1. Being told we’re being silly or that it’s all in our heads.
But it’s OK for you to complain of a headache when one strikes, or to seek sympathy from others when you suffer from the flu? Just because my illness is mental, doesn’t make it any less valid or real. Dismissing my illness like this just makes me feel menial, unaccepted and downright bad. Shouldn’t Robin Williams have taught you a thing or two about people who fight internal battles? Mental illness should not be treated so lightly.
Try empathizing with us. You don’t have to know what we’re going through, but telling us it’s ok to feel the way that we do, empathizing with how much it sucks, and just being there for us is all we need.
2. Discussing our anxiety in front of a third party.
I know you may not understand what it’s like to suffer, but it’s really embarrassing when it’s discussed in front of other people as though it is no big deal. I’m not exactly proud of the fact I feel like I’m the center of everyones’ universe while out in public, and constantly feel judged. Do you think I want your friends to think I’m selfish? See, now this has got me anxious too!
Discuss it with us alone.
3. Thinking you know all about what we’re going through, and then saying how easy it was for you to get over it.
The classic “I’ve been anxious too, but I got through it, and you can too.” I appreciate your support — I really do — but again, the way you are going about it is dismissive. Maybe you have been through some crap in your life, but each situation is different. For me, just “getting over it,” like there’s some sort of off button is not doable, sorry. Plus, if you really were a sufferer, wouldn’t you be a little bit more empathetic?
Again, empathy is key. If you truly have suffered, let us know you know what we’re going through, tell us we are ok to have these feelings and let us know that you’re here for us.
4. Telling us what we should change to stop the anxiety.
“If you suffer anxiety then why do you do this…Doesn’t that make it worse?”
I do those things because I want to, thank you very much. I’m still allowed to have certain aspects in my life that make up who I am, even if that does translate to brightly-colored hair tattoos, piercings and the fact that I catch a plane to my mother’s every second weekend.
Just don’t say anything at all — really, it doesn’t need to be brought up. We are the way we are and won’t change just because you lack understanding.
5. Peer pressure.
If I say I don’t want to attend your social event, I really don’t. Maybe at another time I’ll feel up for it, but today I feel like I’d rather curl up in bed and watch a movie where it’s safe. Please don’t pressure me and please don’t take offense that I’ve rejected your invitation.
Accept our choice and tell us we’re more than welcome to come to the next social event. And you know, we just might.
6. Being frustrated or angry with us.
I understand. I’m frustrated and angry at myself for having a mental breakdown in a bathroom cubicle at work, while hearing hushed whispers from my co-workers around me. You have no idea how frustrated and annoyed I am at myself. If I could magically stop suffering anxiety I would, but unfortunately life is no fairy tale.
Try not to carry too much of our “stuff” on your shoulders. You’re a person too with your own things going on. Take a break from us and focus on yourself first and foremost.