I reached out to my friends that I know deal or have dealt with anxiety and asked them what were some things said to them that just didn’t help. I’ve included my own favorites as well.
Oh, just think about something else.
Trust me, if I could I would. However, right now there is an evil hamster on a wheel in my head churning out fear after fear and I can’t just push it aside. I want to! More than anything I want to think about something else, but I can’t.
I don’t see what the big deal is.
To be honest, in a few hours I may not think that whatever I am freaking out about right now is a big deal either. But, can you please respect that, to me, right now, this IS a big deal?
Seriously? You’re worried about THAT?!
I know it may not make sense to you that this hypothetical situation in my head that will most likely NEVER happen has upset me. It doesn’t entirely make sense to me either, but it is here and I have to deal with it.
Why don’t you just pray more?
I know you are just trying to help. I appreciate it, but that doesn’t solve this for me at this moment. I just need you to be there and listen to verbally vomit the crazy thoughts that are in my head to you until I feel better. I need a person in front of me. No offense to any deity, but I need a physical person at this moment.
I don’t think you need that medicine. You should just be able to will the anxiety away.
Would you say that to a diabetic? “You should just will your pancreas to function properly.” No, you wouldn’t and it is not okay to say it to me either.
You don’t look like there’s anything wrong with you.
When you have been dealing with anxiety your whole life, you have to learn to adapt so as not to let it interfere with your everyday life. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
You’re just doing this for attention.
There are plenty of ways I can get attention if I want it. Feeling like I can’t breathe and my world is caving in is NOT my preferred way to say “HEY LOOK AT MEEEE!” In fact, a bunch of people looking at me is bound to make it worse.
Just get it under control.
I hate when people think it is something you can flip a switch on, like you should be able to decide when it’s convenient to experience anxiety and when you don’t. People also tend to think that it’s an attention issue, that it’s not a real problem. It makes me want to hit them. Well maybe not hit them, but seriously, it’s not something that I can control!
That child just needs discipline.
Anxiety is NOT just an adult condition. It’s one that many children suffer from. Especially special needs children. So when you see that kid in Target freaking out and throwing a major fit, don’t assume that its bad parenting or that that kid needs “a spanking”. And do NOT assume that you know how to spot the difference. You don’t. Special needs children don’t wear shirts that tell you how to identify them. Be kind. I promise that parent knows by the look on your face when you walk past her all the awful things that are running through your head about her child. That child may be genuinely incapable of controlling that fit no matter how much that child or her parent wants to. Instead of judging, offer to help her. Ask her what you can do to help or maybe kindly and quietly let her know that you support her and that you understand. Even with just a look. It will really make a world of difference for her.
Didn’t we already talk about this?
Yes, but nothing was determined and that actually creates more anxiety in me. With anxiety I am looking for some kind of resolution to the reasons I am freaking out. I need you to understand that unless we come to some kind of definitive answer there will always be some anxiety left. That could at any point blow up again. And then, YES! We will be talking about this again!
You need a drink!
Okay, yeah give me a downer! That will totally fix it! Alcohol is not going to make this better. Depending on the person alcohol will either make it go away for a few hours and come back even worse, probably will tears and snot (sexy) OR! It will turn the already anxiety I have into a veritable smorgasbord of crazy. Balancing something negative out with something addictive like alcohol is a recipe for disaster, my friend.
Just take your pill.
Ugh. It’s a hard thing to deal with and even harder when people think you take a “happy pill” to solve all of your problems because you don’t have the willpower or determination to create your own happiness and sense of calm. It’s honestly a total bitch.
Oh, I’ve been anxious before.
For me, what people misunderstand the most about my anxiety is how debilitating it can be. I will get people that say, “Oh, yeah, I’ve had anxiety before. I think everyone gets that sometimes.” Well, duh. It’s NOT like having anxiety over a big test or project. It’s NOT like having a little anxiety when you are excited about an upcoming event or trip. It’s NOT like anxiety over normal stressful situations. It’s much, much worse. And, most importantly, there doesn’t have to be anything happening that causes it. So, I reply to those people by saying, “okay, but have you had a sudden burst of anxiety comparable to what you would feel if a herd of stampeding buffalo was headed right toward you and you had to run for your life just out of nowhere? Have you been just having a calm conversation with someone and get an overwhelming feeling that you can’t breathe just because your body decides it would like to feel that way at the moment?” Some people don’t realize that it isn’t “normal” anxiety and that we can’t just “calm down.” We had no control over the burst of anxiety – what makes them think we can stop it so easily?
Everyone experiences anxiety differently. Anxiety sucks. It doesn’t make sense. and the best thing you can do is practice empathy. Before you assume something about someone, or pass judgment, take a moment to ask what they need and just be there for them. I know, for me, that has made all the difference.