This is my love letter for those that don’t personally experience anxiety but know someone that does.
Always remember to be patient with yourself and for others. It can be hard for both sides (us with anxiety/mental health battles AND our friends/fam/loved ones without). Panic attacks are one of those things that until you physically experience one first hand, you’ll never truly know what it feels like. It can seem irrational.
But be gentle and empathetic.
You might have no clue what they are experiencing or feeling, but you can be there for them. You can offer an ear to listen, you can offer love, you can offer understanding and you can hold space and meet them where they are. Ask what they need. Ask what you can do. Believe them and be there for them.
The worst you can do as an “outsider” is to make the person feel bad for having a panic attack or for making them feel like it’s not real or say that they should just calm down. I repeat (because it’s so freaking important) DO NOT TELL SOMEONE TO CALM DOWN. You think it might just be small and something that just needs to be shaken off or just something that can be smoothed over but it’s not that simple. If it was, then none of us would have intense panic attacks.
For me, I know sometimes it’s just a few minutes of breathing, pausing, excusing myself (bathroom break or just saying I’m going to go meditate for a bit). Moving around a bit, or using essential oils, and having a loved one just stand by and talk to me about anything but the panic attack or anxiety. Distraction helps to get my mind off of the intense symptoms and sensations.
When I was at a toxic job I would just leave and take meditation breaks. No one there got it and I was bullied and never really fit in but I did what I had to— to survive.
That’s the biggest thing we have to listen to ourselves and act accordingly. If that means leaving a room or going to the closet bathroom to breathe it out or to panic in private or to cry.
Communication with the people in our lives is so important— we can’t expect them to know what we need or to understand what it feels like, but we can express what we need. Luckily, I have no issues in being completely open and vulnerable with my anxiety and I feel safe in sharing my needs.
If you aren’t there yet, just know so many do experience similar issues and that you don’t have to say anything and just walk away/take a quick break. Everyone has something and honestly you never know what someone is experiencing or hiding.
I have also been amazed by the love and understanding from humans when I share. It actually helps me feel better, and then in turn helps others. Looking at the big picture of the world, there are far, far more good humans. And usually, the ones that judge you or make you feel bad are hurting even more than you.
Love diffuses hate. Darkness or negativity can’t handle being in light and open hearts for too long. Let yourself open when ready and when comfortable and know that it will actually help heal yourself and then eventually others.
Being open has proven to be the best thing. The “right ones” will stand by, no matter what.
— Ashley (@GalWithAnxiety), Chicago
* This is a submitted post *