When My Anxiety Stops Me From Spending Time With Friends
It’s Friday night and I’m curled up in bed beneath the covers, watching films on the tiny screen of my phone. I could go and get a cup of tea, but my body feels too heavy to move. I could sleep, I should sleep, but even though my eyes feel heavy and I know I’m tired, I know sleep isn’t happening any time soon.
Even the distraction of one of my favorite films isn’t enough to make me forget that for what is probably the thousandth time, I have forgone an invitation to spend the night out with my friends. I haven’t seen them in over a week, and still I declined when they asked me to go out with them, instead opting for the comfort and security of my bedroom.
This isn’t an unusual occurrence either.
In the days before I knew I had anxiety, so throughout my late teens and all throughout university, it was the same thing. My friends would be off somewhere and I’d be there with my plethora of excuses: “I haven’t got any money this week,” “I’m really tired today,” “I’m busy tomorrow.” The list went on and on and on.
Nowadays I’m more open about the reasons why I won’t go out. Big spaces, loud music and huge crowds are completely overwhelming. I start to focus too much on where the exits are, and I withdraw completely as I desperately try to ignore the sounds going on around me.
But knowing I have anxiety doesn’t make these instances any easier. There’s one particular bar I will actively avoid because two out of the three times I’ve been there, I have left within minutes because of a panic attack. If anything, knowing and understanding what’s going on in my head makes it worse.
People stop asking me to go places, or when they do and I say no, I spend what feels like an eternity analyzing their response and the way they looked at me. The fear of missing out is huge. I’ll see the photos and hear the stories the next day. And then I silently kick myself because I know I’ve missed out on making memories with the people I love and that mean the most to me in the world.
The constant insecurity of people not wanting to spend time with me sits like a block of concrete on my chest. But then the voice of reason will tell me that’s all ridiculous because these are your friends. These people know you and love you for you.
So to the people whose friends have anxiety:
Know that when we say no to going out, it’s not because we don’t want to spend time with you but because the thought of being in those situations is exhausting beyond belief. Don’t stop asking us to come with you even though you might be sure of our response. Because the moment you stop is the moment when we start to wonder whether you want to be our friend, no matter how much we know it’s not true.
Or maybe ask us what we want to do, where we want to go and what we feel comfortable with. Know that if we suggest going out to a particular place, it’s because we desperately want to spend more time with you but for that to be somewhere we know we’re not going to find ourselves spiraling towards an anxiety attack.
Being around you is something that can give us strength, even when we’re at our lowest. And because at the end of the day, we love you and value your support, friendship and presence more than you’ll ever know.
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