There’s a monster in my brain. He’s always there. He never goes away, no matter how much I beg, or how nicely I ask. There’s no reasoning with him. His name is Anxiety.
He tells me that everything bad that happened in the past is going to happen again, because history is all about repeating itself. Mr. Anxiety Monster tells me that everything, even if it’s good, has to be validated, and it doesn’t. He tells me that everything has to happen at once, and it really doesn’t.
This monster in me makes life so much of a struggle. He makes me feel hard to love, and frankly, like a giant pain in the rear to even myself. Here are some things you can do to help someone you love wrestling with their own Anxiety Monster.
1. Don’t just tell us to get over it. There are no shortcuts to better, and it makes you seem like a jerk.
2. Don’t treat us as mentally deficient. Anxiety is caused by learned ways of dealing with life, usually developed in our formative years.
3. Tell us we’re going to be OK. Love us. Be calm with us. It helps keep us calm. Support us because you love us.
4. Encourage us to seek professional help. You know, because you love us.
5. Celebrate small victories along the way with us. Like the fact that we went to therapy- that first session is especially hard, or even that we keep on going. It’s so tempting to quit at times.
6. Be responsive to us. If you say that we can call or text any time, then please make sure to really mean it. Talking to loved ones is a big comfort to us, and just a source of more anxiety when someone is consistently unavailable.
7. If you have your own anxiety issues, please keep them to yourself when you are helping someone through an episode. Anxiety transfers easily, and we are quite sensitive to it.
8. Please remember that it takes time to get better, and that there will be ups and downs. Don’t rush us, or get impatient with us.
9. Don’t bring up the anxiety first, please let us be the ones to start that conversation. Once we’ve started therapy, there are times we just don’t want to talk about it. Treat us the same as always.
10. Educate yourself about anxiety. The more you know about what type of anxiety your loved one has, the more help you can offer when they come to you.
11. Help yourself, so you can better help us by not trying to make sense of anxiety. We know that anxiety doesn’t make sense. And good grief, don’t tell us not to worry. We’re working on that.
12. Give us plenty of room to say no in social situations. For some of us, but not all, they are a huge source of anxiety.
13. Please don’t confuse our need to control our environment with a need to control you. Anxiety makes us need to make sure all of the bases are covered. Repeatedly, even. We do that to make sure the anxiety monster doesn’t take us over. We’re working on that, too.
14. Anxiety is tiring. Fighting that monster can wipe us out. Please don’t underestimate that.
15. Help us de-stigmatize anxiety. Through your conversations with others, or a social media post, even to ourselves.
Most importantly, make sure you know how important you are to us. Anyone who stays through the tough stuff is a keeper.