“Being able to feel safe with other people is probably the single most important aspect of mental health; safe connections are fundamental to meaningful and satisfying lives.” – Bessel Van Der Kolk
If you’ve ever been a good friend to someone that suffers from anxiety, you probably know that it’s a lot of work. You have to deal with their constant mood swings, fears, emotions and insecurities all while being their rock. It really is a tough gig.
There are probably an enormous amount of times that you want to scream, pull out your hair and simply tell your friend that they’re being irrational. You may get insanely frustrated that they can’t just shut off their anxiety. Yet, you often sit there quietly and listen to every word.
Sometimes you give them words of encouragement while holding them in a tight knit hug, merely letting them know that they’re safe. Other times you may yell and give them tough love because you don’t fully understand their disease which frustrates you even more.
You may sit and cry together in silence when the world just seems too overwhelming for your anxious minded friend. You cry because you’ve never dealt with such pain and aren’t sure what to do or say. Sometimes you may even cry tears of joy when they’re having a good day because you’re ecstatic to see them happy.
Despite all of the craziness that comes along with loving an anxious mind, you stick around, and your mere presence means more to us than you could ever know.
While being a friend to someone that struggles with anxiety can be quite overwhelming, I imagine it’s a love-hate relationship. There are a ton of positives and negatives that come along with loving us, things that we rarely control.
However, I hope you know that if an anxious mind chooses you as a friend you should take it as an extreme compliment. We are extremely selective in who we allow into our lives. Our anxiety tries to isolate us from everyone and tell us that we are unworthy of love.
If you are chosen to become a part of our inner circle, know that it is a big decision for us. It takes everything in our being to truly let people in and see the real, flawed, messy us…the sides we often hide.
We have to silence the constant ruckus going on in our heads in order to focus on another person. We not only have to learn to let our walls down, but we also have to stand up to our anxiety and tell it that we refuse to be alone. That, my dear, is no small feat.
So while your friendship means the world to us, know that there were certain traits we found in you that let us tear our walls down and silence our anxious minds. There was something we saw in you that made us feel safe and willing to open ourselves up with the risk of being hurt.
There are a few things that we saw in you, a few things that the friend of an anxious mind must possess:
We need to know that no matter what we can trust you with our deepest, darkest secrets. We need to feel like we can trust you with our feelings and that you will never do us wrong. Trust is crucial in any relationship, but we value it more than most.
We know we’re not the easiest people to be friends with. We have so many mood swings and “irrational fears” that many people don’t understand. When we’re having an anxiety attack, you won’t be able to relate to us. Yet we need to know that you will be patient with us as we work through things.
As our friend, it’s imperative that we know you’re loyal to us. Insecurities go hand-in-hand with anxiety, and a disloyal friend makes our insecurities unbearable. Constantly worrying about where you stand will only make our anxiety worse and ultimately end our friendship.
We need you to understand that we aren’t making things up. What we are telling you is really how we feel, even when you can’t relate. While you may have never dealt with anxiety in your personal life, we need you to understand that everything we feel and say is very real to us.
Lastly, we need you to be a strong person. We understand that everyone has moments in life where they get broken down. However, we need you to be our rock. Many times in our anxiety filled lives we need someone to be strong for us. We need someone that can help us through the really dark times and tell us that everything will be okay.
While each person has something different they look for in a friendship or relationship, these tend to be at the top of our list. It may take us a while to let you in, but once we do you’ll be happy you stuck around.
Although we seem to have a lot of baggage that comes along with us, we are the most loyal people you will ever meet. A friend with anxiety may take a while to warm up to you, but once they do you’ll see the amazing soul they possess.
While anxiety is a part of us, it’s not all of us. We still have so many traits that you’ll fall in love with like being extremely clean, always on time and super organized (to name a few). You’ll start to realize not to judge a book by its cover and that life with anxiety doesn’t mean you can’t be happy.
I must say although my circle is extremely small, I wouldn’t trade them for the world. They’ve seen me experience my highest highs and my lowest lows, and they’ve loved me through them all. They each possess the 5 qualities I listed above and so much more.
So if you befriend an anxious mind just be ready to commit for the long hall, because once we let you in there’s no turning back…
Myka Shantell 💋