10 Things Someone With Anxiety Wants You to Know
As a therapist working specifically with individuals experiencing anxiety, I hear a lot of common themes about what they wish others would know about anxiety, and about them. I have summarized the top ten themes below, paraphrased in the voice of my clients.
1.) I am not making it up.
No, it's not for attention. And no, I don't want people to feel bad for me. I could never imagine making something up that affects me so deeply, and has me stuck in my head more frequently than enjoying the present moment. When I'm accused of making this up, it hurts. A lot.
2.) If I could "just calm down," trust me, I would.
I wish I could just relax whenever I want. I wish I could stop obsessing, worrying, and panicking. I also wish you knew that it's just not that easy.
3.) If you're unsure how to help me, that's okay. I just ask that you listen when I need it most.
All I want is to feel supported, and that someone has my back during a difficult time. I realize there is no magical cure for anxiety, so please know that I don't expect you to have one. I come to you for support, and for validation. Yelling and getting angry with me is not support. I'm already angry with myself for feeling this way.
4.) Sometimes, I don't even know what I'm anxious about.
My mind often races with so many thoughts, that they sometimes just get lumped together into one big ball of worries. All I know is that my heart races, I begin to sweat, my muscles tense - and there is no one specific reason why. So when you ask what I'm so anxious about, and I say "I don't know," sometimes I really don't know.
5.) My weekly therapy is not a waste of time and money.
This is the one place I feel most understood. I feel validated, encouraged, and that just perhaps, I'm not as "crazy" as I feel. While I may be getting better slowly, I'm still getting better. Know that small steps for you may be large steps for me.
6.) Uncertainty terrifies me.
Not knowing something, especially what the future holds, is frightening, so I play and replay any and all potential situations in my head, always thinking about worst-case scenarios, and "what if" possibilities. I know this only worsens my anxiety, but I can't seem to stop. It's tiring, and it leaves me mentally exhausted.
7.) Some days are better than others.
Please be patient on days I am struggling, and appreciate days I am doing well. One good day does not mean I am all better, but it does show my hard work is paying off.
8.) Always remember I am more than my anxiety.
I can still smile and be a fun person. I still have interests that I want to pursue. I still want to have friends, socialize, and laugh. Please look beyond my panic, my hesitations, and my questions, and embrace what lies underneath - me!
9.) Don't take my declined invites or awkward behavior personally.
There are moments when I feel too anxious to socialize. I feel disappointed in myself for not being able to act "normally" and just go out, and then even more disappointed that I am letting you down. On days when I can push myself to see you, please be patient if you see I'm not acting myself. It means I'm trying hard to fit in and act naturally, while deep down I'm shaking, crying, and want to run!
10.) There's more to my story than what you see.
I often experience my anxiety in silence - behind closed doors, with thoughts and worries no one knows about. I fear being judged or criticized, struggle a lot with self-doubt, and find myself overthinking every decision and conversation.
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