How my anxiety impacts my relationships
Lauren talks about telling her friends about her anxiety and what the responses have been like
This is an opinion of a young person and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of SpunOut.ie. It is one person's experience and may be different for you. If you'd like to write something for SpunOut.ie please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Suffering with your mental health can be difficult to deal with in your relationship with yourself, never mind when you start adding other people into it. It’s difficult to explain to people. You don’t want anxiety or depression to be the first thought new friends have about you and you don’t want to disrupt old friendships. Sometimes people pretend it's just not there.
Anxiety can be difficult to explain because most times people do not understand it. Sometimes I don’t understand it. It presents itself in a variety of ways. It has been put into so many different categories that often you can be so confused. You are not sure which category you fit into because your symptoms fit into multiple ones. The way it presents itself can change from day to day. You can be quite literally hiding away from the world, shaking at the idea of having to see anyone or you could seem like you have your whole life together. I know this because those two examples are both me. It is so hard to explain to someone when you aren’t even sure yourself what the day is going to bring.
Growing up anxiety was something I always struggled with. I thought my friends would never understand and didn’t want to understand. I have now realised that wasn’t the case. They just didn’t know what to do it or what exactly was going on. In this article I have explored the different feelings we all have, whether we have anxiety or we are friends wanting to help. From research, I feel this topic is not talked about a huge amount and I really wanted to share my experiences with you.
I have been told by my own friends and boyfriend that when they first became aware of my anxiety they were afraid, worried and confused about what to do. They each admitted that they spent hours looking on the internet but nowhere seemed to have the answer. I am not saying this article is going to be the exact answer but maybe it can help someone somewhere.
I’ve found that anxiety can really affect your relationships with people. I know for me when I was really down with anxiety and depression I would really push people away. I think this is something a lot of people do. You don’t want other people to see you like this, you don’t have answers for them when they ask you what’s wrong and you don’t want to be a burden. So you feel the easiest thing to do is push them away. Other times I can lose it with my friends. I just get so annoyed that I’ll say something that I shouldn’t or that hasn’t gone through the filter section of my brain. I think for me they are the two main things I do within my friendships when I am having a bad anxiety day. It’s not easy and I certainly don’t intentionally push them away or lose it but it’s just what happens.
I think from the point of view of being the person with anxiety it is really important to be open with your friends. It is a really hard thing to do but it will benefit you and them. If they understand that sometimes you have these moments/days/weeks of overbearing anxiety then they are aware and can be equipped when it happens. I know my friends in the beginning took it personally when I was pushing them away and got a fright when I had an anxiety attack. They didn’t know what to do and more importantly they didn’t know what was happening because I never told them. It’s hard to tell them in the first place but if they are good friends, they won’t even bat an eyelid. They’ll appreciate you letting them know. If they react any differently, well then they’ve done you a favour because they aren’t your cheerleaders in life.
Now from the friends perspective. Again it’s hard. You may not know what the right thing to do or say is and sometimes you feel like you’re walking on eggshells. Anxiety is such a weighted word nowadays so when your friend tells you about their experience with it, it is really important you don’t freak out or step back because that’s the last thing they want to happen. Depending on the person and how they are feeling that day you can ask them a little bit more about it. Ask them what situations make them anxious or how it usually present itself. This shows the person that you care and will give them the reassurance that you are there for them. Anxiety can make a person feel like they are biggest burden and often put thoughts in their head, i.e. that their friends don’t really like them or that nobody really cares. Therefore it is important that you tell your friend that you are always there for them and if they want to talk or even sit in silence you are there to do that. Whenever you see they’re not themselves it can be nice to drop it in a conversation or text. When they are having a bad day it is important to take it easy with them, offer to go for a hot chocolate/coffee/cup of tea or offer to go over to their house. I find if my friends keeping quizzing me, I get more anxious and annoyed and want to just run away from them. However if they don’t quiz me I will tell them when I am ready to tell them so keep that in mind.
If they are having an anxiety attack it is so important to stay with them. Don’t leave them (especially if you suspect that they are going to have, one follow them even if they tell you not to). Try and calm down their breathing, continuously talk to them, get them to count to 5, or look into your eyes or name what’s around them. This will slow the breathes down and also start to distract their minds.
I think it’s very important to understand that if your friend suffers with anxiety it is good for you to be there for them but you should not take on all the responsibility of caring for them. A person needs to learn how to deal with their anxiety and you as a good friend can aid them with that, but ultimately it is up to them to learn. Do not sacrifice your own mental health due to someone else’s. You need to be there for them, reassure them and help them, but you have your life too. The only way you can help someone else is when you’re strong in yourself first.
Love, Lauren Louise xx