I have read a lot of posts from people with anxiety about how people can help be more aware of what they are going through. I actually have a lot of friends with depression, anxiety and a few other things. I’ve decided to write this based on my experiences of what I have found helps to be a good friend to someone with anxiety, when you don’t suffer from it yourself.
- It’s not the same today as it was yesterday. Perhaps we had plans on Monday to go shopping and in the morning, while they’re trying to get ready, they actually find they can’t. But Tuesday comes around and they are completely able to get up, get dressed and face the world. You’ll see them that day. It changes on a day – to – day based on what is going on around them, and obviously whatever happened 10 years ago that crept in their brain and destroyed that day for them. Someone once said to me, how can ‘she’ have anxiety if she can go shopping in a busy town centre but not go for coffee with me? The answer was simple – because it has different triggers, different outcomes and it’s a different day. (either that or that person just doesn’t fucking like you, whatever).
- It’s not you, it’s them. Many moons ago, I used to feel like actually, it was me and they didn’t just want to hang out – ever. Or that my plans were never up to standard. Turns out it’s very much got fuck all to do with me, it really is the person with the anxiety and you have to give them that room when they need it. Drop a text and say you’re around, just so they know.
- It varies from person to person. Out of my friends, some can tackle a busy shop, go for coffee, have conversations, but if you ask them to answer the phone to someone they don’t know or anything out of routine – the sweat and stress appears. Others can’t leave the house, the bed, or walk alone into a shop. So just because you have met another person once with anxiety, don’t for a second think you know anything about everyone with anxiety. It’s not the same. It’s like when you are having a conversation and someone says – oh my friend boyfriends mum has anxiety but she can do X, Y, & Z… just because that person can does not mean someone else can.
- Know the signs. Sometimes, a person with anxiety will go against everything in their body to do what they think they should be doing. My friend and I were about to head into a very busy shop, and I could see by her body language that we needed to leave. I don’t even mind, let’s go pal, I’ve got coffee at home. Let’s get you out of the world for a while. I remember going all the way to town in the car, sitting in the car park for 15 minutes, then leaving again because the driver’s anxiety hit right then and there. Home we go! If you can see the signs, then you can get them out of a situation that they don’t really need to be in, or be there to see them through it, if that’s the agreement you have between you.
- Be around, but don’t continually pester. If you know your friend is having a bad time, drop them a text, say hi, ask if they want a cup of tea in their p.js and a chat. If they say no, then check in a few hours later, tell them about something you’ve read or something you both find funny. Memes are my go-to thing. Funny, relatable and they will be there in 3 days time when they are ready to face the world again.
- They feel worse about it than you will ever know. They hate the anxiety, they hate what they can’t do when it hits, they hate how they think people view them and then it just keeps piling on. Do yourself and your anxious mate a favour – tell them that you don’t mind. It likely won’t make any difference in the midst of things but letting them know that you understand is really important.
- Be trustworthy – always. A person with anxiety needs to feel they are in safe hands, they need to feel like they can sit beside you, in silence while their whole world is mentally crashing down around them. It takes a lot for people with any type of anxiety, depression, or other to be open about it. So be trustworthy with it.
There is probably a lot more I could say about it, but I really feel like the key to being a good friend is a lot of tea, some understanding, and listening. It’s not about tiptoeing around them, it’s about learning how to take care of that relationship and person – like you would with anyone else you care about.
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