Confession: I have anxiety.
I can’t stand it. It can be so debilitating and exhausting. Add the normal day-to-day “mom worry” to that, and the panic can really skyrocket!
I know what having anxiety is like for me because I experience it almost every day. But I can’t imagine it’s easy on the other side. There have been times I’ve canceled plans because I couldn’t handle leaving the house. I’ve broken out in hives all over my chest and had a panic attack over plans changing. I have been on medication before to try and take charge of my mental health. You can read more about that here.
But today, I wanted to focus on what that panic and anxiety is like for the people surrounding and supporting me. Family and friends are wonderful and necessary pillars of strength and support for me, and I am ever thankful to have them in my life. Even after I’ve canceled important dates. Even after I’ve ignored their calls and texts because I am in a dark pit of nothingness. I wanted to delve deeper into the world that they live in, and tell it from their side. I’ve interviewed my best friend, Erica, on her thoughts. I think she articulated herself extremely well, and made a lot of good points for friends and family members of those living with anxiety!
In bold are my questions, and underneath are Erica’s answers:
Okay first off, what’s it like to have a friend that has anxiety?
Having a friend with anxiety is not hard unless they don’t know how to accept help and love from their friends and family. For me, having a best friend with anxiety is like having a friend that just needs to talk through a problem. She understands her anxiety and from what I have seen she is good at coping with it and pushing through. I know and love her – there is zero judgment on my part.
Sometimes I need to talk to her and calm her down; if she is willing to listen and try, we can get through it together. Maybe I need to be a bit more supportive (than the average person) but I think it only brings us closer together.
What are some HONEST thoughts that go through your head when dealing with my anxiety?
I may not be able to fully understand what you’re going through, and sometimes I wonder why certain things affect you but since you are better than most at dealing with it around me, I honestly don’t have negative thoughts. I certainly don’t understand when you let anxiety keep you from having fun…. but I always hope that we can work through it so we can move forward… and sometimes I may wish that you didn’t have it, but not for selfish reasons.
I wish that you didn’t have it because I have seen what it can do to people and I don’t want you to ever feel that way.
Do you ever just feel annoyed by the anxiety?
With you I never feel annoyed; sometimes sad if your anxiety keeps me from being able to spend time with you.
Have you ever witnessed me have a panic attack? If you have – What was that like for you?
HAHA if I’ve witnessed you have a true panic attack then you hide it well! The only time I can think of you coming close to it is when Max was getting ready to go down the zip line. Half of that was anxiety and half was just you being a Mom. I wished in that moment there was more I could do to help ease your mind. It was hard for me only because I didn’t know how to help and I didn’t feel like anything I said would make a difference. All I could do is be there with you.
“Luckily” (and also unbeknownst) to me, I have some actual photos of the moment Erica is talking about. Max was freaking out about going down the zip line for the first time – I had bystanders watching me, and apparently a camera too. If you couldn’t tell – I was freaking out. But I knew I had to remain as quiet and calm as I could in case Max could hear me.
When you get anxious around people it’s easy for me to just grab you and pull you into the conversation, give you a hug and it seems to work for the most part.
I would like you to tell me what else I can do to help.
Is there something you wish I knew about my anxiety or the way it affects you?
I think you know that your anxiety isn’t bigger than you. Sometimes I feel like you forget how strong and fun you are. I just want you to remember that your friends and family love you for so many reasons. All of which makes you bigger and better than your anxiety or any situation that may trigger your anxiety.
Is there a way you think people with anxiety can help those around them (friends, family, spouses?)
I feel like anxiety effects the people closest to it the most. For me, as your best friend, I want you to let me know the ways that I can help. For me, as a wife of someone with anxiety, it gets tough when it affects things that are important to me, like getting enough “good” rest. I don’t want to be selfish, but there needs to be a balance. I think that once someone’s anxiety is truly hurting those around them, they need to try and take steps to figure out how to get a better handle on it. I want to be there, I want to help, but if I’m completely worn out/worn down, what good am I going to be to you?
I believe the most helpful thing someone with anxiety can do for themselves is to ask for help… figure out why you feel this way and work on an action plan. I’m not sure if it’s curable but it’s controllable. Find out what helps you the best and make sure your loved ones know too.
What advice would you give to someone in your shoes when it comes to dealing with a loved one who has anxiety?
Be patient, be kind, try to understand…but you can’t let it consume you too. Figure out the best way to help the person with anxiety…. It will be different for each person. It may even vary from situation to situation. Do your best to not get angry with them… anxiety is hard to control and there are MANY different intensities.
Notes from Erica…
I have experienced anxiety a few times myself over the last 10 years or so… it comes in all shapes and sizes. Usually, for me, it’s a “nervous stomach.” I have had this particular form 3 times and it lasts for days at a time… it makes it hard to eat and hard to focus. I have also experienced one bad panic attack. It’s HORRIBLE! It’s not just one bad feeling… it’s all the bad feelings, scary thoughts and a complete loss of your ability to stand or control your breathing at the same time. At least for me, each time I understood why… I can’t even imagine what it’s like to not understand.
If there was ever someone I thought was my soul mate, it’d be Erica. Second to my husband, Christopher, of course ;). I love my husband, Christopher, but Erica is the sh*t. She doesn’t judge me, and she accepts me (anxiety, depression, craziness, and all). I really teared up reading her answers, because I could feel her caring when I read them. I could hear her voice saying them out loud, and I can tell she really does love me.
Sometimes, I feel really sad that I have this giant monster inside of me that seems to eat away at my soul. I hate it even more that it impacts those around me as well – as if it wasn’t enough that I have to deal with it on my own. I am ever thankful for the support that she has given me. I think she made some amazing points – and I feel even closer to her now, having heard how she really feels about having to deal with and live with my anxiety. I asked her for her RAW responses, too. I honestly expected her to say she felt annoyed by it because I know it’s really annoying for me to admit that I even have it.
If you have anxiety or depression, I invite you to ask your friends, family, or spouse these questions. I think it’s an amazing way to connect with those around you who continually support you, and truly understand how it affects you both. This was an awesome way to open up the conversation between my best friend and I about some of the deeper struggles I face. I only wish I could be as good of a friend to her as she’s been to me.