Adulting and Anxiety: Being More Open with Others...
I’ve (obviously) had to be honest with myself about my anxiety. And if you’ve been reading my blog for very long, you know that it has led to substantial healing. But I’m still working on being honest about it with others. And maybe honest isn’t the right word. I think I’m referring to being open.
Let me explain.
I had a week with some large events planned. It was going to be a fun seven days, but busier than usual, and my anxiety was already building. Then, in the middle of my planning, a dear friend asked to get together and go site seeing. That same week. And I didn’t want to tell her no.
If you’ve struggled with anxiety, you probably know that too many activities—even if it’s just a day full of errands—can add up and really take a toll on your heart and mind. And I was entering that toll booth area. (The worker was standing by the window, ready to take my cash.)
I wrestled within myself. And this wasn’t just me being a people pleaser. I wanted to spend time with my friend.
Like a mini epiphany, I realized that freedom was right there for the taking. Why did I feel the need to hide my struggles? I needed to be open about my boundaries and share with my friend what was going on below my surface.
So I told her that I would like to see her, but asked if it could be for a bite to eat at my house or a restaurant nearby. I needed a more relaxed atmosphere around me. And most importantly, I needed her to know this because I wanted to enjoy her company: not push past my limits and give her the little that I had left to give.
Thankfully, she more than understand and agreed to my counter proposal. And instead of dread, I began looking forward to seeing her. She knew what I was bringing to the table (literally.) I felt relaxed and eager to spend time with her.
We know that we need to be honest in relationships, but sometimes we hesitate to take that step. I was perusing an interesting article on Right as Rain by the University of Washington Medicine; it discusses what to say to a someone who is dealing with anxiety (especially if the reader doesn’t fully understand anxiety but wants to help.)
The article encourages readers to ask questions like, “What can I do to help you?” explaining that:
If your friend has been dealing with anxiety for a while, chances are they already know what does and doesn’t help them feel better. Ask what they need and then do it, even if their request seems silly to you.
But what if your friend isn’t asking you such questions?
The bottom line, no matter how loving, other people may not fully understand your situation or just may not know that the helpful questions to ask. And that’s okay.
If this is your situation, then I encourage you to be that friend to yourself: if no one is asking you the questions you need, ask them to yourself, like I did. Then advocate for yourself. Approach your relationships with those boundaries in mind. The benefits to each of you, and your friendship, is worth it.