I’ve often said that the thought of telling people I suffered from anxiety used to frankly scare the shit out of me. It’s no secret that there is still stigma surrounding mental illness and for some people it is hard enough to tell the people they love, let alone write about it for all of the world to see. But one thing I have learned on this journey is how useful it has been to me being able to log onto my computer and read countless stories of other people’s experiences. I’ve found advice that has lifted me up when I needed it most. I’ve found people who have triggers in common with me – even the weird ones. I’ve also found loads of advice aimed at the people who do not get a lot of support in situations like these, and that’s the people that have to live around anxiety who don’t suffer from it themselves. As a sufferer I can truly appreciate how hard it is to be around someone who just shuts off for no reason and freaks out at the simplest of tasks, so there are a few things I’d like to share for anyone strapped into the passenger seat of the rollercoaster.
We Will Have A ‘Safe’ Time Or Place
Everyone with anxiety carves themselves out a time of day or a place they need to retreat to to feel safe. For me, it is the hour in the morning where I get ready and do my make up for work. It sounds silly but peace and quiet during this time is imperative for me. It is almost like I create a little bubble around myself where I just concentrate on this menial task and allow myself to process thoughts of things like what I need to do that day or how I am going to change my journey if it rains. To an extent I would also like to shove this piece of information down every ‘feminist’ who feels women shouldn’t wear make up’s smug little face. I don’t wear make up for men. I don’t wear make up because I am a woman and I feel I have to. I wear make up because I enjoy putting it on and having some me time and I feel confident in it – for myself. You can be a feminist and wear make up. Surely feminism is about having the choice to look and feel exactly as you wish to every day, just like men do? Rant over. High five emoji.
We Will Get Physically Tired
Have you ever been in a state of anxiety over a really stressful situation and then calmed down and realised you are exhausted? Well this is an anxiety sufferers entire life. We are either in a constant and hyperactive state of anxiety or excitement or ‘coming down’ from being so mentally active. It doesn’t have a pattern. I can go through periods where I do not need much sleep for weeks at a time and then periods where I feel like I could literally sleep for weeks at a time. So when we have to miss something that you have planned with us or we can’t exactly chip in on some days with our share of the housework, we really don’t mean it. In fact we would choose to be well and buzzing about at 7am with the hoover ANY day over having to suffer from anxiety.
Menial Task’s Overwhelm Us
Once I got a broken laptop on the cheap from a shop near me, mounted an ISO and created my own Windows boot disk from scratch and effectively fixed it and made it run again like new from the blue screen of death – but ask me to remember to pick up my prescription and book an eye test all in one day and I will just completely shut down and do neither. It isn’t because we are unintelligent, forgetful, or immature. We just constantly feel like we have a lengthy ‘to do’ list in the back of our minds, and adding more than one thing to it every couple of days can feel overwhelming. We will even panic about the small changes that happen like having to leave a bit earlier to pick something up from the shop on the way because it MASSIVELY changes the plan that we had in our head.
We Need Routine
For someone with anxiety routine is absolutely key to us being able to manage our day to day lives without having a meltdown. I’m not saying it needs to be as strict as waking up at 6am, being in the shower at 6.30am, then planning out the few tasks in half an hour slots for the entire day, but to a sense we do need to know what we are doing and what order we are doing it in. So if you live with us and we have come home late from work drinks but still need to get in the shower at midnight – it is likely that it is just because it is hair wash day and if we do not do it on that day it will mess up the entire hair washing routine for the week which will stress us out immensely, as silly as it sounds.
We Need To Know Where All Our Crap Is
This may sound so trivial to anyone else – but one of my worst triggers is losing things. I have had near on breakdowns before now being on the way to work realising I have forgotten my debit card (even though I had cash on me), or being on the way to a festival and having to pop back to get my passport. If I can’t find a certain top in the morning it adds on extra time to getting ready and knocks my entire routine out of sorts and makes me anxious for the rest of the day. So please work with us. If you have to move something around the house just remember to let us know because you cannot begin to imagine how much it will put us out of sorts if we are making a curry and cannot find the garam masala.
Sometimes, It’s Not That We Don’t Want To Talk, It’s That We Physically Can’t
Having anxiety means that you obsess over things that have happened a week ago, a month ago, a year ago or maybe even when you were 5. As you can imagine this is a lot going on in one brain. If we come together after both having long days at work and we seem disinterested in what you are saying, it really isn’t personal. Having anxiety means that you unfortunately have to mix in peoples conversations with the million thoughts that are going around in your head. This means we become very talented at only picking out super important information from what you are saying to us like “we are meeting at 5pm” or “the washing machine is broken” and storing it and remembering it – but if it is just something about someone you work with chances are we won’t remember it because we are busy analysing the most minute thing someone said to us four days ago.
We Probably Identify With Animals More Than People
If you are wondering why we manage to make all the time in the world for a pet and not you – again it is nothing personal. Pets are unassuming and uncomplicated and have the ability to just come and comfort us without expecting anything back. Sometimes when I am feeling anxious I just grab my little white kitty and give him a kiss and I instantly feel better.
Constantly Asking Us If We Are Ok, Actually Makes Us Feel Worse
Wow, we really are not coming off well here are we? Sorry, we know that anxiety doesn’t come with a training manual for you, but neither does it come with one for us. Deep down we know that you asking if we are ok quite regularly is just your way of saying “we are here, you can talk to us”, but to someone with anxiety that translates as “you don’t look ok”. So what follows is actually a lot MORE anxiety. Our minds are asking us “why don’t I look ok? Am I acting strange today? What is it they are picking up on that I am not? Am I going to have an anxiety attack?”. The best thing you can do with someone with anxiety is just quietly be there – because trust me they will come to you if they need to.
Our Appetites Can Be Crazy
Luckily I eat my feelings so there’s no danger of me ever being anything other than fat as a result of my anxiety but it is different for everyone. People with anxiety tend to have wildly varying appetites. One minute you want to eat the world and the next minute a coffee makes you feel full up. The most inconvenient thing is that it can change at the click of your fingers. We could stand all afternoon and make a lovely meal and then seriously not want to eat it when it comes down to it. Unless there really are big warning signs that something is going down with out appetite it is usually nothing to worry about. If we are well and we are coping we will always balance ourselves out and look after ourselves and grab something to eat when we fell better. All that we ask is that you try not to bring attention to it, as there is nothing worse than trying to force down a meal you don’t want.
We Really Aren’t All Bad
This article really doesn’t read like a positive spin on living with someone with anxiety does it? Well sometimes it’s hard. We don’t even know what is going on in our heads most of the time so we don’t expect you to. The examples I have given are literally things that happen now and again and maybe only together during the worst of worst times which isn’t that often. Don’t be put off of loving someone or living with someone with anxiety just because it can sometimes be challenging. When we are well we are kind hearted, silly, fun, intelligent, driven and organised. We are willing to put in way more of the work than you are if you are able to just put a little bit of faith in us.
As ever with my mental health blogs if you feel like you need to reach out and have no one to talk to I am always willing to help. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org and I am happy for anyone struggling to contact me if they need a chat.