This specific blog post is a (mostly summarized) list of the reasons those struggling with anxiety have a hard time speaking up, how loved ones can support, helpful resources, and other misc. tips for understanding anxiety.
It’s not normal to worry nonstop with irrational fears (don’t worry, I didn’t know that either!).
As I mentioned before,
We have NO IDEA what others are currently going through or what they have gone through in the past.
We have no idea who else is struggling with anxiety.
Judging by the response I received, we obviously are not the only ones struggling with anxiety!
There are others, and they need us.
How can we help each other speak up?
What can we do to minimize the number of people silently suffering?
Together, we can create a safe environment for others to freely open up and communicate their struggles with us.
These are actual responses from those who are struggling with anxiety! They are all anonymous and are meant to help. Understanding anxiety is extremely important and we need all the help we can get!
I asked the following questions:
- What kept you (or is keeping you) from opening up and communicating about your anxiety, depression, etc.?
- Why did you finally decide to seek help?
- How can your loved ones help (i.e. become informed, be intentional, etc.)?
- What resources did you find helpful (i.e. specific websites/books)?
- Is there anything else you’d like to share that you feel would be beneficial for others?
I know this post is long, but hopefully these responses will help us take steps toward understanding anxiety.
IMPORTANT: Understanding anxiety is not an easy topic. As you read through these responses, PLEASE know there are people watching and reading the words you say. Handle this topic with grace and be mindful of how you respond because your neighbor very well could be struggling, too.
1. What kept you (or is keeping you) from opening up and communicating about your anxiety, depression, etc.?
- fear people would treat me differently (more cautiously) if they knew
- talking about my anxiety and depression makes me feel like I am admitting I am weak
- don’t want to be a burden
- fear of disappointing those around me (everyone sees me as someone who’s strong and I feel like I’d be letting them down by admitting I have anxiety)
- fear of negative response/being told to just get on with life and stop being weak/lazy/etc.
- feel “broken” or “inferior” for being labeled with anxiety
- feel like people will view me as a hypocritical Christian who doesn’t trust God enough if I still struggle with anxiety (I know that is not truly the issue, but I fear people will perceive me that way)
- fear of being told I was overreacting or making things up
- anxiety and depression are frowned upon
- feel like others don’t understand
- worried people would think I’m crazy for having anxiety
- many people think it’s something we choose
- extremely embarrassed about my thoughts and I just knew others would laugh at me if I tried to explain what was going on inside my mind, especially during a panic attack
- so many people don’t have a good understanding of what mental illnesses are…I don’t want to mention it when they may misunderstand what I mean and I don’t have the chance to explain
2. Why did you finally decide to seek help?
- I knew I couldn’t handle it alone [because] it was years of repressing feelings and difficult traumas.
- [The] panic attacks made it difficult to drive [and] I was afraid I was a danger to others.
- I just couldn’t keep living that way so I began to read articles about anxiety and depression online. Then, I eventually went to counseling.
- I was diagnosed by my doctor my freshman year of college, and have battled anxiety on and off for the past 6 years. I wasn’t even seeking help for anxiety knowingly but was having such difficult breathing problems, the campus clinic thought I had bronchitis and my primary care doctor thought I might have asthma. Turned out, I had severe anxiety and moderate depression.
- I wanted to kill myself.
- The best way to say how I finally decided to seek help was, well…I didn’t.
- I was unable to function at the level I knew I could.
- I’ve struggled with anxiety since I was 9 and it has truly affected my life…I remember talking to therapists, but nothing really worked. That’s when I made a resolve to find medication that could help me cope.
- I was having physical symptoms.
- I’m still working on how to do that…
- I finally sought help because I thought I was going to go crazy and fall apart if I didn’t. I was confused about what I was experiencing. When my anxiety would escalate, I didn’t understand why. I often couldn’t pinpoint these feelings to any specific event, experience, or trigger. It didn’t make sense.
- It was destroying relationships.
- I couldn’t handle it by myself. I was cut to the core, and had to get help.
- A friend asked me point blank if I thought I was depressed.
3. How can your loved ones help (i.e. become informed, be intentional, etc.)?
- It helps to have a few people you trust to talk to and/or check in with you to see how you are doing.
- Just caring and trying to relate to the struggle even if they never experience it. Praying for me, giving me grace and time to engage in life-giving activities.
- Understanding. For sure. I could be very overwhelmed about doing something that seems like nothing to them (like going to the grocery store when I wasn’t ready to go!) and be okay with the days I cannot make myself go do things.
- Be gentle. Instead of telling someone that they would be happier if they did *fill in the blank*, ask them to do something with you that they enjoy. If someone is stressed, let them explain why without trying to solve their problem unless they ask you to. It’s really helpful to just have someone who is there for you and is not judging you.
- Being more informed about depression and anxiety. Patience. Love and support. But mostly patience. Sometimes I feel like I have to be better instantly after I’ve shared my feelings of anxiety and depression with someone but that’s not how it works.
- Being supportive and not getting easily frustrated, reminding me of truth.
- Ask how they can help. Be understanding if I need to reschedule dates or take forever to return phone calls.
- Have an open ear, and be open with them when you believe they are struggling. For me, my best friends all took turns attending CR with me, asked me how it went, and didn’t just wait for me to go to them. They let me know they were with me in this, not watching. Some did get more informed or seek those that could help.
- Understand anxiety as a mental illness, not just stress or lack of trust in God. Not give advice like “It’s all in your head” or “Don’t think about it” or “Stop focusing on the negative.” Pray for and with us.
- Just love you. Listen to you. Dont try to fix it or give you solutions.
- Well, acknowledging the reality of anxiety disorders would be helpful.
- They can be more accepting that this is real.
Understanding anxiety takes time and it’s most certainly not something that happens overnight.
It will require a relentless dedication to hearing people out and accepting the fact that some things we will never fully understand because we’re not experiencing it ourselves.
Anxiety (and depression) is not something you can put your finger on.
But, just because we can’t physically see the problem, that doesn’t mean it’s nonexistent.
Pretending or acting like mental health issues aren’t real is detrimental to those who are silently suffering.
Again, these were all real responses from real people who are, like myself, struggling with anxiety. Please do not shrug this off and please do not make someone feel crazy for fighting something they can’t control. Be mindful of your words and how you approach the situation because there are far more people silently suffering (I was one of them) than you realize, and I PROMISE YOU, THEY ARE LISTENING.
Take these tips for understanding anxiety seriously. If you know someone who is suffering from anxiety, pursue them with grace and patience.
They need your love and support more than anything.