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Please Don’t Be Reactive When I Open Up to You About My Anxiety

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Anxiety disorders are so much fun,” said no one ever.

It’s already been established anxiety disorders are extremely complex and affect all who have them in different ways. What some may find anxiety-inducing, others may not. What some may find soothing, others may not.

In the same vein are things that trigger anxiety. What may trigger one person may not trigger another. I’m not talking about a trigger that stems from a specific situation, I’m talking about general triggers that some may not even notice make their anxiety worse. I want to talk about one I’ve only noticed in the past couple of years that has caused me to either cry in a bathroom or cry myself to sleep, depending on the situation. I’ve always stressed how being receptive instead of reactive is a helpful tool for those who know someone with an anxiety disorder, or any type of mental illness, really.

I’ve noticed how people react to my anxiety can either help it or make it worse. Dismissiveness is one thing, and to me it’s an entirely different blood type within this vein we’re examining, but there are some things I’ve been told recently while trying to express my anxious feelings that have only made them worse:

“You’re too young for this.”

“If you wanted to talk, you should’ve talked earlier. It’s late.”

These are recent ones that have really punctured that vein I’ve been talking about. The first statement pushed me to cry in a bathroom and the other pushed me to cry myself to sleep. It isn’t because they were mean or dismissive in my mind, it’s because I was attempting to speak out loud about my anxious feelings, something that is incredibly helpful to me, and one statement invalidated my feelings and came with lack of understanding, while the other lacked reception and concern.

If I feel my anxious feelings are being received while I’m expressing them, I often feel a sense of relief. If I feel they’re being invalidated or unheard, I express them in the only healthy and safe ways I know how: crying and keeping those feelings to myself. Note my anxiety often manifests into sadness and tears when I hold it in long enough. This essentially builds the feelings up even more and I have to adjust to bottling them up so I don’t bother anyone and to protect those feelings from worsening due to people being reactive.

Reactiveness often causes me to struggle in silence to avoid inconveniencing others and to protect my anxiety from worsening. 

Final thought: Please listen when someone needs to talk. And please don’t just listen to react. Listen to receive. We’re a lot of work, but I swear we don’t mean to be.

Unsplash image by Bailey Zindel

Originally published: January 31, 2020
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