What I Wish You Knew About Anxiety
Anxiety affects a lot of us but it isn’t a “one size fits all" illness. It presents itself in wildly different manners for men and women across the globe. Sometimes, anxiety is pacing back and forth, fast breathing, and sweaty palms. Sometimes, anxiety is sitting silently in a chair with tears streaming down your face. Sometimes, anxiety is easy to recognize, and sometimes, you would never know about the inner struggle.
It can be hard to love someone with anxiety. I see the struggle in the way my parents try and support me. There are times when I can pinpoint the exact cause of my anxiety, and then there are other other moments when the world simply feels like too much to handle. More often than not, my family and friends just don’t know what to do when I break down.
Anxiety can bring about feelings of frustration, too. I get frustrated when my anxiety sneaks up on me, especially when I’m out in public. Because when it peaks, I can’t control it. So then, not only do I have to deal with insane amounts of panic, but I have to deal with the judgment I place on myself. “Why can’t you keep this under control, Meghan?”.
What I want you to know about anxiety is that we aren’t looking for you to “fix things”. Most often, just having someone by our sides is enough. I encourage you to talk to your loved one about how to best support them in moments of crisis. And be patient. We are most likely not being patient with ourselves when the panic strikes, so please be patient while we navigate the mess.
We are also sorry for all the times we said no to your invitations. To the times we said "I'm sorry, I can’t” or "I have something else that night” or "maybe next time?". It’s not that we don’t want to go - we truly do want to show up. But our anxiety prevents us from accepting social invitations for fear of the unknown, and for fear of leaving our “safe space”. We do want to be there, but our heads prevent us from feeling okay enough to leave the house.
What I want you to know is that it’s not you. And it’s not really us, either. It’s mental illness. And sometimes, no matter how hard we try to understand it, we simply can’t. And no matter how hard we try and control it, sometimes, we can’t do that either. The best thing YOU can do is to love continuously. Love continuously despite the meltdowns and panic attacks.
Anxiety is a nasty illness. Whether it’s a specific phobia or a more generalized fear, sometimes, despite our best efforts, we are not able to manage it. This may result in yelling, in crying, or in anger, but please, don’t step away. It is in those moments that we really need you, even though we might not be able to ask for it.
So to all of you who are loving someone with anxiety, we see you and we appreciate you. And we thank you for sticking by our sides even when things get tricky and complicated. Your love helps us more than you know.
Anxiety is not something we choose, and if we are open about it, it is not something we talk about for attention. Sometimes the mere act of just talking about it helps us process our illness and move through difficult situations (so thank you for listening). We also talk about it not only to obtain solutions, but also to continue to break the mental health stigma - which will hopefully result in an openness from more people to seek treatment and feel less ashamed.
Anxiety is not a choice. Anxiety is not spoken about for attention. Anxiety is not anyone’s fault. Anxiety is a nasty beast, but you will get through this. We will get through this. There has got to be a light at the end of the tunnel.