Monday, July 2, 2007

Helping or Hurting? What People Around Me Should or Shouldn't Do

Okay Ben this posts for you. I can understand the request for this post because if you confide in people about your anxiety, sometimes they don't know how to act around you in an anxiety triggering situation. The last thing I, or I am guessing anyone, would want is for the loved ones in our life to feel like they have to walk around on eggshells around us. I can sense when people do that and it makes me feel handicapped. So I want to share this blog so the people in my life or that have loved ones suffering with anxiety have a better idea of what helps in an anxious situation and what just makes things worse.

I appreciate the sensitivity shown by my family and friends. It truly makes things a lot easier to know that I have someone that will understand my quirkiness and will still love me for it. My sister for example, didn't want to put me in an awkward position around her so she wondered if she just shouldn't invite me out to lunch anymore. On the surface that sounds great :) Just avoid the situation altogether! However thats not want I want, because that would actually be hurting my recovery by enabling me to avoid my fears which would only make the fear grow. On the flip side, I don't want her to invite me over to eat all the time to try to make me feel better about it. That would just be a strain on our relationship if I was always stressing over it.

Here's what works best for me: Act the way you would if you didn't know I had anxiety. I still want to be invited to social gatherings, even if its too much for me and I have to turn it down. I still want the option to take the risk. You can be sensitive by not bringing attention to my anxiety or any of my eating or driving habits. If I am in a situation where I have to eat with a bunch of people, even getting the "How are you doing? You okay?" look in my direction has been enough to cause a panic attack, just because I knew someone else was focusing on it like I was. I may be fine inside or really struggling, but for some reason if I think I'm the only one who knows I am struggling it makes it easier.

I don't feel the need to get over my driving fears right now. One phobia at a time! I have no problem avoiding driving if I can and I still plan on doing so in the future. I drive when I have to and thats good enough for me. One step at a time. So friends could offer to drive or offer to drive my car for me :) If I am driving, being a backseat driver is the worst thing you could do. I have never had a full blown panic attack about driving, but my anxiety/ stress levels can get pretty high some times if I feel my driving is being critiqued.

So in summary, just treat me like a normal person and then love me even if I am not normal in return :)

UPDATE: Since posting this post I have come across a website dedicated to family and freinds of loved ones suffering from a mental illness that is pretty cool. It's called They have videos on tv that are pretty cool, here is one of them:

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Scott said...

Hi. I totally know what you mean about friends/family not knowing how to deal with it. Like when I have told people I am depressed, I just know they are wondering, if they try to call me and only get my voicemail, if I am in the process of killing myself.

Anyway, if I lived closer to you, I'd invite you on a social gathering--a date. And I would even drive!

Mike said...

When I first started to be open about my anxiety, people walked around on eggshells like you describe. But over time, I realized that this was because they just didn't fully understand it. They viewed it as something that I battled every minute of every day (which is not the case). I learned that I needed to be more clear with people about the specific situations when I feel anxious, and what I need to do to "control" them. Once I did that, people stopped treating me like a leper. It is very comforting to know that if I have an attack, my friends and family know what's happening. That helps remove much of the feeling of embarrassment. But it was important to put it in the proper context for people, first.

Aimée said...

Thanks for the comment Scott and welcome to the blog :) I checked out your blog and it seems you have overcome a lot in your life. Kudos to you!

I totally agree with Mike that it makes things easier if you do tell people about your anxiety. Then the secret is out and you don't have to try so hard to act normal. Its humbling but a relief too.

Unknown said...

I think it is easier to come out of the closet so to speak too. I used to be so embarrassed about my lack of driving that I would avoid any and all situations where I had to drive. For awhile I turned into a huge liar to make excuses to people because I did not want them to think I was crazy! The lying was what was crazy. Now I just tell people in a very matter of fact voice that I don't drive on the highway, thanks, not unless they want to see me have a panic attack, which is gross, and if I do it with humor, usually people respond better. Being open about it has actually reduced the anxiety for me.

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