I was officially diagnosed with an anxiety disorder in 2015 and I’m not going to sugar coat it, it can suck.
I hate panic attacks and feeling like the whole world is closing in around me. I hate lying awake at 4 in the morning overthinking a meaningless, off-handed comment someone made to me the day before. I hate compulsively talking myself out of certain situations and opportunities because I’ve conceived every possible scenario of what could go wrong and something WILL go wrong. I hate a lot of things that happen because I have anxiety, however, I do not for one second believe that I would be a better person without anxiety.
I’m constantly being told that I ‘just have to manage it’ or that I should just ‘calm down’, ‘stay positive’, and as good as the intentions are it can often come off condescending. “If you ignore it, it’ll just go away” doesn’t apply here. It’s simply a part of who I am. While there are some times that anxiety dictates my life (because let’s face it, no one’s perfect), one of my greatest achievements so far is being able to say that most of the time I can dictate my anxiety.
I look at that as something to be proud of, because it took a lot of work (a LOT of work) to get to this point. So, it confuses me that people still view disorders like anxiety as some sort of badge of shame. That I should feel bad for myself (???). That I would be better if I didn’t have it (???). (How to talk to anxiety ridden girl 101: don’t say that.
Here are some tips to help guide you in the confusing and sometimes confronting interactions you may have with people “suffering” from anxiety:
- When they cancel on you at the last minute because they “aren’t feeling it” they are actually really feeling it more than words can say right now and you are allowed to be annoyed, just please also be empathetic/compassionate.
- Anxiety is not the same thing as a lamp or a clock, it doesn’t have an off switch and it can happen whenever (which is also super inconvenient sometimes because sleep is a valuable commodity).
- Be patient. We aren’t doing this on purpose. Also, maybe offer us a hug every now and then?
In the most confusing but accurate sentence I could muster: I can’t let anxiety dictate my life, because I am not anxiety. But if I didn’t have anxiety, I wouldn’t be me.