I wanted to write a blog post discussing the not so good responses, thoughts, phrases and words I have personally heard being used with regard to my anxiety and panic disorder. Although the people saying these things may not be purposely trying to upset me, or make me feel worse, they do not help. Close family, friends, strangers and even nurses have used the phrases I want to discuss so I know how common it is to 'say the wrong thing' and I hope this post helps those of you who do have someone in your life suffering from something similar to my condition understand how some phrases don't always help and give you some ideas on how to approach the situation differently.
"Well that's just silly/stupid/irrational" "It's all in your head"
9 times out of 10, I know. I know what runs through my head is irrational but right there and then it is something that I am struggling with, something that I have come to you about for help. Please don't disregard it as 'stupid' or 'silly' or tell me 'it's all in my head'. It makes me feel bad, annoying and like it's wrong of me to be the person I am being. I feel like i'm doing wrong by asking for help, and no one should ever be made to feel like that.
"Have you taken your medication today" "When was the last time you saw your doctor?"
Yes. I take my medication as soon as I wake up, everyday, and I see my doctor on a regular basis for checkups. These phrases, when used out of context, makes me feel like the person on the receiving end of my thoughts and feelings believes that I need more help than I'm already being given (Side Note: when I say 'out of context' I mean if my Mum is genuinely curious as to when the last time I saw my doctor was, as I don't live at home so she wouldn't know that sort of thing, that's fair enough). It makes me feel like I am worse than I am and subsequently makes me question whether i'm not well or if my mental health has declined a bit. I'm allowed bad/down days as much as everyone else. I'm allowed to be upset or angry when someone winds me up, or something annoys me. Before I was diagnosed, I had a firey, loud side to my personality anyway and I have always been very easy to wind up, especially around close family and friends, so why is it when that side of me comes out now, do people assume I haven't taken my medication, or haven't seen my doctor?
"Stop thinking about it" "Stop worrying" "Stop overthinking"
Unless you can give me a really good technique to enable me to do any of theses three things, please don't tell me to do them. Anxiety itself is a mental health condition which involves being nervous, uneasy or scared about something with an uncertain outcome, so telling me to stop worrying is the same as telling me to get rid of my illness. I wish I could. I completely understand that 'don't worry' is the first thing you want to say to someone who is worrying, I say it to people myself, but when I am clearly very distressed, very anxious, or struggling to calm myself down, hearing these phrases, without any backup reason or explanation why I should, can really make me very uneasy and very aware of my anxiety. It's really not that easy to just stop worrying or thinking about something.
"You're boring" "Fine, your loss" "Don't be the fun police" "Come on. Live a little"
I get these a lot from people who don't understand my type of anxiety, or people that know I don't like certain social situations but don't know why. It is a very uneducated response to me saying no to something I don't feel comfortable doing. I cannot put myself in a situation I know full well will create enormous amounts of anxiety and will probably end in a panic attack. This is definitely not to say I don't push myself out of my comfort zone to reach goals I have set for improving my mental health but as I talked about in this post, I find it very uneasy being on a typical 'student life' night out without my boyfriend or my best friend, so I often have to say no to people who invite me out. Whether or not it is the wrong thing to do, I need to protect myself and I know my limits better than anyone else does. Calling me boring, the 'fun police' or even telling me I'm a bad friend for not doing something (which yes, I have been told more than once) just brings me down knowing I can't be like 'normal' 20 year olds. Please remember, I didn't ask to be this way.
And by far the one that hurts the most...
"There's people far worse off in the world than you are"
Oh trust me I know. I'm a nurse, I care for these people day in day out and they never leave my thoughts. I often feel guilt for suffering with a mental illness when MY patients who I'M looking after are laying in hospital unable to maybe move, maybe feed themselves, maybe speak, maybe remember their loved ones or even remember who they are, maybe feel lonely, maybe feel pain 24 hours a day, maybe unable to breathe for themselves and maybe even dying. When I come to you for help, don't make me feel like my problems don't matter because they do. Everyone fights their own battles and everyone is important. I'm not telling you my thoughts and worries for you to feel sorry for me, I'm telling you because I need to tell someone and get it out of my thought processes. I care for those suffering every day as a job and I come to you in the hope that you can care for me.
This post is predominantly focused at some of the responses from those close to me who (I assume) have no intent to upset or hurt me, so for strangers who are uneducated and small minded about mental health and say mean things just to be mean, ignore them. People often say things to me then realise it has upset me and apologise, and I know it can be hard to say the right thing straight away. Please remember that your loved one or friend who is suffering with anxiety, panic disorder or any other condition that may cause you to respond in ways like these, feels very alone, very scared, will probably have had to build up a lot of courage to talk to you about their worries and may not want you to say anything at all. They may just need you to listen to them and know you're there for them. Respond in a way that is useful and helpful for the person, for example 'how about you try...' instead of just 'stop worrying about it. It'll be fine'. If you don't know what to say, tell them. Whenever i'm anxious, hearing someone say 'I don't know what to say but i'm here for you' is all I need to calm me down and know i'm not alone, and i'm accepted for who I am. Even when friends and family send me links to stupid YouTube videos, or tag me in photos and videos on the internet for me to watch and laugh at, it really help me smile again and I know they're trying their best to be there for me even if they don't know what to say. For those of you reading this who can relate to me, don't get mad when people say these things. Instead, help them understand why they shouldn't use these sorts of responses and what would be a better way of responding to you. Hope this helps.
Love Luce xo