I’ve had a few major life transitions lately, and my anxiety is at an all time high. I’ve had general anxiety ever since I was a little girl, but its strength and occurrence comes and goes daily. Personally, I do not characterize my anxiety as severe, but it is present to the point where it disrupts my life at times. I am not medicated for my anxiety. My anxiety generally comes from stress, as well as my minor obsessions and compulsions that get in the way of my every day life.
Let me paint you a picture of a typical scenario of when my anxiety has been out of control.
So, I am a relatively tidy person and cannot leave my house until the dishes are done and the laundry is put away. Because of this, I have made myself late to various functions, including school and work, because I have spent my time cleaning and tidying down to the very last minute, even when I knew I had to leave. Then, as I’m driving to school/work in a mad rush going nearly 80 on the highway, I have anxiety that I’m going to get pulled over (or cause an accident.) When I get to school late, my anxiety continues because now I believe that everyone will be looking at me when I walk in the door, and I worry that my professor will be angry at me. I can’t help but think about his possibly anger the entire class period, which makes me more stressed because, at that point, I can’t seem to concentrate on my studies. Sounds incredibly silly, I know. But this is a very real situation for me.
Sometimes, my anxiety is so severe that I feel dizzy and short of breath; it has caused me to burst into tears for no reason and feel tightness in my chest. Anxiety has caused distance between my fiancé and I at times because he doesn’t suffer from it, and doesn’t quite understand it either. But I know so many others have it WAY worse than I do.
Anxiety is horrible, and it’s a very real thing.
It is important to note that everyone’s battle with anxiety is different. My battle may be different from yours, your husband’s, or your child’s. Although I am currently working towards my Master’s in Professional Counseling, I am not yet licensed to legally speak to you about your anxiety. However, I have connections associated with the topic of anxiety, which is why I decided to write today’s post. This is simply an opinion post; what I may want my loved ones to know about my anxiety may be very different from how you feel about your anxiety.
Today, I’m writing about 8 things I wish my loved ones knew my my anxiety and anxiety as a whole.
1.) We can’t help it.
Anxiety isn’t just something we can turn off. Even if we participate in exercises to calm our anxiety, such as deep breathing exercises, speaking with a counselor, or writing our thoughts down on paper, it doesn’t just go away. We cannot just take a magic pill and get rid of our anxiety. We wish we didn’t have it, because it affects our life negatively. It’s hard to manage, and we must learn to live with it.
2.) We don’t need you to fix the problem or tell us we are being irrational, but rather have empathy.
Please, don’t try to fix the problem. We know that you are trying to help, but you actually are not helping at all because the problem is unfixable. Rather, be empathic. Use statements such as “I don’t know what you are going through, but I’m here for you”….”I can feel your pain and I wish I could make it stop. I’m your person if you need someone to lean on”…..”I love you and I’m always here for you…How can I help?”
3.) It’s unpredictable.
We never know when it’s going to come or go. We may be having a great day, but then something triggers our anxiety, and we lose control. We try our best to keep it together, but sometimes we can’t. Then we often times feel guilty for messing up your day because of our anxiety. The guilt, in turn, worsens our anxiety.
4.) It’s unexplainable.
Sometimes, we don’t even know the source of our anxiety. It may be a combination of stress adding up in our daily lives, or it may be triggered by something that has just recently happened, such as failing a test. Either way, this goes back to “Please don’t try to fix my problem, just be there for me.” You may not be able to understand it, but support me.
5.) We don’t say we have it just to get attention.
Anxiety affects over 40 million Americans a year, or over 18% of the population. It is the most common mental health illness in our nation. When we say that we have anxiety, it’s because we mean it. We aren’t looking for excuses or to get attention. Why would we lie about something so horrible? We are telling you that we have anxiety because we trust that you won’t belittle us or make us feel worse about our condition.
6.) It causes both emotional and physical reactions.
As I stated in my introduction, every person experiences anxiety differently. Anxiety may cause shortness of breath, panic attacks, profuse sweating, dizziness, blurred vision, nausea, indigestion, and many more symptoms. Those are just the physical symptoms. In addition, people with anxiety may experience unpredictable fits of rage or anger, stuttering, zoning out, or not talking at all. There are several kinds of anxieties, including Generalized Anxiety Disorder, PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), Panic Disorder, and Social Anxiety Disorder. We cannot be characterized or labeled into one tiny box, so please be patient with us.
7.) Sometimes we just need our space.
Sometimes, we just need a little space. We may need time privately to work though our emotions, calm down, or de-stress. If we let you know that we need space, please don’t be offended. We just need some “us” time. All too often, we feel bad for involving you in our “drama.”
8.) We just need to know you’re there.
Just you being there and being supportive means the world to us. That’s all we could ever ask for, whether you understand our anxiety or not. Please, just love us just the way we are.
If you suffer from anxiety, what else would you add to this list? Please feel free to contribute to the conversation below.