What To Expect From A Loved One With Anxiety
The only way to describe anxiety to someone that doesn’t suffer from it is asking them to imagine the worst possible thing that could ever happen to them, whatever it might be. Now imagine that it is happening right now, about to happen or has just happened. That miserable, panic stricken, utterly hopeless feeling, that is how I feel 98 percent of the time… for literally no reason at all.
I worry about everything. I see my death in every situation, and if it’s not mine, it’s my dogs, my boyfriends, my parents. A constant crippling fear of everything, a constant weight pressing down on my chest, a constant edge, a constant need to cry… why? I don’t have a fucking clue.
I have seen therapists, taken medication, done yoga, changed my diet, got a dog… some helped, some did nothing, some made a change for a while but I still felt the anxious misery creep back in. I wonder everyday if I will ever not feel like this, if my kids will inherit this awful feeling, if I will be WORSE when I have children to worry about. Why do I feel like this? That is the worst part, I don’t know. Some days I feel fine and then out of nowhere it hits me like a ton of bricks, and that’s it. Forget leaving the house, forget happiness, forget confidence, forget concentration, forget rational thought processes.
I’m horrible in social situations because should I feel even slightly insecure, my entire demeanour sinks into the ground and I just want to be home in my bed. Anything or nothing can set it off. The other day I woke up, perfectly normal day, but I just felt anxious to the point where I wanted to be sick. I told my boyfriend, I couldn’t place where it was coming from but it was a bad one. I meditated, I walked the dog, I drank water, I tried to lie down, I went to teach my yoga class, but it ate away at me all day till I felt broken. My boyfriend had no idea what to do, as often is the case in these situations. Having a loved one with anxiety can be painfully hard, almost as hard as suffering with it yourself. Here are a few things to expect from a loved one with anxiety:
Expect the Unexpected
You might be out on a beautiful dinner date, enjoying a gorgeous view, at a family event surrounded by your nearest and dearest, at home on the couch watching TV. Everything is fine (you think) and out of nowhere something triggers worry, panic, fear, misery, irrational behaviour from your loved one. Why? Who knows. My triggers can be tiny: I have a wondering thought about money that suddenly turns into a huge thought along the lines of 'What if I can’t pay my mortgage or I get really sick and my house gets taken, or I don’t get enough work to cover my bills and I’m a loser and then my boyfriend leaves me for being a piece of shit’ or we are out and someone takes a photo and I look like crap. Best believe that’s the end of our night because I am going straight home.
My thoughts, my mood, my attitude all change in seconds and you need to be ready to recognise when an episode is bad and when your loved one needs reassurance or just to get the hell out of there.
10 Million Messages in a Row
My day usually starts a few hours before my boyfriend's; he sometimes wakes up to over 100 messages from me. When I am having an episode my way of venting is to endlessly type messages to him updating him on how I feel and how horrible it is. I imagine this is quite a distressing thing to wake up to for my partner, although I think he is used to it now. My mother told me she’s so glad I have him because it used to be her that got the messages. She told me that I am the reason she has to turn her phone to silent at night as my messages used to come thick and fast in the early AM, hundreds of them.
The thing you need to remember is that these messages just want to be acknowledged. I literally just want someone to talk to, I know you can’t help me. These are my demons. This brings me swiftly to my next point.
Listen and Sympathise, Do Not Advise...
This might make me sound ungrateful, or like I’m being a brat, but I cannot STAND being given advice when I feel like this. I know that my friends, family and partner are just trying to help me, because they love me. But I literally just want to be sympathised with and listened to. When I am having an anxiety attack you better believe there is no way out, in my head there is no solution. I have already exhausted every solution. I don’t want help, I want to figure it out myself. I just want someone to understand how horrible I feel. I want a cuddle, I want to be told it will get better.
My poor mother used to try so hard to offer advice. She has never really had depression or anxiety and I think it took her a long while to realise that actually my 100 million messages are simple me wanting a bit of attention. My mum is the person I call most frequently when I am having a breakdown, even at 30-years-old. Most of my friends live on the other side of the world and my partner actually has to LIVE with me so my mother takes the brunt of it. Bet she thought when I left home it would get easier!
Seeing an Obvious Solution That They Do Not See
Sometimes you see an answer or a solution to their problem but they do not see it. When I am panicking or having a breakdown, let's say for example about work…. this is one I used to have frequently … "I hate my job" and people would say "So do something else." Could this be a more annoying response? I think not.
If you think there is a solution, to be honest there probably is, but now is not the time to bring it up. Wait until they are calm again then say “you know I was thinking, you’re super unhappy at work, maybe we should think about what other options you have.”
When I have anxiety, there is no solution.
Social Media Is the King of All Triggers
Social media is, unfortunately, the way most of us interact and get our news sources these days. I use it everyday for work, because trust me if I worked a normal 9-5 my Twitter and Insta would be deleted in seconds. I HATE that I have to have social media. My boyfriend hates it too, because it is only a matter of time before I see something that makes me sink into my hole, makes me angry, makes me cry. I hate it.
As much as I love pretty travel pages and nice compliments from strangers, the internet is a deep, dark, toxic hole full of things that you should never see. People use it to spread hate and argue with others over their opinions. It is a trigger for girls, especially if you are insecure like most of us are, living up to the standards of these over photoshopped pages. Amazing bodies, expensive clothes, facetuned facial features. Why the hell would my boyfriend want me, when girls like this exist?
Online bullying is a HUGE issue at the moment, also. The problem is that it is not dealt with seriously and when it does affect someone badly people point fingers in any other direction. Should your loved one be present on social media, be ready for this to trigger all sorts of misery. I now try and sign out of Twitter and Instagram for at least two days a week, for my sanity.
I think this is the worst one for my friends and family and especially my boyfriend. Knowing I feel like I want to die, that I talk about my own death, that I’m SO unhappy it cripples me and not knowing how to help, what to do, where to turn or what to suggest.
Scared of saying anything encase you set it off, frustrated because you see a path but they don’t. Expect to feel this way often. As someone who frequently puts their nearest and dearest through this, I am truly sorry from the bottom of my heart that I lean on you and use you as a punch bag, but I don’t know what else to do.
I am not a doctor, this piece is not about how to fix your loved one. This is simply to help you out if you know someone that suffers. Letting you know what to expect from their behaviour, an insight into how we think, letting you know that you are not alone and that your anxious loved one is also not alone. Good luck!