So yesterday I came clean about my anxiety issues. Which, ironically, caused all sorts of anxiety for a few hours as it published and I fretted over what all my friends and family would think/say/do.
Today I just want to talk about what not to say to someone who has anxiety. Yes, all of these have been said to me, so I know exactly how little they helped in my personal situation.
It’s not worth getting all worked up over.
I know. Trust me. The logical part of my brain is screaming this very sentence at me as soon as an actual attack starts to happen. Every logical part of my body knows that most of what I’m worried about/anxious about will never come to pass.
If only anxiety were logical.
You’re freaking out over nothing.
To you, yes. It’s nothing. To me, it’s my worst fears coming true. It might just be a bug to you; to me, it’s a carrier of deadly diseases out to kill me and my dog. It doesn’t help when you tell me it’s nothing. It just makes me feel small and judged.
Seriously, what’s the worst that can happen?
We don’t want to answer that question. The worst that can happen is the thing that controls our anxiety and our every waking thought in the middle of an attack.
You’re on medication?!?!
Yes. Sometimes I am on medication. If you’re sick, you take meds, right? Anxiety is a type of sickness. There was a time when I couldn’t control the anxiety anymore and I went on medication. It doesn’t make me a bad person.
Can’t you take something for that?
Whether or not to be medicated for anxiety is a personal choice. It’s also a HARD choice. There are pros and cons to both sides of the argument. Please don’t make us feel bad about our choice to not medicate either.
Your faith isn’t strong enough/you don’t trust God enough/you’re not praying enough.
This one is worth a whole blog on it’s own. But, as a Christian, you would not believe the number of times someone has equated my anxiety with my faith. Just because I have anxiety doesn’t mean I don’t trust God. It doesn’t mean I don’t try hard to follow Him. It doesn’t mean I don’t spend hours in prayer. Anxiety isn’t about faith. Faith, quite frankly, is the only thing that gets me through anxious thoughts sometimes.
Just breathe. Calm down.
Breathing is second nature to most people. And yes, deep breathing has helped my anxiety immensely because it gives me something to focus on other than whatever is causing the attack. But, there is not amount of breathing that can make everything “better.” Don’t tell me to calm down, either. Trust me, if I could, I would.
Anxiety isn’t a real disease/you’re looking for attention
Saying anxiety isn’t a real disease is like saying what I’m feeling isn’t real. Trust me, it’s as real to me as a headache (which I get because of the anxiety, btw) and any other issue that I have. People don’t talk about mental illness because they are told it’s not a real thing all the time. We suffer in silence because talking about it is taboo and you think we’re looking for attention. I don’t want to be known as Anxiety Girl. Trust me.
I’m a worrier, too.
I appreciate that, I really do. But worry is not the same thing as anxiety. Worry you can fret, process and move on in a very short amount of time. Anxiety means that you stew, obsess and get to the point where your anxiety pushes you to a place where you no longer feel in control.
Do you suffer from anxiety? What have people said to you that has hurt instead of helped?