It is difficult maintaining and building relationships regardless of mental stability. When you bring chronic anxiety into the mix, what once was fun and exciting can become confusing and inflicting.
It is a lot of work living with chronic anxiety, and it can be just as much work when your loved ones suffer. You may feel as if you never say the right thing. It might be confusing when they lash out at you when you feel like you've done nothing wrong. And you may be tired of watching them live in misery, and will do anything to help.
If you are reading this for someone else, thank you. On behalf of everyone who has a mental illness, thank you for taking the time to learn more about something that is someone else's whole life. It is a very lonely road at times, and the fact that someone wants to even try to understand can make it a little easier.
If It’s No Big Deal, Keep It To Yourself
Venting and complaining are natural. It’s just something we all do, and we all should. If we don’t, we keep it all bottled up inside and explode eventually. But when you complain or vent to someone with chronic anxiety, you are inviting them into your world to feel your pain.
What anxiety does is kick the brain into overdrive trying to find solutions. Danger is detected and our minds are on high alert. The emotions become overwhelming, and it takes over. Anger and frustration rise into a rage over the unfortunate circumstance. And when you don’t reciprocate the feeling because it’s “not that big of a deal,” it leaves them feeling inappropriate which just leads to more frustration.
If you need to talk to them about something that happened today that really upset you but you’re over it now, let them know that. Preface it with, “Hey this happened today, it’s okay now because of this, but I wanted to share with you.”
This not only tells them not to freak out because you aren’t freaking out, it also already lets them know of the solution. Now they can hear your personal anxieties without them getting intertwined with their own.
If It Is A Big Deal, Be Conscious Of Timing
You can’t get around needing to talk about stressful things with your loved ones with chronic anxiety. It wouldn’t be fair for you to have to handle everything just because your brain works a little differently. People with anxiety do understand that other people experience stress. And they are normal people who just want to live normal lives. Don’t let their anxiety drive you to over stress.
When you really need to talk to them about something, be conscious of timing. This means that when your loved one just finished having a panic attack about the bills, five minutes later would not be the appropriate time to bring up a new bill. You definitely do need to bring this to their attention eventually, but while someone with anxiety is having an episode, and moments after, they aren’t good for much. They need time to calm down, collect their thoughts, and get it together.
Don't Freak Out With Them
If your loved one is panicking over something that isn't a big deal, don't indulge. Don't join in with them and agree and make the problem bigger than it is. Instead, maybe a change of scenery. Ask if they want to go for a walk. You don't need to ask them what's wrong because often times it's nothing. It's just all in their head and they know it. Having someone around who keeps their cool during uncertain times is a great way to deescalate a situation.
“We Need To Talk”
Just don’t say this ever to anyone. This sentence should just be eradicated from our vocabulary. Sending a text like this or, “Can I ask you a question?” Is going to drive your loved one up the wall. I think it would drive any regular person up the wall so let’s all just change how we do this. Instead, we can say things like, “Hey, I had some things I needed to run by you about the movers. When you get a chance can we talk about that?” Then the person knows what you are asking about and the person has been given an opportunity to maybe not handle that right now because there could be a lot going on. It’s just an extra few words that could really benefit the psyche of your loved one.
If They Ask For Space, Give It To Them
It can be hard leaving someone you love alone. My fiancé struggles with this because he is the type of person who solves problems as they come. He doesn’t like to sit and marinade in misery. But there is something you have to understand when someone’s brain makes them feel emotions that are often unwarranted. They need space.
Anxiety is an emotion run by fear. Fear elicits confusion and anger. Thoughts don’t always make sense, and words that come to mind often are unkind. To avoid further conflict, give them time to calm down. Things don’t make sense, and they won’t until the dust has settled. When they are ready, let them come to you. And have your arms open and ready to love them.
Chronic Anxiety Is Exhausting
Dealing with chronic anxiety is a constant battle that many face daily. Patience wears thin and sometimes people will go weeks in a "grumpy" state because they just don't have the energy for even general niceties. You don't need to call them out on how grumpy they are. They most likely know it. They most likely have held their tongue at least three out of five times they felt inclined to snap at you. Try to be understanding, and do your best not to further agitate. Don't pile on a to do list that isn't urgent, don't bombard them with questions about what is on their mind, let them try to conquer this beast they are quarreling until they come to you asking for your help.
If it gets to a point where their attitude is affecting you, find the right time to bring it up. In the midst of battle is not the time, but a calm and cool conversation on the couch could help your relationship.
Learn Coping Skills
One moment that really improved my relationship was when I was freaking out and my fiancé suggested a coping skill he had read about online.
This not only meant so much that he was doing reading about my illness on his own, he actually brought to my attention something I hadn't thought of before.
If you take the time to look up ways to deal with anxiety, you show your loved one how invested you are in this harrowing journey they thought they had to trudge on their own. You also might teach them something they don't know, and help them with their troubling journey.
Remember Anxiety Is Physical
With chronic anxiety, your loved one can experience different types of physical pain. (Read about that here!) Anxiety is a chemical reaction in our brain we all have, and some people experience it more intense and for longer than others. Your loved one might not be able to help that they can't go into the gas station because their legs are in pain. Don't be annoyed, know the symptoms and work around them. They might want to cancel on plans because their chest hurts and they just can't do people today. Let that be okay.
Do not let them abuse this part of you. Do not let them constantly make you wait on them hand and foot. Set boundaries, have discussions, because you can burn yourself out trying to cater to someone who may not fully appreciate the work you put into helping them. Be loving, kind, and understanding, but do not let that bring you down.
This is the most important thing you can ever do for your loved one with anxiety. When they are rambling about their stresses, and crying into your arms, listen to what they are saying. If they are comfortable enough with you to let them into their little messed up world, congratulations! Not everyone is invited to that party. Which is because no one wants to be there, especially the host.
Listen to them when they talk to you, be there for them. Ask things like, “Is there anything I can do for you?” They don’t always need advice, they just need someone to hear what they have to say. And remember what they say. Learn things about how their mind works, because now you’re in it with them too. You have chosen to love this part of them, and even if they don’t realize it they need your help. Be their rock, their window into reality. It has been a dreadful journey for them until you came along.
There are about 3 million cases in the US related to anxiety. It’s very likely that you or your loved one suffers from anxiety. We live in a crazy stressful world, but if we work together, we can accomplish anything.