Let me start this off by saying that I know there isn’t a “normal” day or a “normal” human because we live in America where we are free to just be, BUT for the purpose of writing this, let me tell you that a “normal” day with anxiety is no joke.
My husband and I are complete opposites in so many areas of life- personality traits, what we prioritize in life, and even the sports teams we root for. With that being said, explaining how I was feeling and what struggling with an anxiety disorder was like to him was terribly hard. Now, let me say that he loves me so much and he would do anything for me, but this is something we have had to really show grace walking through together.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America states that 18% or 40 million people experience an anxiety disorder in any given year.
40 million people? That’s a whole lot! So why is it so hard to explain or why is it not even talked about for that matter? It’s hard because there is such a stigma about it. If you have one, you are not alone friends! Not at all. And it’s also so important to remember that that are so many forms of anxiety. SO MANY. i actually googled it and this is what came up- Post-traumatic stress disorder, specific phobias, obsessive- compulsive disorder, General anxiety disorder, separation disorder, panic disorders and attacks, and more.
Eric and I have done a lot of research. We have found what helps me, what triggers me, when he should help, when I just need my space. All. The. Things. Trial, error, and communication, Friends.
While I don’t want to just constantly talk about anxiety or make it Who I am because I promise I am so much more than this, but I do want to be informed. I honestly am not good at explaining certain scientific things without confusing people or getting weirdly emotional, so here is one of my favorite sites that I direct people to when they ask:
Now, to my closest people, I want to help them understand on a more emotional level. I never want people to feel pushed away because of lack of knowledge. So here are some helpful tips that I share with my friends (note, these aren’t brand new ideas, just ones that have helped me, there are so many phenomenal articles out there that probably explain it better than I):
1. It feels like you’re living in looming danger. That sounds even stupid to type out, so you’re probably thinking “ok, you’re dramatic”. Even when i was first trying to understand it for myself, I thought the same thing. A phone call, conversations, crowd, meeting new people, a person that reminds us of an incident, or really anything can bring it on. Walking through your day, you feel like you’re always having to protect yourself and so much energy is taken from constantly thinking about that. To the “normal” brain, danger is no where in sight, but to someone suffering with an anxiety disorder can feel the need to be on edge even if it doesn’t line up with reality.
2. It’s not just worrying. Man, it seems like the word “anxiety” gets used so much anymore. To explain feelings of a first date, flying, interview, important game, really anything that is a big, scary, life event. When people say this they mean that they are experiencing a fear of an unknown or important situation, which is a completely rational feeling. The difference between what they mean and what the word actually means to some one with a disorder is that their feeling goes away. But having a disorder is completely different, it takes a rational worry and turn it into something uncontrollable. Before being educated, My husband used to say things like “calm down” or “you’re just getting worked up over nothing”. Now while that may seem true, there is no turn off.
3. Thoughts can have so much power and can be crippling, even if they are unrealistic. I’m telling you, this is the hardest to explain. Even though these thoughts can seem unrealistic, they can still affect and stop your day in its tracks. A couple of examples: if two people go out to eat without you, they hate you. If someone doesn’t comment “thank you” on your Facebook birthday wish, they don’t want to be friends. If your boss takes the time to help your coworker, you should probably quit. If you said something weird like “you too” to a comment that it wouldn’t make sense to, they are laughing at you as you are away. If someone cancels on you, they think you’re the worst. All ridiculous, yet still can completely control you. Again, I understand how ridiculous this sounds, I am even struggling to type this without wondering what you are all thinking of me.
4. PTSD Is only for those who have served this county. This is so far off it’s not even funny. While that is true that many soldiers do suffer from that, it can also be triggered by big events or life changes. Anyone can struggle with this and anything can trigger it. Even in our chats with our Foster care agent, she talks about how they will come with some sort of PTSD. Heck, Spongebob may be the trigger because they saw Dad hit Mom during it. Or it could remind them of that, You honestly never know.
5. Panic attacks should be taken seriously even if you don’t understand them. They can feel life taking, literally. You can feel like you are about to drown or that you can’t breathe. My advice is to try to understand or relate to the way they are feeling when it is happening. Help them understand they are not alone in their thoughts. They aren’t “crazy”, something in their body is truly happening. DO NOT DISMISS THEM.
6. Anxiety does not make me less of a Christian. I often hear this or also “just pray about it”. Trust me, I have struggled through this. Why do I loath situations that most people find life giving- like hanging out in certain crowds. I don’t believe that me struggling with anxiety is a sin or implies that I have a broken faith. It doesn’t mean that I doubt the power of God or that I don’t talk to him daily. I promise the Gospel is everything to me and I rely on him in all things. He has made me as strong as I am. It’s real, I love the big man. If anything, I believe it even more that I am just a small human and have a HUGE need for his strength.
7. I do not mean to push you away or seem distant or not want to be your friend. Listen, people who understand or try to understand and love me anyways are seriously so priceless. I wouldn’t trade the friends who get it for literally anything.
8. We are “over emotional”, but that’s not a bad thing. I will tell you right now, the friends I have met that are living with anxiety are some of my most caring and thoughtful relationships. We feel everything, EVERYTHING. We never in a million years want anyone to feel the way we do or hurt in the slightest way.
9. Just because we “didn’t use to be like this”, doesn’t mean it isn’t real. Friends, this is something that can be triggered and developed over time. You can ask anyone who has known me my entire life, I was the outgoing, always down for a good time, and the more the merrier type of friend. This isn’t fake and it isn’t something to be skeptical of. Trust us, we wish it was like it used to be.
It’s a real thing my friends and it can come in so many forms. With so many in our country living with anxiety, I think it’s so important to educate yourself so that maybe you can help someone you love or even yourself. Love on your people, empathize with them, just let them know you are in there corner, I promise it will be worth it.