While in the middle of a downward spiral, there is so much guilt and shame. We don't think we deserve love or support, but we need it. More than ever. We need you to not give up on us, but give us room. It might seem like we don't care and it doesn't help. Honestly, it doesn't help in the moment, but, in the long run, it means everything. We need to know you're not going anywhere. We need to know we aren't alone, no matter how much we try to push you away.
For those without anxiety, a person with anxiety seems illogical and unreasonable. While the chances of what we are fearing the most is most likely a little far fetched and not going to happen, it's extremely real to us. Telling us to calm down or everything is going to be alright is only going to hurt you. Even for very religious people, you bring up God having a plan and a person with anxiety is likely tell you to go to hell. We can't see past our fears until the attack is over, which could be minutes or days. Again, I stress, this isn't your fault, but you just don't get it. Saying these things makes us feel like you're negating our emotions. You make us feel stupid on top of all the other emotions we are trying to deal with.
It may seem like a losing battle for someone who is trying to help a loved one with anxiety. Truthfully, in a way it is. It's also a losing a battle for those of us dealing with it. Unless you can magically turn back time and take away the event that caused the anxiety, there is nothing at all you can do to help other than give us time and assurance you won't go anywhere, no matter how hard we push.
Being a friend with anxiety watching a friend go through a downward anxiety spiral is almost as difficult, but in a different way. I could feel all my friend's pain. I could feel that hopelessness. And I knew there was nothing to help. This was a first for me. Normally, those of us with anxiety keep our crazy hidden very well. That goes with the shame. Knowing what this friend was feeling was almost as hopeless as how this friend felt. Logical thoughts ran through my head like, "maybe I should do this" or "maybe I could try that". But I know logic doesn't help. It's just time. So time is what I gave.
The other part of anxiety that people don't realize is that it's going to pop up again. I don't mean something different, though that's most definitely going to happen. I mean the exact same thing. One tiny thing will trigger it. Knowing this, I feel extra hopeless for my friend knowing that while this spiral has gone, the anxiety will come back. While the immediate dread is gone, it's always there in the back of your mind.
Anxiety sucks. All around. It sucks for those experiencing it. It sucks for loved ones without anxiety watching someone go through it. It sucks for those with anxiety knowing someone else is going through it. There is no upside to anxiety. There is no positive spin to put on it. It tears people apart as well as tearing a person down. There are so many articles written on how to help a loved one cope with anxiety, but honestly, the only thing you can really do is love someone. Give the person time and grace.