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What You Need to Know About Your 'Flaky' Friend With Anxiety

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We’ve all had friends cancel plan on us — and it can definitely be disappointing. Maybe you have a close friend who consistently cancels last minute, and you’ve found yourself getting frustrated with them. For some people though, there’s something going on underneath what appears to be always “bailing.” Sometimes, what seems like being a “flaky friend” on the outside is really a way of coping with debilitating anxiety on the inside.

So if a friend is constantly canceling plans, don’t automatically assume they don’t care about you or the plans you’ve made together — there could be a reason why they canceled.

We wanted to know what people who have come off as “flaky” had to say about this, so we asked members of our Mighty community who struggle with anxiety to share one thing they wish others understood. We hope their answers can shed light on how to support a friend who is struggling with anxiety.

Here’s what they had to say:

1. “I ignore texts and calls because it’s easier than having to explain myself. I can’t make anyone understand what I go through so I rather go ghost.” — Jackie P.

2. “I’m not purposely flaking out. I could be 100 percent excited about it, then right before I head out the door, I decide to stay home. Because just thinking of a social outing or event drains me before I even walk out the door. I literally think of everything that could happen, the people I could talk to, the things that could go wrong… etc. It’s hard to deal with. And no, I can’t just ‘pop my meds’ and be good to go.” — Bree N.

3. “Living with anxiety is a daily struggle. We have good days, but sometimes our bad days outweigh the good. Anxiety is not something we can just deal with. When we have a full-blown anxiety attack, it doesn’t just affect us mentally, but physically. Our minds never shut off. Our emotions are always high. We always feel mentally and physically drained. Yet, we do our best to live a life as normally as possible.” — Deborah T.

4. “I really truly wish I could turn off the voice in my head that some days (for no rhyme or reason) holds me prisoner in my own home. I love spending time with my friends, I love going out and dancing and exploring my surroundings and I love a good laugh. But the little voice of anxious self-deprecation is often louder than the voice of logical reason. I don’t enjoy this way of life. I wish I weren’t such a flake. But at the moment, I’m not completely in control of my own mind. Please have patience, don’t give up on me!” — Maysen F.

5. “If I manage to make it out, I’ll be late… this is because I’ve been arguing with myself, about whether or not I can handle where I’m going/what I’m about to do. So please be patient, and keep asking me to do things… I might flake out a lot, but the invite means I still matter to you.” — Jenny B.

6. “I want to be with my friends. I want to go through with my plans. I want to function outside of my comfort zone. But I am not at the point where I can cope with that yet. I’m working on myself every day. One day, I’ll get there. I just wish for support and understanding.” — Mia C.

7. “There are days when I physically struggle to leave the house, let alone get out of bed. I am left shaking, feeling nauseous, [experiencing] bad chest pains and uncontrollable crying. It has nothing to do with you. It is genuinely me and I am trying to get myself together, but in that moment I’m in the grips of a panic attack and I need you to back off and leave me alone.” — Emma C.

8. “Sometimes dragging myself to an event is not worth the emotional toll it takes to recover. Crowds, driving at night, paying for a meal — those all make me stressed and I might not even enjoy the people because my brain can’t stop thinking about other things. The internal monologue is sometimes only quiet alone at home.” — Jordan T.

9. “I only wish that people can take a step back and think about being more empathetic before they assume I’m just ‘being flaky.’ I am trying my hardest, and some days when people give me a hard time because I start getting flaky, my anxiety tends to get worse.” — Leah M.

10. “I’ve been practicing my entire life to look like everything is fine. To look like I feel OK. ‘Normal.’ But I’m not. Far too often I’m terrified and panicking on the inside. Or I’m anticipating being panicked or exhausted and incapacitated from socializing and feeling hyper anxious. I cancel so many plans due to anticipatory exhaustion and panic. I know how it looks and I know people don’t get it, mostly because I really don’t let on what’s really going on. Because it’s so hard to stop pretending like I’m fine.” — Amanda S.

11. “it’s not an excuse just to be lazy.” — Gaytastic A.

12. “My anxiety convinces me that despite being invited, you really don’t want me there. What really helps are when arrangements are made to meet up before going like carpooling or getting ready together or grabbing a bite first.” — Lynne C.

13. “My anxiety drains my energy. Yes, I technically can overcome that anxiety and meet up with you for a bit, but I know my body and what it can handle and nine [times out of] 10, I will crash and you will need to drive me back home, mid-panic attack. Is that worth it for you? …Because it’s not worth the damage it does to me.” — Leah G.

14. “Fortunately my friends are well aware of my struggles so they know if I can’t make it somewhere, then I am having a bad time and not to push the issue or get offended. I am fortunate to have people who are so understanding. In years past though, it did cost me some friendships.” — Erica D.

15. “If I’ve made plans, I spend the day fretting and worrying about every little thing that could go wrong so much that when the time comes, I’m just too emotionally and physically exhausted to go through with it.” — Morgan S.

16. “It’s not that I can’t concentrate on the conversation, it is that I have already raced through what I think you will say, and how I will respond and something else has occurred to me and if I don’t say it when it pops into my head, I may be too nervous to say it at all… Then I will literally go over our conversation time and time again, trying to figure out when a better chance to say that other important thing would have been.” — Crystal M.

17. “It’s not that I don’t want to be there, it’s that my racing heart and trembling hands are too much to handle. When I say, ‘I’m sorry I won’t make it tonight,’ I really mean, ‘I literally can’t breathe thinking about all the possible outcomes if I leave my house.’ I wish my friends understood rather than getting angry.” — Melina A.

Can you relate?

Thinkstock photo via kevinhillillustration.

Originally published: August 24, 2017
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