Dear loved ones of an anxiety sufferer,
Depending on how close you are to someone, firstly, you are probably unaware that your loved one is an anxiety sufferer. The signs are never obvious unless you are looking for them or know what to look for. It is easy for some people to come out and say “I am suffering” but for some people these are the hardest three words in the world to express. If you are lucky enough to hear these words from your loved one, never underestimate the strength that it took to just simply say them.
Often, someone with anxiety spends months or years suffering in silence and trying to gain control over the situation completely alone. To a loved one, who has never experienced anxiety themselves, know that this is a torturous experience for them. The time spent alone with a racing mind and a racing heart requires constant upkeep and is a vicious cycle of lies, guilt, self hatred, terror, exhaustion, immense sadness and then back to the lies again.
You must understand that when you feel a sense of deceit from that person or you are tired of excuses for things that don’t make sense or you find yourself thinking bad adjectives to describe them like ‘they are lazy’, ‘they just don’t care’, ‘they are a liar’, ‘they never open up’ etc. When you find yourself fed up or feeling like you care no more to try to understand your loved one, you must remember that whatever you are feeling about them they are already feeling about themselves- ten fold. However frustrated or angry you are with them, they are ten times more angry with themselves. However much their behaviour may be hurting you, they are hurting in themselves times 100.
It’s not easy in anyway to describe in words the feeling of anxiety. Especially, in today’s world when the word is thrown around so flippantly to describe a small amount of nervousness. There are levels to the word and definition of anxiety. Of course, it is academically correct to describe butterflies in your stomach about an upcoming exam as anxiety. It is also correct to describe weeks of sleepless nights about an upcoming exam as anxiety. It is also correct to describe a one off panic attack and hyperventilation during a stressful time in your life as anxiety. All of which can be damaging to your moods, situations and results but on a temporary basis. This leaves the word with such a broad meaning that when/if your loved one comes to you explaining that they have anxiety and that is the sole reason why they aren’t living their lives the way that they deserve and/or is the sole reason why they might not be treating you as you deserve… of course it is going to seem, frankly, like another excuse.
This is why a lot of the time, an anxiety sufferer would rather take the labels of ‘lazy’, ‘worthless’, ‘bad friend’ because to reply with ‘no, I actually suffer with anxiety’ isn’t met with the response in which it warrants. To feel like you are suffocating at the same time having blurred vision or dizziness, a pounding heart, overheating or shivering in body temperature, shaking with adrenaline and losing breath all at once on the inside while keeping a composed smile on the outside is, traumatising. You have to remember that not everyone who suffers with anxiety will all of a sudden go into a flap, commanding a room for attention, most of the time the most that you will hear or see is them leaving the situation like nothing is happening other than the illusion that they don’t want to be there. Remembering that this doesn’t just happen once a year for a few weeks before an exam, this can happen multiple times in one day. Going to the local supermarket, going to a public toilet, going to a bank or post office to lodge something that could be so important for your household and they just won’t. For me, it would happen just having to step out the front door at all.
After an anxiety attack, you feel exhausted. I describe it as like when you blow up a balloon and slowly the air is filling the balloon until it is full to the point that if it was any more full it would pop, that’s what the attack feels like, but if you weren’t to tie the balloon and just let the air out itself, the way that it does, quickly, until it is left with nothing inside, that is what the aftermath of the attack feels like. You are left completely deflated, If you see your loved one on the couch when there is so many simple things that need done, they have probably tried to do them and are left exhausted after an anxiety attack as a result of trying. The last thing that they need to hear is the grief about how you only asked for one simple thing to be done or how you have been out at work all day and they can’t even do that one simple thing. I can guarantee that they are beating themselves up a lot more than you want them to. It is an awful burden to bare that you physically can’t do that one simple thing, it plays havoc with your confidence, it makes you feel worthless, it can actually make you want to commit suicide. The fact of the matter is that anxiety sufferers nine times out of ten are private people with their emotions, a lot of the time they can be confused about anxiety in the first place. If you come in all guns blazing expressing your frustration (which is justified by the way) the response you will get back is irritability ‘leave me alone’, ‘do you ever stop nagging’, ‘i’m entitled to lie down’ or it will erupt into an argument. They more than likely won’t tell you that they tried and failed or that they feel worthless or that if you met them with just a simple hug that they would probably burst into tears.
It is not an easy time for everyone involved but it is especially hard for the anxiety sufferer, you need patience with the situation and they need you to only see them in love because in the moment they don’t feel it for themselves. It can be difficult finding the balance between empathy and sympathy but give them hugs that they don’t look like they need, let them know that you are trying to understand, buy them a notebook so they can express themselves in writing privately if they aren’t a talker and always remember that anxiety isn’t specific to any type of person and that it can hit you at any point in your life and try and be the person that you would need if ever it does.
Thanks for reading,
To read the Five Stages of Anxiety Sequence –Click Here
To read ‘Feeling guilt because of anxiety’ –Click Here