mental health

Be Gentle with Anxiety

As someone with severe anxiety and panic disorder, I like to be treated as anyone else would be. I do appreciate the kind gestures when you say that it might not be best for me to join you in going to that rave. And I appreciate the kindness when I do step out of my comfort zone and you respect that I may need to leave early. Please, though, continue to treat me with respect and thoughtfulness. 

There is one thing I wish my friends and family could understand, though. When someone has an anxiety disorder, they process things much differently than you do. We process every emotion fully and we feel it deep in our souls. That’s why a lot of us tend to come off as, emotional. 

Speaking for myself, and anyone who agrees, the feeling of disappointment can be detrimental to our mental health and stability. I know I, at least, get very easily excited. Which, in turn, means I get very easily disappointed. And while I recognize disappointment as a thing of life, I still process it very differently than a “normal” functioning human. I disappoint myself daily to the point of feeling worthless. And that’s just because I didn’t wake up early enough! 

I grew up with a mother who has fibromyalgia. This means, whenever we made plans, she’d more than likely cancel them. It wasn’t her fault she was in pain, but because I process disappointment so drastically it altered our relationship forever. I used to use this as an example when explaining to my friends why disappointment hurt so much. When, really, it’s because of my anxiety. 

Yesterday, my friend made plans with me on the basis that he might possibly get out of work early. My mind doesn’t naturally process the, might possibly, part. Thankfully, I’ve taught myself to pick up on those words. Yet, when life happens and he had to stay at work, the thoughts began. 

The anxious thoughts start out normally, “oh well, life happens.” And then, with a flip of a switch they turn irrational. “He probably still did get off of work early and he found someone else to hang out with better than me.” When you’re someone who doesn’t have control over your anxiety, this can cause an anxiety attack. For me, however, after a decade I have began to learn irrational thoughts. I can recognize them and begin to counter them. Telling myself, “no, believe what this person is saying.”

So, to sum it up, be gentle when making plans with us. If there’s a chance it won’t happen, warn us. But, please, try and make solid plans. We understand life happens, it’s just this whole thing we have to go through to force ourselves to process why this event isn’t going to happen. 

However, we still make great friends. We’re understanding and caring. We love with every ounce of our souls. We believe in the best of people. We can have fun and enjoy life as much as the next person, just sometimes keep in mind, we process things more deeply than you can imagine. 

-Liz 

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