It’s no joke. It can squeeze the life right out of you. It’s an invisible battle that no one knows you are fighting unless you clue them in. Longtime sufferers may be able to disguise it with chatter of busyness and being tired from said busyness. They may even plaster a smile on their face and toss a little more on their already overfilled plate to throw off the scent.
Why do we do this?
Yes. We as in me.
I have had anxiety for as far back as I can remember. As a child I didn’t sleep well and so I read. Like all night. I would get lost in a book perhaps avoiding my own cluttered mind. As a young adult, my poor sleep habits turned into full blown insomnia. I was surviving on four to five hours of fractured sleep a night. I sought the help of a medical professional who verified my ability to sleep with the dreaded sleep study then referred me off to a cognitive behavioral therapist. We worked to reset my sleep patterns by basically bringing me to the brink of sheer exhaustion and near nervous breakdown in the process. It was not pretty. I’ve has anxiety attacks that felt like heart attacks and I was certain that I was going to die.
Like I said, anxiety is no joke.
There are times that I don’t notice the anxiety as it has been a longtime passenger on my life journey. There are other times it nearly overtakes me to the point I withdraw into myself avoiding all contact with the outside world. This is when I need to work extra hard to claw myself out. Asking for help is never easy. It’s even harder when you put obscene amounts of pressure on yourself to do it alone. There’s no prize for doing that. As you can imagine chaos…and the stress that it brings…is the perfect breeding ground for anxiety.
I’ve learned some coping skills through the years. I keep a very detailed electronic calendar that is shared with my husband. I can tell you the date and time of every single prenatal appointment for both my children including which doctor I saw and what office. Want to know when I saw the dentist in 2014? I can tell you that, too. Nothing goes undocumented. I take copious notes at meetings that are extremely detail orientated. My email accounts have folders for every single type of message I may receive in an attempt to keep my inbox as near empty as possible because I dare not delete anything. My class assignments are listed on a color coded document that gets highlighted in blue as I complete them, yellow as I turn them in, and pink if I have an outstanding question.
I’ve most often been able to manage my anxiety on my own. However, I’ve also sought medical help if I needed it…sometimes later than I should have. No one likes to admit defeat. And I’ve felt defeated in the past.
And it’s invisible.
You do not grow a sign on your back letting people know that your anxiety is running at full throttle. And most of the time you may not know your friend is drowning unless you ask. And even then, she may deny it.
So what do you do?
If you know your friend has suffered in the past, assume she may be one step away from it again. If her plate is getting full, take something from it. Don’t ask. Just do it. Even if you don’t know if she’s ever had anxiety in the past, do it. Everyone can use a helping hand. Drop off a cup of coffee or take her kid to the park. Offer to run that carpool or go halfsies on a birthday gift–then pick it up so she doesn’t have to do it. Send a text just saying hi and asking how she’s doing. If she’s always cancelling plans, go to her. Bring pizza and wine and kick out her husband. Believe me, she will be glad for it and the fact that she can still wear her sweats.
In the end, no one’s road to healing from anxiety is the same. This is what would have helped me when I was at my breaking point. Now that I am on the other side, I can clearly see what I needed even if I didn’t know it then. Even if I would have denied it and tried to push it away. Think about what you would want if just couldn’t deal and do that. She will thank you for it eventually.
I am writing for the 2019 March Slice of Life Challenge