I have struggled with severe anxiety for a little over a year now.
In high school I was somehow able to balance and cope with all of the stress around me -- literally, everything from dual enrolling at a local community college, AP courses, cheerleader, Student Body President, and an active member of several clubs along with countless other tasks and involvements.
However, once college began I just wasn't able to keep everything running smoothly the way I used to. My anxiety became debilitating. It took me hours to even start an assignment because I would have to sit and think about exactly how I was going to prepare everything. I was unable to make a lot of friends because it took at least three times of someone else asking me to hang out for me to even consider going and even then I was unsure if they actually liked me or not. I couldn't function. I felt like I couldn't do anything.
What made it even worse you might ask?
That's an easy answer.
What people said to me to "try and make me cheer up".
1. Can you please stop worrying about everything?
No, actually, I can't.
When you ask a person with anxiety to stop worrying about everything you truly only make the anxiety worse. Now we're worried that you don't like us or that we're being annoying. Chances are we'll shut down and start internalizing all of our worry and stress and feel even worse.
~friendly alternative~ I noticed you've been worrying about a lot of things lately, is there anything I can do to help?
2. There is no reason to be worrying right now!
We already (deep, deep down) know that there is no real reason to be so worried about something, but we are and we seriously CANNOT HELP IT. You commenting like that and invalidating us and our feelings makes us feel unimportant and annoying.
~friendly alternative~ Do you want to talk out what's going on? I'm always here for you.
3. Why do you worry so much?
Idk? When you find out maybe lmk?
We don't know and we can't help it! Please, for the love of all that is good, stop making us feel bad about things that are out of our control.
~friendly alternative~ Hey, I noticed that you've been worrying more lately. Is something going on? Can I help?
4. What is so hard about making a decision?
There are times when there are so many things swirling around in my brain, that the thought of having to decide where I want to eat dinner truly makes me want to vomit. Other times I think too much about each option in order to pick the best one. I can't play my favorite song in the car with my friends because I'm worried they'll hate it and think I'm weird for playing it.
~friendly alternative~ When your friend with anxiety asks you to make a decision for them please just do it. You will be saving them so much stress.
5. Get it together already!
Do you think we want to live with anxiety? Do you think we enjoy it? Spoiler alert: We don't.
We want to be able to "get it together". You telling us that we need to reminds us of how far from the finish line we are and pushes us back even more. There is nothing more degrading or demeaning than a person reminding me of how my anxiety cripples me.
~friendly alternative~ Is there anything I can do to help you today?
6. You're being annoying.
Yeah? Well, so are you.
Sometimes we need to try on 15 outfits before we leave. Sometimes we need to deep clean our room before watching a movie with you. Sometimes we need extra attention, time or support.
~friendly alternative~ Sit down and wait quietly. Ask "hey, do you need any help?"
7. Can't you take a pill or go to therapy or something? Geez!
Is there really an explanation needed for this one?
This is so insulting and so degrading.
The person that you just said that to probably already takes medication or goes to counseling or practices some alternate form of coping. You just embarrassing them and made them feel that whatever they're doing isn't working. You made them more aware of how other people view their anxiety. You made them uncomfortable.
~friendly alternative~ Hey how are you doing lately? I just want you to know that I'm always here for you if you need to talk. Also, if you think that you need more help that I can give let me know and I'll be happy to go to the doctor with you.
Mental illness is so so real.
The feelings are real and we can't help it.
There are so many nice ways to say the things you're trying to say.
We need you and we love you!