Thursday, March 9, 2017

"...don't you put me on the back burner You know you got to help me out..." {Loving someone with anxiety}

All of us have anxious times. We all know the feeling when your stomach knots up and you can't get back to sleep because of the thoughts that are buzzing around in our brains. For most of us, we can self-talk or distract ourselves out of the pit and keep on moving forward. But for other people it really is not as simple as that. Most of us have literally no idea what living with anxiety is like. A few years ago I did a course about living with kids with anxiety and it really changed my life. It changed my perspective and hopefully my reactions to others.

In case you don't know what I'm talking about, here's a really great description I found here,

Anxiety is debilitating. It feels like a constant heaviness in your mind; like something isn’t quite right, although oftentimes you don’t know exactly what that something is.
It feels like acid in your stomach, burning and eating away at the emptiness and taking away any feelings of hunger. It’s like a tight knot that you can’t untwist.
Anxiety feels like your mind is on fire, overthinking and over analyzing every little, irrelevant thing. Sometimes, it makes you feel restless and constantly distracted. It feels as if your thoughts are running wild in a million different directions, bumping into each other along the way.
Other times, it makes you feel detached, as if your mind has gone blank and you are no longer mentally present. You dissociate and feel as if you have left your own body.
Anxiety feels like there is a voice in the back of your mind telling you that everything is not okay, when everything in fact is. Sometimes the voice tells you that there is something wrong with you and that you are different from everybody else.
It tells you that your feelings are bad and a burden to the world and that you should isolate. It makes everyday tasks, such as making simple decisions, incredibly difficult.

Anxiety can keep you up at night — tossing and turning. It’s like a lightbulb that comes on at the most inconvenient times and won’t switch off. Your body feels exhausted, but your mind feels wide awake and racing. You go through the events of your day, analyzing and agonizing over every specific detail.

I think the main thing about loving someone who struggles with anxiety is, not to take it personally. It is not about me, what I've done or not done. It is something that is internal in a person that they feel and it feels completely legit to them (even if part of them knows that it is irrational). This is not a situation where patting someone on the back and saying it will be ok will work. And the other thing is that you might think the other person is angry or upset with you, that's not you, that's the anxiety talking. Recognising those times is a game changer if you love someone with anxiety.

Don't forget that your anxious friend, family member or lover is still the beautiful, amazing, kind, creative person that they always were, but the anxiety is something extra that they have to deal with. They are still the person that you love. They might seem angry or snappy or withdrawn or like they don't want to be with you. But that is not true. They do want to be with you they just can't deal.

So here is my promise to those that I love who struggle with anxiety (you know who you are), I am here for you. I am not going anywhere. I will always return your message or your phone call. I will keep on checking up on you. I will worry about you when I am not with you, because I love you and not because I feel like I have to. I understand that sometimes you need space and sometimes you need someone to be there. I'll try and respect that, but if I push that boundary, it is just because I want to be with you. I'd like it if you could be honest and tell me when things are bad, but I'll probably figure it out. I love you for you. We will get through this together. OK?


  1. Deb, always so much to learn from you xxx

  2. Hi. Where did you do the course as Fred suffers badly and I need to help him as school counselor has just discharged him :(

  3. Thanks for the description of what anxiety can be like. I suffered from anxiety attacks quite a few years ago. I now take medication which helps control them. However, a couple of weeks ago I had the flu and even though I took my medication every day, something went awry and I had several days of having panic attacks. My doctor prescribed an additional med to take which got me over the hump and I now feel back to normal. It was a horrible reminder of how debilitating anxiety can be.


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