First, point them to the internet. Let them know that this is 2017 and they should probably just google what anxiety truly is. In this day and age, mental illness awareness has fortunately been a popular topic among the millennial generation, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t people out there who don’t understand it.
First, give them the facts. Tell them that yes, it’s a chemical imbalance in your brain. That having anxiety is not just being stressed out or having a day of worry. It’s not just ‘freaking out’ about your future, or feeling uncomfortable for a few seconds. Having anxiety is an illness. Just like the flu, except cough medicine won’t cure it. It’s just like breaking bones in your body, except putting a cast on your brain won’t do anything to help it.
Tell them that anxiety isn’t a choice.
Tell them what anxiety truly feels like for you. But also tell them that anxiety feels differently for everyone who struggles with it. That it’s a beast that will give you no mercy. Tell them how it effects your everyday life. How lucky they are to not have to deal with the thoughts that plague you every damn day. How lucky they are not to have such a terrible mental illness.
Tell them how it makes you feel physically. Tell them in detail how it hits you the minute you wake up. How it can come out of the blue, whacking you in the head when you least expect you.
Tell them how you don’t remember a time in your life when you didn’t have anxiety.
Tell them that it feels like a monster who has taken over your brain. How you try your best day in and day out, but you still don’t feel like it’s enough. Tell them how you never feel enough, that it make you feel like your best fucking sucks. Tell them how it makes you feel like your heart is going to spring from your chest, how it makes you unable to breathe, like you have ran up a flight of a stairs.
Tell them that you wouldn’t wish your worst enemy to be worn down from it. That the world would be a better place without it. Tell them how it tries to ruin every good thing in your life. How it tries to mess up your relationships, your career, and your personal life.
And you can’t help it.
Tell them that anxiety can’t be cured. No matter the pills that you take, and the breathing techniques that your therapist gives you. You can’t change the way you think. You can’t undo what has been done. You can’t change the way your brain works.
Tell them that you are glad that they don’t have it. That they should be thankful it never entered their locked doors. And tell them that all they can do is be there for you. Through the panicked phone calls and unanswered text messages. Tell them just to be there for you. And to know that it isn’t your doing. That you can’t help when it knocks you down like lightning or when it makes you unable to do anything but sleep.
You aren’t crazy. Believe me, you are anything but crazy. And if your friends call you that just because of your mental illness, I’d get new friends if I were you.