5 Things I Wish People Without Anxiety Would Say When I'm Struggling
When I was 17, I was diagnosed with chronic anxiety. Having been anxious my whole life, I never quite knew exactly what was going on in my head, but having a word for it made it easier to bear. As I have learned more about my illness, there are things that people without the illness have told me that I wish they wouldn’t have — and I wonder what it would feel like if they told me the opposite.
1. “I don’t understand.”
For once, I wish someone would just tell me that they don’t get the debilitating fear I have. I wish they wouldn’t come up with an anecdote of the time they were nervous that one time when they took a test. I wish they would just tell me, “I’m sorry. I wish I knew what that was like.” I wish people were more inclined to understand me instead of understanding themselves through the lens of me.
2. “Your feelings are valid.”
I always imagine what it might be like if people were receptive instead of reactive to feelings. I wish I could count how many times people have told me to stop worrying. Believe me, if there were an off switch, I’d use it. If others were welcoming to the fact that the feeling of dread I am feeling is very much real to me, I think that life would just be easier in general.
3. “I think you can.”
Part of my anxiety is a nagging fear that tells me that none of the fruits of my labor will ever ripen. Working as hard as I can and feeling like that work is all useless is often part of my daily routine. I think it is so important to have people that encourage us — that tell us what we do matters. It’s hard to imagine an impact we might have in the future, but with someone to veto the fear, there is hope.
4. “The voice is real, but what it’s saying isn’t.”
I know that my anxiety is me, and it will always be me. It is that person that stays up at night and convinces me to worry. It knows my weaknesses, my faults, my embarrassments, because that’s what it likes to dwell on. But what it must mean to have someone that points out that while you are you, you are not always correct. I think it would be so beautiful to be corrected in this illness. How it must feel to be wrong in the moments of doubt.
5. “I love you, no matter who you are right now.”
My anxiety likes to make me a different person from time to time — she is angry, she is brash and she is the wide-eyed frightened girl that does not want to be loved. I like to think that I have met the people that love this girl, too, despite everything good and bad that she has to offer. Despite the fact that she does not see any reason to be loved. I like to think these people that have cared for me in these moments are the ones that love both of the people I am — and I love them because they have stayed.
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Thinkstock photo via Teddy Petrosky