in fact, than the human mind sometimes. When our minds tell us we won’t get through it, something inside us keeps us fighting.

To anyone who is having their worst day right now, remember you are stronger than you ever thought you were. You have made it through 100 percent of your worst days.

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

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via Pimonova.

134
134
2
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Real People. Real Stories.

8,000
CONTRIBUTORS
150 Million
READERS

We face disability, disease and mental illness together.