Ever since I’ve come out publicly about my anxiety, I’ve had several people come up to me with their comments on the issue. While I’ve gotten continuous support from those that share these experiences, I still have to explain myself to those that don’t understand. That’s fine with me, but it’s not a secret that people with anxiety are more sensitive than others, but that trait seems to get lost whenever these conversations seem to happen. I know that a lot of these people have the best intentions, but some of the things they say can come across as harmful without even realizing.
It may be hard to distinguish what and what not to say, and to be fair, a lot of these things can be situational. Below is a general list of what I have encountered within the last several years:
“Are you SURE you have Anxiety?”
Let me check… Between 2008-2018: I have seen several counsellors, three therapists, one psychologist, tried a plethora of medications before I found one that stuck… so, yeah. I’m pretty sure I have anxiety. Thank you for doubting my diagnosis though!
Alternatively: Why not try saying “I’m sorry that you’re going through that, would you like to talk about it more?”
“But you look fine!”
Of course, I do. I hide behind my fake smile and makeup. If you’re not close to me, I will never divulge the full-on chaos that’s going on in my mind. Anxiety isn’t always being in a panic, crying your eyes out & hurdling in the fetal position. It’s a silent, festering, illness that puts my body in a fight or flight mode CONSTANTLY.
Alternatively: There’s no reason to diminish their symptoms with their physical appearance, others may look fine while others don’t, and there is no standard for anxiety.
“Other people have it worse than you”
I don’t understand the need to compare oneself to another. I also believe that it’s unfair to do so. Just because I am going through something that might come easily to others doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t feel emotionless. My feelings and anxiety are valid.
Alternatively: Why not try saying “What type of symptoms do you experience?” if they want to discuss it further, they’ll happily discuss their emotions and struggles, which will open your eyes to how different each person can go through anxiety.
“You don’t put effort into things”
I hate when people say that. Whenever I struggle with something that comes so natural to most, I am left with the chatter and judgment of others that I cannot complete something ‘so simple’ in their eyes.
Even when I try to explain my anxiety, they automatically assume it’s just worrying – something that they too get from time to time. It’s not the same, but my opinion is lost on their already made up mind. I’m glad that it was easy for you to get up and start your day – for me, it took me half an hour to get out of bed since my mind was racing.
Alternatively: Why not try to give positive reinforcements? If it did take another person half an hour to get out of bed, I would say “I’m so proud that you were able to get up today!”
“We never invite you out anymore because you’re flaky”
That’s fair – but please keep in mind that’s not my intention. I will have good days, and I will have bad days. Unfortunately, I cannot schedule my anxiety weeks in advance. If I suddenly leave early or don’t show up at all, it means that I don’t want to ruin an event with my symptoms. I’m really looking out for all involved, but people take it quite personally and don’t invite me out anymore. That’s ok if you can’t handle my anxiety – you’re not responsible for my emotions.
Alternatively: I would continue to invite those that struggle out, even if we don’t come out just the fact that we were asked makes us feel wanted and welcome.
“Just calm down” / “stop freaking out” / “again?”
The last thing that I need to hear when I’m going through some of my symptoms are these jabs right here. Believe me, if I could “calm down” or “stop,” I would do so. The fact of the matter is, I can’t at this moment, and if you can’t understand that, that’s OK.
Alternatively: Don’t tell anyone these jabs. Come in for a hug, or leave the room if it’s better for YOUR mental health.
I could go on with more, but I think you get the idea. All I want is for others to be more understanding before saying hurtful comments to those that do not need it.