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What Friendships Mean to Me as Someone With Anxiety

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For me, part of having an anxiety disorder was learning it doesn’t define me, that it is only a tiny part of me. Granted, there are times when it feels like it engulfs me, but on the radar of life, it can be but a tiny blip. It might take a while to get there, but in the meantime, life must go on. And part of that life includes friends. I have friends both online (thanks to social media and group texting apps) and in real life. The easy part: You can tell your online friends all the things, because they live in your phone or computer. The hard part: They live on your phone or in your computer. What can be missing are those hugs when you need them most, that knock at the door to open it to see one of your best friends on the other side armed with chocolates and DVDs.

In my life, I have found a good mix. But I’ll be honest, it’s been hard. Because anxiety is a part of me, I tend to gravitate towards my online friends — telling them everything, reading their reassuring texts over and over again, listening to their voices on the phone when I call them when I’m a blubbering mess, finding it amazing that they can actually understand my words. And then there are my “in real life” friends, those to whom I am hesitant to reveal my anxiety, because it’s not exactly party or playground chatter. I feel it is something that has a time and a place, and while it isn’t something I’m ashamed of, it is something I would like my close friends to know about me.

It’s interesting how friendships can be made once you leave the nest of a controlled environment and you are forced to navigate finding friends, much like how you might go about finding a significant other. It amazes me how you may be going about your business, doing things that make you happy, and all of a sudden, someone who was once a surface acquaintance weaves into your life and becomes one of your best friends. How, after a class at the gym, suddenly the time seems right to reveal your anxiety, and you take her class because it helps alleviate it, if even for just an hour. And how having her just know can feel like a huge weight off your shoulders.

And then, it’s amazing how your friendship grows and your anxiety becomes nonexistent, until it flares up — and before you know it, you’re discussing it over dinner and while washing dishes together. She doesn’t pry or prod, she simply listens. She doesn’t try to understand, she simply listens. She doesn’t relate it to something else, she simply listens. And because she listens, she sees where you need her to fit into your life puzzle. She sees you need an hour to take her class at the gym, and she’s grateful to have you. And without asking, she makes herself at home in your home. She helps you prepare dinner and clean up and gets your daughter ready for bed. She reads her bedtime stories. And as you overhear them reading, you stifle back tears as you realize you have finally found a friend in this adult world who “gets” you and all of your mixed up puzzle pieces. And for that you are forever thankful.

I hope each and every one of you can find that kind of a friend in your life. Not only do I feel as though it has made the anxiety a smaller piece of me, but it also makes my heart more open to accepting the smaller piece of anxiety. Friendships are so important, and for me, as someone with anxiety, finding just the right friend is like striking pure gold.

Image via Thinkstock.

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Originally published: December 7, 2016
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