“What do you have to be anxious about?” “You’re going to be great, stop worrying.”
As an anxiety sufferer, I’ve heard the above statements countless times. On top of that, I hear things like this daily in my various interactions with people. While the intentions are good, these types of comments can make someone who is struggling with anxiety feel ashamed, isolated and misunderstood.
“What do you have to be anxious about?” I’ve had someone ask me that before a presentation for college where my entire future was on the line. “What do you think people would think of you if they found out how anxious you are?” Imagine if your doctor said this to you after diagnosing an illness which you will now have to deal with for the rest of your life. Such comments may seem harmless, but they can be very harmful.
“You’re going to be great, stop worrying.” I’ve had various people in my life make this so called “motivational comment”. The type where someone says something and thinks that they’ve solved the issue. “You’re going to be great”, fine, but stop telling me I shouldn’t be anxious. Telling a person with anxiety that it’s wrong for them to feel this way only serves one purpose; making them feel ashamed about their thoughts and feelings.
Imagine if someone told you that it’s wrong to be sad or angry.
“People with anxiety are just ‘excessively negative’ and should try to see the positive side of things.” The people who make claims such as these can’t seem to understand why anxious individuals can’t simply “just stop being anxious”. There will always be days where anxiety is worse or better. You can always find something to be happy about, but it’s not the sole reason for your existence.
Imagine if someone told you that it’s wrong to feel sad and that you should just “look on the bright side”.
I know what some of you are thinking at this point; ‘if he has anxiety, why doesn’t he just take some medicine for it?’ The answer to that is very simple. I would rather not have anxiety in my life than have to depend on a pill every day just so I can function like a normal human being and feel okay again.
For the record, I don’t have any serious or potentially dangerous mental illnesses. My anxiety does not cause me to experience hallucinations and I don’t go running down the street screaming that someone is after me. Simply put, I am anxious.
My anxiety causes me to feel restless at times, it makes it hard for me to focus on anything but my negative thoughts at times and it causes my hands to shake when I’m nervous. There are many times where my anxiety causes me to be annoyed and it also causes me to lack self-confidence.
I don’t like asking for help or admitting that I struggle with anxiety, but there are times when it isn’t a choice anymore. There are days where the feelings of anxiety overcome you and make it hard to get out of bed. There are days where the feeling of anxiety limits what I can do and forces me to stay in bed for hours on end, not wanting to get out.
“You shouldn’t be ashamed about how you feel”. This comment almost always comes from one of my friends or family members who know that I am an individual with anxiety. It isn’t that I’m ashamed about how I feel and think, it’s just that people with anxiety often times are made to feel like their condition is something to be ashamed of.
My anxiety does not define me as a person, but when someone tries to suppress my feelings and tells me “I shouldn’t be anxious”, it makes me wonder if they think less of me. I know that many people out there have it far worse than I do and I am grateful for my life, but that doesn’t mean that my life is a walk in the park either.
“Just breathe through your nose”. This statement comes from all sorts of people including doctors, tutors and peers. When someone tells me to breathe through my nose, they are trying to be helpful but don’t realize that this is something that I have been told my whole life.
Don’t just assume that giving me a piece of advice such as “just calm down” or “you’re going to be alright” will solve anything. You may see it as simple advice, but for those of us who struggle with anxiety it just makes us feel very alone and misunderstood. I understand that you’re trying to help, but sometimes all we really need is someone to be there to listen.
“Calm down” or “relax”. This type of comment comes from my parents when I’m too anxious about something to calm down. The thing to understand is that it isn’t that simple for everyone out there who struggles with anxiety.
For those of you reading this who may be struggling with serious anxiety, do not let little comments bother you and know that you are not alone. Anxiety isn’t something one can simply stop feeling within a day or two; it’s an ongoing battle that myself and many, many others are fighting.