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What You Actually Need to Know to Help Me With My Anxiety

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I can’t explain my anxiety. I can try, but I would fail. Not because I don’t know every little detail about it, but because the details never come together to form a full picture. I can list all of my triggers. I can tell you how my panic attacks feel. I can even discuss in depth how hard it is to worry about everything all the time. But, you still wouldn’t get it. Not because you weren’t trying to get it, but because my anxiety isn’t something you can talk about for five minutes and then suddenly become an expert on. However, knowing the small details about my anxiety will help me. So, even though I know you will never truly be able to understand what it feels like to be trapped in a bathroom stall, trying to will yourself out of an anxiety attack, or know how it feels to wake up exhausted after a full night of worrying, I will still try my best to explain what my anxiety feels like.

1. You know when you take a sip of a drink and then someone makes you laugh, and now you are left with a mouthful of liquid you are trying not to spit out at everyone in front of you? That’s how I feel all the time. I refuse to burden anyone with the task of cleaning themselves up after I spit out all of my anxieties and worries at them. It may make me feel like I’m going to choke on all of my pent-up emotions, but better that than shamefully having to help them wipe up the mess I’ve caused.

2. Yes, I think my anxiety is a burden to other people. No, I am not ashamed of the fact I have anxiety. There is a difference between refusing to put the weight of the world on someone else’s shoulder and not wanting anyone to know you are strong enough to carry the world on yours.

3. My anxiety is different than someone else’s. No two minds think alike, so why would anyone expect two mental illnesses to be the same? What works for some people may not work for me. Please don’t get offended if I stray away from the hug you are trying to give me or block out your words of advice. I’m not trying to be rude, that is just not how I cope.

4. I get quiet when I am facing a trigger, not because I don’t want to talk about it, but because I am afraid that with each breath I lose trying to explain how I am feeling, I will become weaker, and being weak doesn’t help fight the monsters I am facing.

5. I love coffee. My anxiety doesn’t. So, when I am mad that I haven’t had my cup of coffee in the morning, it probably has more to do with the fact I let my anxiety determine what I did with my life, and that is disappointing.

6. Being afraid is a part of my life. I fear so much that, sometimes, I even fear not being afraid.

7. I love being in social situations… for about an hour, and then it seems like the walls start to close in on me. I will try to stick it out for as long as I can, but if I leave a party early, it’s because everyone has sucked all of the air out of the room and now I’m left with none.

8. Every day, I look at the semicolon tattooed on my right index finger and the teal ribbon on my left arm and remind myself of how far I have come. I’ve made it farther than I ever thought possible, and my anxiety and depression were part of the experience. Without them, I wouldn’t be where or who I am today. That is something I will never forget.

9. My anxiety and depression is like that gift you hate, but end up using. Like, I wish I didn’t get this stupid back scratcher, but now it’s two in the morning and I have an itch at the bottom of my back and now I feel myself thanking whoever was ridiculous enough to buy me it. The same goes for my anxiety. I mean, sometimes when I am struggling so much I can barely breathe, I loathe whoever thought it would be funny to give me the gift of anxiety. But, then, after I am done having a panic attack or finishing up a horrendously bad day, I realize just how strong I am, and my anxiety has helped me figure that out. I can hold my head up high knowing that even though I have anxiety and depression, I am strong enough to fight and keep going every single day.

Like I said, my anxiety isn’t something you can become an expert on in the span of five minutes or one article. However, that’s not what this is meant to do. You understanding what makes me or anyone who lives with anxiety tick can help you and them. You don’t need to be a professional to lend a hand to someone who needs it. So, don’t feel the need to know everything about someone’s anxiety, because even if you just know a little of the small details, you will still find a way to help them. Even if it’s just standing with them as they fight alone.

Follow this journey on the author’s blog.

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Getty Images photo via SIphotography

Originally published: December 7, 2017
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