A Letter to Those Affected By My Anxiety

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Let me start by clarifying something. When I refer to my “anxiety”, I am not simply talking about my fears or situations that make me nervous. I’m not talking about the kind of anxiousness that everyone experiences throughout their life. I am talking about Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)- a mental condition which affects nearly every aspect of my life in one way or another.

You’ve probably noticed my nervous behaviors. Bailing on plans at the last minute, making excuses to stay at home, chewed nails, sudden crying, shortness of breath, restlessness, fearing new situations, inability to go to places alone.  Panic attacks.

I try to hide my struggling, but I know you see it. You see it because you care. And because you care, you often try to help. You tell me to take deep breaths. You tell me to calm down, or to stop worrying. With good intentions, you quote Philippians 4:6 to me. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” You try very hard to diffuse the situation. But it has never worked. Not even once.

I’m writing this letter, because I want to be fair to you. I want you to understand what my anxiety is and what it feels like, because I want you to know that I’m not ignoring your advice. I know that my emotions can be hard for you to deal with, and that our relationship isn’t an easy one for you. For that reason, I feel like I owe you an explanation.

Anxiety feels like an ocean. When it hits, I struggle to keep my head above the water. It’s overwhelming and every single moment feels like I’m one breathe away from drowning. It’s so big, so vast, and it extends further than I can see. The water is dark and heavy. And the more I struggle against it all, the higher the waters gets.

The words “calm down” force me to struggle against my anxiety. And the water rises just a little more.

It should be obvious, but please remember: If I could stop my anxiety, I would have done so by now. These emotions are not a choice, or something that I have invited into my life. I am not a victim, but I am certainly not a willing participant. So please stop telling me to calm down. Please stop using phrases that imply that I should be able to control my anxiety.

I know you want to help me- you wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t- and I love you for that. But you need to stop trying to help me rationalize the feelings that I’ve spent my whole life trying to understand. Irrational fears and emotions cannot be understood. Instead, try this: When my anxiety is pulling me under, let me know that you see my struggle, even if you don’t understand it. Pray for me, but don’t ask me to do the praying. Listen to me, but don’t offer “easy” solutions. Most importantly, know that you do not have to fix me or make my anxiety go away. I want you to be my friend, not my therapist. I will never put those kinds of expectations on you.

I wish you didn’t have to deal with this; Ironically, you seem to feel the same way about me. So this is a learning process for both of us. I promise to keep trying to find new ways to cope with my anxiety. In return, I simply ask that you keep being my friend, even if don’t always deserve it. Friendships like ours are often what keep my head just above the water. And that means everything to me.

Thank you,
Your Friend

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86 thoughts on “A Letter to Those Affected By My Anxiety”

  1. I just came across this post while doing a search for Anxiety-related blogs or articles. I can’t tell you how much this post rings true for me. I am battling my own anxiety and it is so difficult. I just (literally today!) decided to start my own blog to track my journey towards overcoming my anxiety. I hope to find a way to silence it enough to live a life free of these challenges. I hope the same for you!

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  2. I just found this on Pinterest and I’m glad I followed it and read it. I do not suffer from anxiety, but my young daughter does and you just put into words for me what she has not been able to. Thank you.

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  3. I came across your letter due to my high anxiety feeling like the attacks are creeping back up along with the fears and phobias. U have described it perfectly. I said the same things to my family and boyfriend at the time due to no one really getting it. I have felt extremely alone in my battle because bottom line if someone has not experienced not experienced one panic attack they will not understand how it can consume ur total existence.

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  4. I cannot believe what I just read. It fit me to the T. I’ve suffered since i was 24 years old and it’s no picnic. OMG you would have thought that I wrote your letter. I have tried everything. Still to this day I see a shrink and a therapist, been on every med you can think of and read self help books. I cannot stop it. It has full control over me and it isn’t fun. I’m going to try hypnosis. Most importantly, do not be ashamed of it. Everything in your brain is misfiring. You could not believe the number of people that suffer from this and depression and don’t even know it. All I can say is,” hang in there”, I believe there is help for everyone.

