how to decode a person with an anxiety disorder.
things we are trying to do all the time:
things we can’t help but do all the time:
- 1. second-guess ourselves
- 2. behave impulsively and reactively
- 3. take everything personally
- 4. worry
- 5. worry
- 6. worry
- 7. have difficulty accepting compliments
- 8. have difficulty reciprocating friendly gestures
- 9. have difficulty finding the courage to respond
- 10. have difficulty not being suspicious of others’ intentions
- 11. make a huge deal out of the smallest thing
things you should keep in mind:
- 1. we’re scared of everything
- 2. pretty much all of the time
- 3. it’s an actual disorder
- 4. it manifests as impulsive behavior
- 5. you can’t fix us with words
- 6. telling us “worrying is silly” won’t make us stop worrying
- 7. it’ll only make us feel silly
- 8. and then we’ll worry even more
- 9. “oh god, am i worrying too much? what if she calls me silly again?”
- 10. like that
- 11. also, we wear a lot of armor
- 12. cold, heavy, affection-proof armor with spikes
- 13. we constructed this armor as children
- 14. we’re fairly certain you will never be able to pry it apart
- 15. but there is a nice person under there, we promise
things you can do for a friend with an anxiety disorder:
- 1. stick around
- 2. ask him/her if they’re comfortable in a place or situation
- 3. be willing to change the place or situation if not
- 4. activities that help them take their mind off of things are good!
- 5. talk to them even when they might not talk back
- 6. (they’re probably too afraid to say the wrong thing)
- 7. try not to take their reactions (or lack thereof) personally
- 8. (the way they expresses themselves happens to be distorted and bent because of their constant fear)
- 9. (and they knows this)
- 10. give them time to respond to you
- 11. they will obsess over how they are being interpreted
- 12. they will anticipate being judged
- 13. it took me four hours just to type this much
- 14. even though i sound casual
- 15. that’s because i have an anxiety disorder
things you shouldn’t do:
- 1. tell us not to worry
- 2. tell us we’ll be fine
- 3. mistake praise for comfort
- 4. ask us if we are “getting help”
- 5. force us to be social
- 6. force us to do things that trigger us
- 7. “face your fears” doesn’t always work
- 8. because—remember—scared of everything
- 9. in fact, it would be more accurate to say we are scared of the fear itself
emergency action procedure for panic attacks:
- 1. be calm
- 2. be patient
- 3. don’t be condescending
- 4. remind us that we’re not crazy
- 5. sit with us
- 6. ask us to tighten and relax our muscles one by one
- 7. remind us that we are breathing
- 8. engage us in a discussion (if we can talk, then we can breathe)
- 9. if we are having trouble breathing, try getting us to exhale slowly
- 10. or breathe through our nose
- 11. or have us put our hands on our stomach to feel each breath
- 12. ask us what needs to change in our environment in order for us to feel safe
- 13. help us change it
- 14. usually, just knowing that we have someone on our side willing to fight our scary monsters with us is enough to calm us down
if you have an anxiety disorder:
- 1. it’s okay.
- 2. even if you worry that it’s not okay.
- 3. it’s still okay. it’s okay to be scared. it’s okay to be scared of being scared.
- 4. you are not crazy. you are not a freak.
- 5. i know there’s a person under all that armor.
- 6. and i know you feel isolated because of it.
- 7. i won’t make you take it off.
- 8. but know that you are not alone.
John Steinbeck, East of Eden