Anxiety is just like a schoolyard bully.
Physically and emotionally hurting you day after day, filling you with fear that it will strike at any moment. It leaves you on edge, never knowing when you’re going to receive its next painful punch.
It’ll tell you you’re fighting the battle on your own. It’ll tell you that you should be ashamed of talking about it with those around you. It’ll tell you that nobody cares.
Bullies hold their power by scaring their victims into silence, just like anxiety does. Bullies shame their targets into suffering alone, just like anxiety does. And bullies don’t ever go away until you start to talk about how they affect you…just like anxiety.
But while talking about it and connecting with others will help you manage your anxiety, the fact is that it’s still one of the hardest things to discuss, even with those closest to you.
There’s a social stigma attached to anxiety, and, as sufferers, it’s all too easy to believe it’s lies.
Whether you’re still in the early stages of understanding the impact anxiety is having on your life, or perhaps you’ve been suffering for a while but you just can’t think of anything worse than talking about your anxiety, here are six ways that connecting with others will help you beat the anxiety-bully and reduce the grip that it currently has on your life.
1)You’ll realise you’re not on your own.
How many nights have you laid in bed wide awake feeling the heart of your insomnia beat in time with the alarm clock? With every tick you know it’s only a matter of hours, minutes, seconds, before you must get out of bed and put your game face on.
The middle of the night loneliness is palpable knowing that at the end of your sleepless night is just another day of pretending that everything’s fine.
You start the day by covering up to your colleagues that your heart’s pounding out of your chest. Perhaps you keep it a secret from the mums at school drop-off that you truly believe you’re about to drop down dead on the playground right in front of them. You urge your palms to stop sweating and the palpitation to slow down before anyone notices that something is really wrong.
Either that, or you risk the shame that will come from everyone finding out that you have an anxiety disorder. “You’re weak”, “you’re not fit to be a mum”, “you’re nuts”, they’ll say.
I know this, because I’ve been there.
I put that mask on day after day. And it nearly killed me more than the anxiety itself. It’s exhausting. It’s terrifying.
Taking that mask off, though, and having an open and honest conversation with the people around you about what’s going on not only takes away some of the exhaustion, it also gives people the opportunity to say, ‘oh yes, me too’
And believe me, people say it!
Once you start connecting with people you’ll be surprised at just how many others share those middle-of-the-night fears with you. You’ll realise how many of those you know and love are also putting makeup over a condition that’s slowly seeped into every area of their life. You’ll find out how your happiest and most confident associates constantly wonder if that’s the sound of their heart pounding in their chest, or if it’s just the footsteps of the team of professionals marching in to come and take them away.
You’re not on your own as an anxiety sufferer, and talking about it with others will help you realise this and will remove some of the isolation from your condition.
2) People will understand you so they can help you more.
Even if people can’t identify with your symptoms, telling them what’s going on will help them understand you.
Anxiety tends to encourage us to push people away. We feel ashamed. We worry that we’re a burden. We hold on tight to the detrimental thoughts that people just don’t want us to be around them.
So, we distance ourselves. We push people away before they do it to us.
I’ve included myself in this because, again, I’ve been there. I get it.
And because I’ve been there, I also know that having the confidence and strength to tell people about your disorder will combat that in a heartbeat.
Rather than turning down invitations with a flat out “no”, your response automatically changes to “no, I don’t feel good” and your friends will understand.
They’ll check on you. They’ll see if there’s anything they can do to help. And they’ll invite you along the next time.
By not understanding your condition, your friends and family will possibly think you don’t care about them. Because, after all, that’s the impression the anxiety-bully wants us to give them.
People love you and they need the opportunity to display this love. You’re the only person who can give that to them by being open and honest and giving them a chance to be there for you.
3) You’ll get a better understanding of your disorder.
The more you talk to people about anxiety, the more you open yourself up to hearing advice and learning from the experience of others.
Anxiety is such a multi-faceted disorder. While there are some symptoms and management strategies that are common, rarely do two people deal with their disorder in exactly the same way.
Connecting with others will help you understand that what you’re going through is normal. You’re also likely to learn about different techniques which will help you manage your own anxiety so you can take back control of your life.
4) You’ll help others.
Imagine if that person you sit next to on the bus is going through the same thing as you. Imagine if they’ve been up all night worrying about how they’re going to get through another day. Imagine that their game face is firmly on just as much as yours is.
Perhaps they need to hear that they’re not on their own too. Perhaps they need to know how you’re coping – or not coping – to give them some encouragement.
Perhaps your voice will help someone else, just as much as theirs will help you.
You don’t know who you’re influencing when you start talking about anxiety and using your words might have a far reaching positive impact that you don’t even know about.
5) You’ll take the power out of some of your fears.
Anxiety is a disorder deep-rooted in fear. OK, those fears might be unfounded (I’d never say irrational, all fears are rational in my book), but they’re still very real for the person living them. And the one thing about fears is that the more you build them up in your head, the more power they hold.
I’m not saying for a second that talking to someone about your fear will instantly cure your anxiety disorder, but it might reduce the power of some of your triggers.
I used to have a fear of flying because I had no idea what was happening when the plane landed. Once I learnt what the noises meant, that wheels come down before the plane hits the runway, that pilots are prepared with a second engine if the first one fails, my fear of flying started to diminish. Along with it, so did my anxiety that surrounded flying.
Talk to someone to understand your symptoms, and get the knowledge that will reduce the fear that they can cause.
6) Your life becomes less lonely.
Human connection makes the globe spin. It gives us a sense of belonging, it helps us to make sense of our problems, and it energises us when we’re feeling low.
For an anxiety sufferer, those are three key elements which you need to work on if you’re going to manage anxiety to live a life that is happy, fulfilled, and complete.
If your anxiety impacts your social life, or going out often is too hard for you right now, you don’t have to meet people face to face to have a connection. You can talk on the phone, send a text message, or connect online.
Remember – anxiety is a liar.
You’re not alone, and people do want to talk to you about it. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your immediate family and friends or a trained professional, join the Anxiety Buddy Facebook group and connect with fellow anxiety sufferers today.
In the group, you’ll find like-minded people who are at different stages of their journey with anxiety. Some you’ll help, some will help you and there’s no judgment at all. Everyone in the forum gets IT, and they get YOU!
Take the power out of your anxiety, connect with others and click to join the Anxiety Buddy Facebook group, today!
Founder - Anxiety Buddy
ABOUT THE AUTHOR.
Jo was diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder in 2014 and knows what it’s like to live with the crippling disorder and suffer in silence, She also knows how much easier anxiety is to manage when you connect with others and have a strong support network around you. Jo is committed to normalising anxiety and helping others understand their anxiety to reduce the impact it has on everyday life.