When It Comes to My Anxiety, Don't Say This...
I’m writing this post from my point of view. I don’t want to spend loads of time researching “things not to say to people with anxiety” to get the professional advice or “how to support someone with anxiety” because I want to give you my own, personal thoughts. This is my personal blog after all. And I do have anxiety so I should know myself, right?
Quick note about that intro - I’ve been plagued with impostor syndrome, comparison and just a lot of “catastrophic” thoughts when it comes to writing or posting stuff about anxiety. How bloody ironic! So, I’m bashing this out in one, no edits or expert advice - just me and my thoughts.
I talk about my anxiety a lot, right? I mean, I was open with my friends and family when I was diagnosed and told them about my counselling. I built a blog focused on it and created a whole Instagram account posting about it. Being this open about it is hard but I know it’s important. One of the by-products of being ‘vulnerable’ - lol that sounds stupidly ‘heroic’ doesn’t it? - I’m just writing blog posts ffs. actually I’m overthinking, never mind - One of the by-products is that people talk to me about it. People who have diagnosed anxiety disorders and people who don't.
I wanted to put together a little list of things that I really don’t like hearing whenever my anxiety comes up in conversations. Partly to vent (I am running on low sleep today 😂) but mostly to give you some advice if someone ever opens up to you about it, then you’ll have some footing as to what to do and say (and what not to).
what you shouldn’t do:
ask “what have you got to be anxious about?”
This one annoyed me a lot when I first started talking about it. I think it’s the feeling that someone is assuming that they know the ins and outs of my life and can tell me how to feel. I do understand that sometimes they could be trying to combat any anxious thoughts they think I’m having but please, no.
say “are you sure you haven’t tried taking vitamins, drinking water and getting sleep?”
Yes, I’m 100% sure. I stressed so much about going to the doctors for my initial appointment because I was anxious about wasting their time. I thought that they’d be annoyed at me, think I was making it up, disregard anything I was telling them and use me as an example of people abusing our health system. So obviously, I tried everything I could to stop feeling so anxious all the time before booking an appointment.
(tbh I still feel that way anytime I have to talk to the doctor about my mental health).
immediately change the conversation.
I overthink a lot so if you immediately change the conversation, I’m going to immediately think that you’re judging me, think I’m a weirdo, don’t want to interact with me and finally, that you’re selfish. The stigma we caused by not talking about mental health is literally killing people. Talk about it, ask your questions and do your bit to normalise it.
treat me as I’m sick.
I appreciate the gesture with this one but it makes me feel patronised. I don’t have the flu and pandering to me is going to make me feel: a) guilty and like I’m an inconvenience to you, and b) possibly make me feel more anxious. Remember when you would pretend to be sick when you didn’t want to go to school? Well, I remember making myself sick when I was a kid just to get the day off but because I spent the rest of the day lazing around, getting sympathy, I started to convince myself I was actually sick! It’s probably association or some type of placebo affect but 🤷♂️.
tell me “yeah I know what it’s like, I get anxious sometimes”.
It’s kinda the same. But for me, it’s almost constant and over ridiculously insignificant things that seem huge and very significant to me. I remember telling Scott that the feeling he would get if he was just about to walk onstage in front of loads of people, giving a talk on something he doesn’t know, is the same stomach-churning, face-flushing, throat-lumping, nervous-peeing feeling that I get if I need to make a phone call or introduce myself to a group of people.
During one of my many “do I even have anxiety or am I faking it and I don’t know?” thought processes, I googled what an Anxiety Disorder is (yes, I did the number one thing we aren’t supposed to do). Apparently the short of it is, if you’ve had anxious thoughts more days than not for the past 6-months. So that’s the main difference between just having anxious thoughts sometimes and an anxiety disorder.
what you should do:
talk to us about it.
Like I said earlier, ask me questions. I’m not an expert, I don’t have qualifications but I have my own experiences on it. Asking me questions and talking to me about it makes me think that you’re interested and I appreciate it massively.
give me space if I need it.
Sometimes, I get overwhelmed 🤷♂️. I’ve realised that I'm usually sensitive to ‘sensory overload’ as the pros put it. Basically, loud, busy settings drain my energy suuuuper fast and I get really tired. I think it’s because I’m focusing on EVERYTHING that’s around me all the time. If I’m on a night out, I’m keeping an eye on that larey guy in case he kicks off, I’m watching that girl and guy to make sure she’s ok, I’m thinking about our bags or coats and if they’re safe whilst also chatting to you and trying to enjoy myself. You know what it makes me think of? That scene in twilight when Bella becomes a vampire and every noise is heightened? yeah. Anyway, when I get a bit overwhelmed, I tend to nip outside to the smoking area for a breather or I might go home early - it’s nothing personal.
be understanding if I cancel plans (PLEASE).
I’ve bailed on a lot of things because I’ve felt too anxious. Weddings, coffee dates, reunions with old pals and even work. On the days that I can’t think of anything else than worst-case scenarios of everything that can happen, I can’t bring myself to go. The butterflies, nervous shaking and sweating makes me look are akin to struggling with withdrawals but sometimes they get so bad that the best choice for me is to cancel. PLEASE don’t bad mouth me to your friends if I cancel. Don’t make me feel even more guilty than I already do - I’m most likely already convincing myself that I’m a terrible person and everyone hates me. Give me a pass 🙏
if you notice me looking anxious, try to distract me.
I was tempted to write “ask me if you can help” but, I feel like that would trigger my anxiety more. Plus, if I’m having an anxiety attack or stuck in bad anxious thoughts, I won’t know what to do myself, let alone direct another person! If you notice me being weirdly quiet and staring at the floor daydreaming, fidgeting more than usual, biting my lips a lot or other anxious traits - try to distract me. It’ll push my focus away from the anxious thoughts and towards something else. I might not say it, but I’d appreciate this a lot. It’s one of the small caring gestures that make me realise that people are looking out for me.
There’s probably a few more I could add on but this was just a quick post whilst it was running though my head. I feel like I should say that managing my anxiety disorder is a job for me, not you, so don’t feel pressured to do (or not do) any of these things. They’re just all advice on helping someone who experiences the same anxiety that I do.
If you live with anxiety, I’d be interested to find out your own advice for dos and don’ts. I’ve turned on Anonymous commenting on my blog so feel free to drop your thoughts below or comment over on Instagram.
Thanks for reading, I really appreciate it.
Have a good one.
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