How to Help Anxiety Sufferers

Suffering from anxiety means that a lot of small things can escalate into bigger things: it can range from something as minute as a picture you see on Facebook to catching someone’s eye on public transport, and the intensity of the anxiety attack can be incredibly overwhelming. It’s all very well giving advice to those who also suffer from the condition, but today I thought it might be worthwhile giving advice to those who have people in their lives who suffer from it – siblings, boyfriends/girlfriends, parents or even just friends.

Anxiety attacks are usually brought on by a trigger and as mentioned before, it can be a wide range of things. Of course, you’re not expected to analyse every single detail of your life in order to avoid triggering attacks in your loved ones, but sometimes it’s wise to be precautionary:

1. Think – think about what you’re going to say or write or do before you do it. As mentioned before, sometimes things can escalate out of control and the fundamental cause was a simple misunderstanding. It doesn’t hurt anyone to show a little consideration for those who suffer from a destructive illness.

2. Act – Do what you can to support those in need of a little love and care. Go to therapy sessions with them, help them get answers if they’re unable to find them on their own. Acts of kindness do not go amiss.

3. Listen – If it’s a shoulder to cry on, let them tell you their problems. More likely than not, they will resolve the underlying problem if they are able to talk to someone about it aloud to willing listeners. Also, if you notice that a certain thing can upset them, avoid doing it! It sounds so simple, but surprisingly, repeating mistakes is a habit some have trouble breaking out of.

It’s most certainly not easy living with or being close to someone who suffers from anxiety. There’s no forewarning as to when an attack will come on, and it may be over something so frustratingly small that you don’t see the logic in it. But understand that this simply cannot be helped; some have it bad, some have it mild. There’s no cure for it either, just working alongside it and living with it.

Anxiety is like a black cloud looming over one’s shoulders all day every day, so even the smallest act of kindness or consideration will go a very long way.

A x

Anxiety

Recently, I have realised that many people have a misconception of what anxiety is. As a sufferer of such a destructive illness, I find it very insulting when people belittle it by using it in their day to day conversations. For example, I have overheard on a number of occasions, people making passing comments such as “you give me anxiety”, in a humourous light. I am fortunate enough not to suffer from a severe anxiety disorder which prevents me from executing my day to day activities, but nevertheless, it is extremely difficult to live with from which a variety of problems stem.

I had my gallbladder removed in January 2013 as a result of extremely unbearable abdominal pains, thanks to a great amount of “sludge” in my gallbladder which, over time, would turn into gallstones. Being in constant, severe and acute pain for such a long period of time can be unbelievably traumatic, which was the case for me. It took me over 6 months to recover from the surgery alone, and I have not fully recovered from the trauma I endured whilst in hospital. This is where the anxiety fits in. As a result of being in such severe pain for a long period of time, where painkillers didn’t make a dent in it, and where I was forced to endure some of the worst bouts of pain alone (NHS hospital visiting hours are ridiculous), I developed anxiety. I was, and still am, constantly worried that I’ll be put through what I went through last year, again. Although that part of my life is now long over, I am still haunted by the pain which will stay with me for the rest of my life.

This anxiety is also reflected in my daily and personal life. For example, I over-think and over-analyse the simplest of things, which lead to conflict, arguments and unnecessary tears and a lot of the time, others (outsiders of the condition) will not understand where I am coming from, which leads to more problems and disputes.

Since secondary school, I have suffered from very mild social anxiety, too. This somewhat worsened after my operations and society can undermine how troubling social anxiety can be; for example, simple things such as getting off the bus can trigger panic attacks and nervousness as you’re constantly paranoid about who is watching you as you make that small trip from your bus seat to the doors. Walking into a room full of strangers can trigger panic attacks as you feel as if everyone is watching you. Making new friends can seem almost impossible as you’re afraid of others judging you, hence why we see so many facades nowadays. Social anxiety should not be dismissed as a minor thing because, despite the fact that I don’t suffer from a severe form of it, it really affects your life in ways that others would not understand unless they experienced it themselves.

I have learnt that the most important way to deal with and overcome the problems that come about as a result of my anxiety is to have a strong support network. I have friends who understand my anxiety and help me through it when it gets bad, by getting to the root of the problem and then working my way out. By recognising the primary factor which has caused a panic attack or over-analysis of a situation. I am fortunate enough to have incredible parents who are there to listen to my problems if I can face them out loud, or just stay silent and stand by my side if I can’t bring myself to discuss it. They help me get to the bottom of what is causing my distress and help me come to terms with what is bringing me down. The relief you feel when you tell someone what you’re going through is unimaginable and I am so glad I told my close friends and family about what I was going through. If you think no one will understand you, you’re wrong; other sufferers can relate to you, and if you let in the right people, they will not judge you, only help you. I was terrified when I told my friend about my anxiety; I was afraid they’d never understand and label me as weak but they helped me out in ways I cannot explain. My parents did not judge me or write me off for feeling the way I did. And because I had such a strong support network, I will carry their advice, love and commitment to stand by me for the rest of my life.

Telling someone about a condition which is controlling your life will not make you vulnerable or weak or stupid. It takes strength to do so, and it makes anxiety a lot more bearable to live with.

And that is all that matters.

A x