As I’ve hinted, and will explain when I pop my story on here, the words of others can be hurtful and damaging to someone suffering from anxiety. Either they don’t understand, or they start to struggle because they can’t help you. Either way, if you’re not feeling helped by people who don’t understand or can’t help, read on…
You know they don’t understand…I know they don’t…
But they do not. Anxiety from the outside in is a completely different experience to living it from the inside out. It has to be. Anxious people feel trapped in their own minds and bodies, but to the outside it can appear that you keep talking about the same things all the time.
I liken it to doing an escapologist act where you’re chained up and you have to undo all the padlocks or you’re going to fall into a vat of piranha fish and get eaten alive and then drown, and you’ve dropped your carefully hidden escape key! No one who isn’t an escapologist would know how to unlock the padlocks, but it would make perfect sense if all you kept saying was “where’t the key…where’s the key?!” Unless you’ve been trapped by anxiety you won’t understand the focus on the things that bother you, because those are the things that need solving! Just like the whereabouts of that key. So never ignore yourself when you moan! More about that later.
Many voices make hard work!
Much as you may be fed up with your own voice, by the same token you don’t want to invite too many different opinions into your head.
There will be people who know you well, and their words will always be helpful and supportive of you. They get you. They probably saw this happen. They might feel helpless but they’ll always work to understand. They might give you a well placed kick up the butt when you need it (my mentor certainly did), but they’re on your side and you know it. Then there are the pull yourself together brigade.
These are people who get short tempered with you, tell you to snap out of it, criticise your behaviour, and generally behave as if all your mind needs is a sticking plaster and a bit of gumption!
This might be your boss who has deadlines to meet, your children who need something of you, an exhausted partner, your parents who simply can’t cope with you being this way, anyone you meet. If their attitudes aren’t positive, if their words aren’t respectful, if they trivialise what you’re going through. Time to stop listening.
I worked through acute anxiety for 22 years – not a hero, I didn’t know what else to do, it was with me every day, all day, so I had to keep going. You know how it is. When I finally crashed because just too much happened at once, my GP gave me 2 months off, and it was the finest thing that ever happened to me. I had time to think. I wasn’t in the middle of the battle all day every day. I could sleep in. I could rest. I could recuperate. I didn’t have loads of opinions around me.
When I went back to work there was a new coffee machine that dispensed Mocha. I asked a (supercilious) manager of mine “what’s mokker?” He promptly said “mosher is a mixture of coffee and chocolate, don’t you know that?” Without even thinking I replied “have you ever seen the Oxford English Dictionary? It contains thousands of words, and I make no apology for not knowing every word in it”. He immediately apologised. The important thing is that the break, the rest, the opportunity to think and reflect, had put me back into my own personal power.
Have you ever had a break?