I decided to pull this from the archives of my old blog! Newton's "gotchya" day is coming up, and it is only fitting. Not to mention my sister referred to him as my "fur baby" this past weekend.
However, I've thrown in some necessary edits that will hopefully put a smile on your face and joy
in your heart!
You had to know that there would be moments, however flickering they are, in which I blame you for it all.
You had to realize that what you did sometimes leaves me feeling, unattractive, unmotivated, and unlovable.
You had to see that your actions made those around you feel like walls were caving in on everything known to be true.
You had to hear me in the back of your head, giving you advice like I always had. Guiding you right from wrong.
You had to think when you told me, that this realization held the power to ruin me
I, however, knew that you did your best and your intentions were never to hurt me.
I realized, through it all, that you loved me...just differently than you'd been telling me for years.
I saw how it all affected you too; how you struggled daily with the weight of your newly found life.
I heard your pain, but realized it was no longer my job to guide you.
I thought about everything we had gone through and I knew that only I had the power to let this dictate the direction of my story.
I don't always feel willing to talk openly about my anxiety. However, there is a stigma when it comes to mental illness that needs to be broken. Mental illness, which I will hence forth being referring to as "Mental Wholeness" to reduce the negativity associated with the word illness, comes in all shapes and sizes. It is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. Those who struggle with mental wholeness can do anything and everything that everyone else can; fall in love, have successful careers, fight, travel, have friendships, and everything in between. To shed some light on mental wholeness, I've decided to share some things that (have actually been said to me) you should NEVER say to someone with chronic anxiety.
"You won’t remember the nights you stayed in, you’ll remember the nights you go out and have fun."
UGH. Trust me, I get the sentiment of this one. However, being shamed into going out to “have fun” doesn’t work for someone with anxiety. Staying home, in my warm bed, with my pup and a good movie is far more fun to me sometimes than going out in the wrong state of mind and being a ball of nervous anxiety the entire time. And truthfully, that is hard to explain sometimes.
My advice – if your anxious friend doesn’t want to go out, 90% of the time it is probably because he/she truly won’t be able to enjoy it. If you really want to spend time with that person, suggest having a movie night in, or ask if there is anything you can do to help. We don’t like turning away our friends, but (through a lot of therapy) I’ve discovered that sometimes it is the only option for my mental health.
"You have no reason to be depressed."
Chronic anxiety DOES NOT mean depression. While some with chronic anxiety may also be depressed, the two do not always go hand in hand. Speaking from a personal level, I have been depressed twice in my life – however, I’ve had chronic anxiety for nearly a decade of my twenty five years. They are two VERY different things. Beyond that – this is NEVER a good thing to say to someone who is depressed or anxious. And this is one of my BIGGEST pet peeves. Others need to realize that sometimes there isn’t a reason.
My advice – educate yourself. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression is defined as “a common but serious mood disorder. It causes severe symptoms that affect how you feel, think, and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working.” Depression is an actual disorder that alters the way your brain perceives things. It is not something one can just “stop” feeling and there are many different types. Depression and anxiety can be circumstantial, but it can also be a chemical imbalance that has no outward reason.
"Why would that make you anxious?"
This is the one that makes me feel the least supported by those around me. To be honest, it seems decently harmless. The problem is, there isn’t always an explanation. Recently, a friend of mine was describing a situation to me…to which I responded that the situation would wreck me with nerves. My friend simply couldn’t understand why, and I couldn’t explain it. It was frustrating for the both of us. As someone with anxiety, I have a lot of “common” things that trigger my symptoms – i.e. travel, class exams, and the unknown. However, I also have triggers that are completely unexplainable. That is the problem with chronic anxiety – an attack can come on suddenly, with no warning or apparent triggers.
My advice – if you have a friend with anxiety and that friend indicates to you that they are anxious, be kind. Do not bombard them with questions of why. Simply ask them if there is anything you can do to help. If it is a hypothetical situation that would make them nervous, assure them that you would do anything in your power to keep them out of that situation. You do not have to understand someone’s feelings in order to empathize.
"Why would you take medicine? Everyone gets anxious."
Before I was diagnosed with Anxiety, I must admit…I thought this way too. I’d tell myself to “buck up” or “put your big girl panties on.” However, after nearly six months of going back and forth with my doctor on different meds and different dosages... we finally got it right. I can honestly say that once we got everything in a good place, I felt like an entirely new person. It was like a fog had lifted and I was seeing things clearly again. I know that sounds cheesy, but its absolutely true. Treatment is different for everyone. Many people manage their anxiety with meditation, therapy, holistic methods, antidepressants, or a combination of any of the above.
My Advice - never, ever assume that you know what someone is dealing with. If you care about someone, support whatever makes them happy. If medicine helps your friend to deal with daily stressors in a healthy manner, encourage that decision...don't question it.
***Disclaimer: These things were all said to me, over ten years, with my best interest at heart. Those we love, who may not struggle with anxiety, sometimes can't fathom how we are feeling. And that is okay. We can learn to react appropriately in the same way others can learn to adjust to those struggling with mental wholeness.
If you are struggling with anxiety or depression, don't suffer in silence! Ask for help. If you don't feel comfortable going to someone you love - there are many amazing resources available to you. Here are two great places to start: Anxiety and Depression Association of America: 1-240-485-1001, http://www.adaa.org
National Institute of Mental Health: 1-866-615-6464, http://www.nimh.nih.gov