Tuesday, 24 April 2018

What to say to someone with ANXIETY // Ask an Anxious Babe

Hello lovely people,

Today's post is the second I've written talking about my anxiety disorder. I definitely want to make this a series, like my eating disorder recovery posts, with the very snazzy title - Ask an Anxious Babe (I hate myself for saying snazzy). For the non-anxious human, knowing what to say to somebody with an anxiety disorder is hard. In this post, I will cover some vital Dos and Don'ts which will (hopefully) make anxious babes like me a little easier to understand.

DON'T - Act like their therapist

As a friend/colleague/family member/partner/acquaintance etc. this is not your role. Don't try to 'fix' the person and give out unsolicited advice. The best thing you can do is exist in a supportive capacity - listen, encourage, reassure but don't expect yourself to be able to 'solve' somebody else's issues.

- Phrases such as 'You're doing better than you feel' 'You will survive this' and 'This too shall pass' are wonderful.

DO - Understand that you have NO IDEA what its like in their shoes

It's easy to come out with phrases such as 'I understand how you feel' or 'I know how you feel' and then trail off into some long personal anecdote about how you felt anxious on your Granny's wedding day blah blah... I realise that, from a non-anxious person's perspective, these phrases might appear to be reassuring and empathetic even - they're not. With the best of intentions, these phrases are not going to get you anywhere. Even if you have experienced anxiety before, even if you have an anxiety disorder right now, you still don't know the complexities that make up how that person is feeling.

- Phrases like ' I can't imagine what that must feel like' or 'That sounds so difficult' are great alternatives that ultimately achieve what you wanted to achieve in the first place - to show compassion. 

Also, side note - if you do have an anxiety disorder, it's still totally possible to show peer support; 'I have experienced something similar, I'm so sorry you've had to go through this' is a perfectly valid way of showing compassion without making the conversation all about you.

DON'T - Comment on the visibility of their anxiety

'I can tell that you're anxious' is my ultimate pet peeve. Like, duh! It is not your place to comment on how visible or detectable someone's anxiety is. Chances are they are pretty aware of that already and don't need reminding! It can be tempting to play the 'expert' in this situation but other than providing a self-induced ego boost, it's not going to help the situation one little bit.

It's not clever; it's actually quite rude.

DO - Encourage them to reach out for support

Just because you can't be their therapist doesn't mean you can't encourage that kind of support. However, do so gently and with caution. Understand that reaching out for help is a big deal in general and an even bigger deal if you're anxious all the time! 'I can't give you the support you need to work through your anxiety and I don't want you to have to go it alone - would you consider reaching out for help?' Reassure them that reaching out for help is an incredibly courageous thing to do. However, be sure to add that there is not pressure to do so if they're not ready right now. Finding the right therapist can be a stressful process, and they will need to be supported through that.

DON'T - Suggest YOGA/KALE/SPENDING TIME WITH DOGS/'INSERT BULLSHIT HERE'

I love yoga. Yoga is wonderful. But please, please don't suggest this to someone who is anxious. It comes across as flippant. Same goes for mindfulness/meditation/calming music - whatever.

1) Chances are they have indeed tried all of the above
2) They may not feel comfortable with any of the above
3)We hear this from the media the. whole. entire. time. 

Encourage them to find a way to chill out and recharge - whatever way that may be.

Also, be wary of damn DIET CULTURE. Stop presenting diet culture as a cure-all. Eating crisps doesn't give someone anxiety. Not eating crisps doesn't cure anxiety. I checked.

Also exercise is not always a healthy coping mechanism - read more here.

DO- Treat them like a normal human being

Don't act weird around your anxious friend. They are a human being. Their anxiety makes up a very small part of them. It is something they are experiencing - it is not who they are. Don't pity them. Don't do a weird voice/do weird nodding etc. when talking about their anxiety. Be upfront about it. Be open, honest - show them that you are not ashamed of their anxiety. It will give them permission to be themselves. Ask them what is fun for them - and do it.

DON'T - Get offended

Anxious people (for the most part) are not ghosting you - they are ghosting everyone, because they are taking time to recharge. Maybe they are experiencing a lot of anxiety attacks. Maybe life has gotten too hectic. Maybe they are too afraid to restart the conversation - send them a text, let them know you care. Also, don't be offended if somebody is anxious around you, it's probably nothing to do with you at all. Saying 'You don't need to be anxious around me' is not gonna solve it. You need to embrace their anxiety and make the person feel welcome and wanted, whatever state they're in.

DO- Talk about it

Tell them you BELIEVE them. Tell them you don't think they're weird. Tell them you don't think that their physical symptoms are weird. Tell them you will not JUDGE them. These are the fears an anxious person has. It is not your job to understand why somebody is anxious. It is your job to accept their anxiety regardless. They are not a puzzle to be solved - don't try and 'figure them out'.  Just be there when they need someone to listen. Respect them when they need time alone. An anxious person will LOVE you forever if you say 'I will not be offended if you need to spend some time alone' 'Are you comfortable with this?' 'Do you need to change/cancel/postpone plans?' Keep an open dialogue and show compassion - remember it is not their choice to feel anxious.

@thelatestkate drew this. She is incredible. If you're not following her on tumblr/insta/facebook then honestly what are you doing with your life. She also has a shop here - her art is out of this world and you need it in your life.

Thank you so much for reading this post, I hope it has enlightened you in some way!

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Until the next time,

Niamh xx

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