By coincidence, I recently just found out that in addition to Social Anxiety Disorder, I’ve got a second diagnosis tacked on — Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). In light of this recent finding and recent life circumstances, I’ve decided to write this post.
Don’t be afraid to talk to me or ask me about my experience with anxiety/mental health issues. I know this is a very personal choice, but I’m very open about my experiences. My philosophy is that educating people about the reality of mental health issues and struggles will hopefully lessen the stigma and fear people have about talking about mental health. If I mention a struggle I’m currently facing as being due to having Social Anxiety or Generalized Anxiety, please don’t be scared to talk to me about it. The worst is saying, “Oh, don’t worry.” or “You’re just stressing out too much recently.” To me, it’s invalidating my experience, and categorizing it as a temporary struggle that will pass.
I’m not trying to be “lazy” or defiant”. Many times, I’ll fall behind on life responsibilities, or fall behind on schoolwork that must be done. It’s not because I’m trying or intending to be lazy. Sometimes, I truly cannot calm myself down enough to focus, or motivate myself to get stuff done.
Please don’t pity me. I don’t need people to respond with “oooh, you poor thing!“. This type of overly-sympathetic response doesn’t benefit me in any way. Neither does the tough love approach/pseudo-supportive approach. (“just do it!”//”you can do it!”) When I’m freaking out, what I really need is a supportive (calmer-than-me) person to calm me down and get me to problem solve (What would be most helpful right now? What can I do to help you right now?)
“I’m scared.” is a common reason/explanation I tend to give. But what I’m really experiencing goes way beyond this simple statement. “I’m scared” tends to encompass: My heart is beating way too quickly; I feel physically sick/uncomfortable; My mind is blank; I think I’m going to faint; I want to curl up in a ball and cry, but I can’t; I have racing thoughts (etc)
I really don’t want to procrastinate or not do a task. I don’t want to procrastinate, or ignore tasks/responsibilities but some moments when I’m feeling especially anxious, I go into freeze mode. I literally cannot think of what to do in the next step. Even if someone tells me to just do [X] task, [X] task seems like a massive mountain or block in my way. In the moment, I honestly cannot see a way to complete this monstrosity of a task.
I know I think too much. Unfortunately, it seems like it comes as part of the anxiety package. Telling me not to think too much doesn’t really help me in the moment.
I want to participate in your social event/gathering. I would like to participate with friends, but sometimes, it seems too daunting to join in, so I am more likely to give an excuse such as being tired or busy. Please keep inviting me out. Even if I decline your request 100 times, please keep trying. It shows me that I still have supportive friend in spite of my anxiety struggles.
Please remind me to keep breathing. Especially when I’m freaking out, or in freeze mode, please be there to support me. Remind me to keep breathing — slowly, in and out. If I keep saying “I can’t” or “Help me”, please take it as a sign that I likely need you to support me. Encourage me to go for a walk/journal/color/listen to music/distract myself in some other way (or offer to walk with me if you have time!).
Stress =/= Anxiety. Please keep this in mind. Yes, a little bit of anxiety/stress is good. Too much is not good. Stress isn’t the same as anxiety, though. An anxiety disorder is not something acute (at least not in my case) and is something that I have spent (and will continue to spend) lots of time and energy working on in therapy. So unfortunately, sitting at home with nothing to do (unlike with acute illnesses) will NOT benefit me.
Keep educating yourself and others around you. Read about various mental health issues/symptoms. Watch videos. Have conversations. My ultimate hope is that mental health conversations will be as commonplace as conversations surrounding any physical health conditions. I’m not embarrassed to talk about my experiences. Please don’t be embarrassed to ask or have a conversation about my mental health struggles with me, either.