It wasn’t until I was 27 or 28 that I realized what was wrong with me. I had been going down a scary path. I knew depression was something I battled, but what I didn’t know was depression’s scary little friend, anxiety. Why was I flipping out over little things? Why was I scared to leave my home? Why did I think everyone secretly hated me?
Anxiety is scary. If you’ve never experienced it, then you truly do not understand it. It’s suffocating. It’s tightness in your chest. It’s pure panic at times. And to those who don’t experience, it seems like it’s happening for no reason. But to those who battle it every day, it’s all very real.
You may have a loved one who goes through this, and more than likely, it’s hard for you to help them. Maybe when you try to help, they scream at you. Or maybe what you’re trying seems to make them worse. Trust me, you’re not alone. It took my husband several years to finally “learn” me and my anxiety (and he’s still learning) but he’s more help now than ever before.
Let’s dive in to what works and what may make it worse.
1: Understand that they do not always know what is wrong
We just don’t. Panic can creep up on us out of nowhere and all of a sudden we feel unsafe, or worried about things that don’t need to be worried about. If your loved one says that they don’t know, don’t push the subject. Be understanding and patient. Encourage them to go lay down or rest. For some with anxiety, feeling a persons touch or embrace can help, but that’s not true for all. Me, for example, I like to be left alone in a room by myself to try and get my mind around what’s real and what’s not. This, however, is something I’ve taught myself to do over the years when my husband wasn’t the most understanding.
2: Just because they seem okay around others, doesn’t mean that they are
We become incredible fakers. You may see your loved one being outgoing at work or in some social situations and think “Wow! Their anxiety is really getting better.” It’s probably not. We learn to deal. We learn our triggers, and we know our energy levels. Do you ever notice them become completely drained after interactions like that? It’s because they used everything they had mentally to get through it.
I often do makeup tutorials live on Facebook. People assume that I am outgoing, an extrovert, and love being on camera live in front of whoever wants to watch.
FALSE. I do that because I love makeup and want to share it. I know by going live and sharing what I love, it will help people and help my business grow. But afterwards, I’m D O N E. Mentally exhausted and often need quiet for awhile. I learned how to manage my energy for when I need to be “on” (going live, and working in the salon), which is why I don’t go out a lot, and I’m careful who I spend my “down time” with because I need to recharge for when it’s time to be “on” again.
3: They need help but often won’t ask
Anxiety can be knowing we need to get stuff done, whether it’s housework or something else, but we can’t do it. And I mean we physically cannot bring ourselves to do it. Part of that is an energy thing, we may be drained from a long week, or something stressful that we cannot process how to handle. But the other part of that may be that we are overwhelmed with even where to start. Scared we won’t do it right.
Offer to help. Don’t ask them why whatever it is isn’t done. Just help them.
4: Validate their feelings
There’s nothing worse than hearing “You’re being ridiculous” or “That’s crazy, why would you think that way”, etc. when you’re dealing with anxiety. If you have said these things to your loved one, shame on you. It’s time to educate yourself and be their partner in this.
Let them talk their feelings out with you and actually listen to them. Do not interrupt. Just listen. You can say “I may not understand how you feel, but I understand that you feel that way. How can I help you?” You cannot fix them, but you can be there for them 100%.
5: Don’t make them feel worse for what isn’t getting done
Ever come home at the end of the day and notice things that haven’t been done? If you normally would point those out, ask them how their day was. Maybe within that conversation you’ll find out why something wasn’t done. Maybe then you could offer to do it.
More than anything, they need a partner. They need to know they have someone who loves them just as much with or without anxiety. Let them teach you about their anxiety. Learn their triggers. Learn what helps them.
Watching a loved one battle anxiety it’s a walk in the park, but by educating yourself and truly listening to them, you can begin to help them and let them know that they have a partner on this scary ride called anxiety.