Anxiety – Part III: How to Live With a Hot Mess

I’ve blogged before about my anxiety issues so I won’t bore you with the details.  If you want to catch up on the whole sordid mess, you can find the blogs here and here.

This blog will be a little different in that I want to share with all of you the things you should NOT do when you live with someone who suffers from anxiety/panic attacks.

Before I share these insightful little tidbits with you, let me first say for my part in all of this, I am doing ALL I can do.  There are great prescription drugs available now to help with this problem but sadly I don’t have insurance so can’t get these little miracle workers in pill form.  However, I am very aware of the techniques to quell anxiety and the OTC supplements to knock the edge off.   If it’s out there you can rest assured I’ve tried it.

You see, to someone who is in the throes of a panic attack, it feels like we’re dying.  Literally.  The fear, the rapid heartbeat, the dizziness, the myriad of other symptoms…it’s a feeling that can’t adequately be described.  I’ve been to our local emergency room a couple of times because I thought I was having a heart attack and if you know me at all then you know it takes close to an act of God to get me to go to a hospital.

Living with someone who suffers from anxiety/panic attacks isn’t easy.   It’s a balancing act a lot of the time and there are times when neither party really knows what to do.  We can’t predict when an attack will happen so it sometimes comes as a surprise to everyone involved.  It disrupts lives.  It is, to be blunt, a pain in the ass.  It’s a life of fighting vicious cycles and what helps the most (for me anyway) is to know I have people who do love me enough to TRY and understand what I’m going through.

So, in my bitchy & bold way of laying it all out there, I want to share with my readers what NOT to do to help.

*  Don’t try to fix us.  You can’t.  We aren’t broken.  We’re not crazy.  It just happens we have this THING we have to live with.  Speaking for myself, I already feel like a failure a lot of the time.  Insinuating I’m crazy doesn’t help.  AT ALL.

*  Don’t ask us “what’s wrong” or “what caused it.”  MOST of the time we don’t know and being pressured to answer that is too much.

*  Don’t move our stuff.  You’ll find, I think, that some who suffer with anxiety also have a touch of OCD.  At least I do.  I wake up every day having a plan in my head of how my day should go.  When I set out to execute that plan and things have been moved it throws me off.  I NEED things to be a certain way, in a certain place because it gives me a sense of control.  The least little disruption can cause an out-of-control spiral.

*  Don’t lose your patience.  If you think you might, go away.  Take a break.

*  Don’t add to the problem.  If you sense that the person is becoming what I call “twirly” then back off.  Pay attention.  Look around you.  Do what you can to remove anything that might seem chaotic.

*  If you want to help us, ask first.  This goes back to needing to be in control.  EXAMPLE:  The other day, I walked into our bedroom and Billy was sorting laundry.  HE WAS HELPING but my brain immediately translated it into “OMG!  HE’S DISRUPTING MY PLAN! PANIC!”  He’s not stupid.  He can sort clothes.  I had to force myself to give him the power over our laundry.  A better approach to this would have been had he asked me first.  Had he said to me, “I want to help and sort the clothes” first then I would have been fine.  Probably.

*  Don’t hug.  Now, this might just be something that isn’t tolerable for me.  Some people might find hugs helpful, but in my case, it only makes me feel trapped.  I don’t want to feel trapped so hands off.  The flip side to that is I also can’t be alone so just stay close but don’t touch me.

*  Don’t expect miracles every day.  Some days are good, some days are bad.  Some days I can get out of bed and kick ass all day.   Other days I CAN NOT get out of bed.  I feel safe there and when I need to feel safe, that is where I will stay.

*  Don’t push us.  If we can’t do something, don’t push us to do it.   Don’t push us to leave the house, be around people, drive a car, talk on the phone or anything else we say we CAN’T do at the time.  Just let it go.

People who live with anxiety/panic attacks may come across as selfish.  We’re not.  It’s just that we have this disorder and we HAVE to learn to deal with it in our own way in order to function and survive.  We don’t like or enjoy it.  We don’t set out to be difficult.  Our intention isn’t to be a thorn in anyone’s side.   We WANT to be “normal” and as much as we hate to admit it, we NEED help.   It’s just that we need help on terms that allow us to cope.

One of my favorite sayings is “roll with it.”  That is what we must do.  Those of us who suffer with the disorder must learn to roll with it and so must our loved ones.  We all have to do what works and luckily for me, I’m able to identify what helps and what hurts.  I am also  blessed to have people in my life who love me and want to understand.

Ironically, writing this blog on anxiety has caused me to feel anxious.

See what I mean?  VICIOUS CYCLES.

Charlie Brown 1

Author: Lisa Summerlin

The Smoking Squirrel is my way of bringing happiness to the world. I firmly believe that laughter is the best medicine and sometimes we all need a negative-free zone. This is it. Enjoy!

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