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10 Things Your Friend With Anxiety Needs From You

05/01/2017 13:09

1.) If you know about my anxiety, it means I trust you - so please treasure that. It's not something I give away easily. Anxiety is invisible so I can keep if from people if I choose - other excuses can step in if needed. But if I tell you the truth instead of an excuse then you are special. Thank you for making me feel safe enough to tell you.

2.) Ask me how I am sometimes - I'm used to keeping my anxiety hidden. So much so that I almost don't know I'm doing it. If someone says 'How are you?' my 'Fine' slips out without me thinking. But ask me a second time sometimes please. Ask me in a way that lets me know you actually want to hear the answer. The real answer. It can be such a relief to let down the mask and say if I'm not OK.

3.) Recognise my bravery - My anxiety can mean I am in a state of fear all the time. In order to get on with an ordinary day, I have to face a lot of those fears. When is the last time you faced something that made your heart race and your breath short? Remember that that's how I feel when I manage to do something that might seem easy to you, like talk to someone new, leave the house or manage not to wash my hands again. I am a fearful person, but that also makes me a brave one.

4.) Don't start a sentence with 'Why don't you just...?' - That 'just' reveals to me that you think my worries are small and easily surmountable. They are not. To you they may be molehills, to me they are mountains. I can't just switch this off.

5.) Know that I am trying - Sometimes my anxiety might mean I have to let you down. Some days are harder than others and I may not be able to face the thing I said last week that I could do. Please be patient - some days I will be able to say yes. I am trying to say yes.

6.) Remind me I am more than my anxiety - When it strikes, anxiety seems to take over my whole body. I feel like I AM my anxiety. I need help to remember that this isn't true: that I don't feel like this every moment, and that I am more than this feeling. Please help me to remember what else makes me me.

7.) Push me sometimes, but gently please - if I listened to everything my anxiety whispered in my ear, I'd never do anything at all. My anxiety promises I'm safest when I avoid; when I hide; when I let someone else take over. Sometimes I need encouragement to feel the fear and do it anyway. Anxiety weakens through being disobeyed. I need a cheerleader to help me to be brave enough to do that.

8.) Be honest with me about your struggles - One of the lies anxiety tells me is that everyone else finds life easy and that I am the only one who struggles with things. That's why I feel I have to hide everything under a functional facade. If you can be honest about your struggles, I feel safer to be honest about mine.

9.) Encourage me to get help - Anxiety's favourite two words are 'What if...?' When I think about seeing a GP or a therapist, my anxiety says things like 'What if they think you're making it up?' or 'What if they tell you you're being silly?' or 'What if there's something really serious wrong with you and they'll lock you away?' Sometimes someone on the outside can pull me out of these spirals and remind me that these professionals are there to help me.

10.) Remind me how far I've come - It's easy to think about how far I still have to go before I've got the better of my anxiety. It's harder to remember how far I've already come, how brave I've been and how many times. It's good to have a friend to celebrate those triumphs with, both big and small.

Stephanie Bushell is a counsellor in London and online. She is also the founder of Counselling Anywhere, a directory of qualified online counsellors. If you are struggling with anxiety, find an online counsellor now who can help you from the comfort of your own home, by clicking here.

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