Living with Anxiety

It's a beautiful Tuesday afternoon. The sun is shining, birds are singing, and life seems to be pure bliss. But despite the sense of euphoria, many can observe that on this day, you feel alone and scared. Welcome to my world.

I'm not sure when I discovered that I had anxiety. Maybe it was during high school where societal pressures to act a certain way and be a specific person kicked in. Perhaps it was when I moved away from my family to go to university, not realizing how much I would truly miss them. Or maybe, just maybe, I had this little demon curled up inside me this whole time. Either way, there was one thing I knew once I figured it out; I was screwed.

People believe that you can immediately identify those with anxiety as if they're wearing a beacon on their shirts that screams "Hey! I'm Anxious!". The truth is, however, that anxiety is not always obvious since it can manifest in many different ways. On a good day, one individual can come across as the happiest person in the world– carefree and totally open to helping their friends. You would have no way of telling that something could be wrong. But at those times when it hits you hard, social anxiety can do anything, like prevent you from leaving your room for three days, or cause you to cry your heart out.

You may be wondering, "so how does this help me?" Well hold on, I'm about to tell you. Fun fact, not everyone has anxiety; if you don’t, it’s likely that you know someone who does. And it's very important that you understand what they're going through. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to make them feel more comfortable.

  1. 1. Don't patronize them

    At the end of the day, it does nothing to hear someone treat you like a child. We need your support, not your tolerance. People with anxiety don't want to be treated as though we aren't normal, or that there’s something wrong with us– because there isn't. We’re human beings with flaws and strengths, fears and desires. Treating someone with anxiety as though nothing is different makes all the difference in creating an inclusive environment.

  2. 2. Be their shoulder

    Now I don't mean literally be their shoulder when I say this. You need to be their support system. One of the worst things anxiety can do is whisper in a person's ear and tell them how worthless and pitiful their life is. This continual self-degradation can easily lead to a downward spiral that doesn't end well. Knowing how to raise your friend's spirits in a way that's specifically catered to them shows that, not only do you care but that you can hear them.

  3. 3. Try not to highlight their insecurities

    This tip isn't always the easiest to execute. I know that friends have a tendency to tease and jest with each other; while this is completely fine, it's important to know where the line is. This may seem like common logic, but to some people, their friend's insecurities might not be the clearest thing about them. By understanding and preventing touching upon these points of contention, you can avoid triggering your friends.

  4. 4. Listen to them

    This one is pretty simple. Listen to what they're saying and don't force them into a situation that makes them uncomfortable.

Like I stated earlier, there’s a variety of ways to experience anxiety, as it varies between each individual experience. Hopefully, these tips can aid you in comforting and relating to your friends, should a crisis arise.

And to those of you who suffer from anxiety, I have this to say. You’ve done amazing so far. The fact that you’re alive and making the best of your life right now is a testament to that. Although there will always be rough patches where it seems like nothing can pull you out of your shell, trust in those you love. Sometimes we need help to escape our own minds, but you've made it this far and I believe you can continue to make it. We are proud of you.