An Open Letter to Those who Love Someone with Anxiety

Thursday, February 15, 2018

An Open Letter to Those who Love Someone with Anxiety:

We know it's not easy. We know its disconcerting, to see us so distraught for reasons unknown to you. We know it is hard to know what to do while we are sitting on the bathroom floor, our bed, or in our cars panicking for what seems like no reason. We know it can be scary to witness a breakdown, to see us uncontrollably crying, our hearts racing, struggling to breathe because of the panicked state we are in; witnessing it all get so much worse before it gets better.

While it all seems so confusing to you, while you are asking what is wrong and how you can help, we are unable to speak. We are unable to explain what is wrong because it often doesn't make sense to us. The cause of our breakdown is often a sort of overwhelming feeling of scattered emotions that were pushed to the surface because we were unable to suppress the unsubstantiated worry that we feel (often) on a daily basis. We could've, somehow, compared a feeling or situation to a past traumatic event for fear of reliving it. Some of us are terrified of the thought of being in a social situation for fear of being judged, humiliated, or embarrassed by simply saying the wrong thing or stepping in the wrong direction. We could've experienced something recently that bothered us more than we were willing to let on, and it is just now surfacing. Negative and harsh words that have stayed with us since an impressionable age could be running through our heads because we are so terrified of not being enough. Despite the trigger, we often slide back into a deep seeded panic of not being good enough.

But, despite how scary it looks to you, and how awful it feels for us, the fact that we have allowed you to witness this breakdown means more than you will ever know. The fact that you haven't walked away or retaliated with harsh words is wonderful. This is the most vulnerable state you will ever see. Our deepest scars and darkest fears are exposed to you. The first time you witnessed a panic attack and mental breakdown was one of the things we feared most. Allowing someone we love to see us in such an emotional and vulnerable state is terrifying. But, you didn't walk away. You choose to stay, you choose to try to help despite not understanding what is happening or how you could possibly help.

To us, you are a miracle.

Though we cannot tell you how to help, or why we are in the state we are in, there are things you can do that help. The first, most basic action is to wrap your arms around us...hold us. Your embrace is calming, this simple interaction helps change everything. If we fight back at first, stay strong, keep holding us - that whole, "it's worse before it gets better" thing is happening. We will stop pushing  you away, we will stop crying, our heart rate will slow, and our breathing will start to come easier. Speak to us in a calm, loving voice. Tell us it will be okay, that we are okay. If we haven't already told you what these fears are, use any form of positive affirmations you can think of. If we have told you our deepest fears, say things that contradict those fears. We may not seem to listen at first, we might fight back with words that hurt us, but keep doing it. As we calm down, your words are what stay with us. Your words, your embrace, your love centers us.

Thank you. Thank you for choosing to love us despite our flaws. Thank you for seeing us through our worst and helping us come down from our panic attacks. Thank you for proving some of our worst fears wrong by deciding to stay. Thank you for helping us see that we are enough - in every sense of the word. Thank you for not holding our anxiety against us. Thank you for not telling us we are being ridiculous, that we need to rationalize our thoughts and/or "calm down". Thank you for trying to understand. Thank you for being the excellent human being that you are.

Thank you.

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