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    1. Please be careful in considering hypnosis as a treatment. You give control of your entire mind to another person. You have no idea what they can do to you or set you up for. Your old memories can morph into worse ones. I know, I have been through it, in a program that came to my school. I had to go up on the stage as a volunteer, as I was a student body officer. That dirty rat put a post hyptnotic suggestion on me and I ended up saying and doing things on another stage later. I was young and beautiful and very voluptuous. That (famous) man said to me- “You know that you can meet me at my hotel room and I can hypnotize you for that weight problem that you have.” I did not have one at all. What a perv! . He traveled all over the country for decades doing shows at high schools and then at larger venues, after putting post-hypnotic suggestions into their minds. We checked with the leaders of our Church and they told us it was a bad idea for do this for the reasons that I said above. Even a psychiatrist that I know, said that it was not a good thing for people, not really.

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  5. Thank you so much for sharing your struggles with anxieties. I love that you wrote it in letter form so that any one of us that struggles with anxiety, depression, bipolar or panic disorders can tailor it to our own problems. I struggled with bipolar, major depression, GAD, and PTSD for a long time, and meds didn’t work very well. My family tried to understand but its impossible if you haven’t been through it! So, when I did try to explain, it was nearly identical to how you described it. I felt like I was just trying to keep my head above water, but it was pulling at me and sucking me down!
    However, good news! It has taken me about 20 years (I suffered as a child, terribly!! as well…I’m 33 now) but I am doing well now! I have a chronic pain disorder and chronic migraines, so my world isn’t perfect, but I do believe that prayer helps, as well as a drive to do everything possible to better yourself. I know too many people that would prefer to wallow in their misery. There is definitely no perfect answer or special pill, and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy!
    I also am thinking of starting a blog… I’m not certain what that’s going to look like yet, but I want to inspire others that are going through similar issues.
    I wish you the very best, and will keep you in my prayers! Again, thank you for sharing!

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    1. Unfortunately, i myself am with you on that. “what is the big deal? “take it easy” and “everything will be fine, you will see” kills me every day. Perhaps only someone that goes thru what you are going would understand. Trying desperately to find a psychologist and perhaps this Friday I will try the 4th tried in the last 2yrs. I have kids, found some relief in spending time with them. I hope you will find something to keep you afloat, and to heal yourself on your own terms and at your own peace.

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  6. too bad my bff doesn’t understand anything. sometimes i think she doesn’t want to understand. for her i’m always “overreacting” and i “love making problems” even when she knows i’m struggling with myself everyday. i’m sick of hearing from people who i love that everything’s fine and i just need to think another way… Your letter literally made my cry

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  7. Well said and will come to be able and willing to share this much of yourself.
    And thank you for putting yourself out there. Out there to the benefit of others who understand but had no words to describe their experience, for the ones who want to help and support but don’t know how. And to those who don’t understand and need to know.
    Thank you.

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  8. So beautifully written. As someone who has gad this resonates with me and I am sure my husband would enjoy reading this. Since he is often the one dealing with my anxiety the closest.

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  9. This fits everything with me to a T. When the attacks happen, i literally feel like im drowning. My chest hurts and i start crying bcuz i feel like im dying. Anxiety has a way of choosing the people it wants to live with. I wish i could just wake up one day and not have it. But i know its impossible to do!

    Thanks for the letter. Wish they had a daily one to read.

    Xoxo

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  10. I too have GAD but mine has been much better with use of Effexor XR along with MMJ. It still is hard sometimes, as it surfaces when I have added stress like a PTSD flare or as now when I’m detoxing off meds. But, the MMJ and being mindful and present have helped. Thanks for sharing this great letter to those who have no clue. I also am not a willing participant in my diseases and conditions but yet I have to find a way to work with them one way or the other!

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  11. Thank you for doing a wonderful job of describing the awful struggle and fight those of us suffering from anxiety go through while the ones who deal with us see no reason for our panic. I always get irritated when they try to help, it only makes things worse. I would never wish the feeling of almost certain doom on anyone ever, but having them understand it better is what I have wanted for years. Your story does just that. Well done and thank you for sharing!

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