Disclaimer. This is not me saying the people around me are heartless, unempathetic individuals who have no clue about anxiety. This is me just explaining my frustrations. I am not being a dick. I am not saying all people are shit. I’m just highlighting some things that has been said to me in the past and explaining why it didn’t help.
Just don’t think about it.
Of course. That’s exactly where I am going wrong. I just don’t need to think about it.
Yeah right. I’m sorry but if the solution was just don’t think about it I would have not been signed off for three months last year.
Unfortunately, this is just one of many nuggets of advice I have been given over the last two years. I understand that people are trying to help but telling someone with anxiety to try not to think about it is like telling someone to not think of a yellow dinosaur with a pink bow on it’s head.
I bet you just thought of a yellow dinosaur with a pink bow on it’s head.
Try not to worry.
Another variation of this invaluable advice is try not to worry.
Ahh right! Shit, why didn’t the doctor tell me this at my first appointment. I’m such an idiot, of course that is the solution.
Worry is my main problem. It is my anxiety. I am a born worrier and I worry about everything. I worry for everyone else. I have been known to worry about things that aren’t even going to happen. Because that is a major cause of my anxiety. So telling me not to worry is basically giving me a new worry; to worry about not being able to not worry.
Get it now?
Try read a book or watch TV.
Have you ever tried to watch TV or read a book while a stampede is running through your living room? No? Neither have I. But I imagine that is similar to how easy it is to read a book or watch TV while having a particularly bad bout of anxiety. For me, it can just create more anxious thoughts and feelings. When I am really anxious I just accept that I can’t do anything. To be honest, social media is the only thing I can concentrate on as the rate at which I refresh throughout the day means my concentration only ever needs to stretch for a mere two minutes before I have caught up.
So thanks for that advice but not gonna work.
Just go out and look at the birds
This is a personal favourite of mine and it was said to me during the time while I was signed off work. I would say I was probably at my lowest point. Now I don’t really like birds. I accept them. They are quite cute. But that’s it. Why the f*ck would I want to go and look at them? When I can’t get myself through my front door why would birds be the cure that is going to make me have a miraculous recovery.
I do understand what was meant by the comment. What was meant was to get myself out of the house. It was meant in the nicest way. But at that point in my anxiety driven state I just wanted to scream.
DO YOU HONESTLY THINK THAT RIGHT NOW I WANT TO GO AND LOOK AT SOME BIRDS?
No. I don’t.
I did, in fact, reply with:
‘That’s a good idea, I might try that. Thanks.’
The point of this post is that sometimes you can’t expect people to understand because they haven’t experienced what you are going through.
I think the real problem with people’s ‘helpful’ comments is that it feels as if they are, no doubt unintentionally, playing down the effect anxiety has and the fact that it is an illness. Let’s face it, these same people would not suggest to someone with a broken arm to try not to think about the pain. They would suggest painkillers, and afterwards, to aid recovery, physiotherapy.
What I’m trying to say is you might not think it but you probably know what is best for you. Just take the ‘advice’ people give you and have a little chuckle to yourself, ‘if only you knew!’
To be honest. I’m glad my friends and family have this ignorance, it means that they have never suffered the level of anxiety I have. And if that’s what it would take for them to understand I will just continue to take their [slightly unhelpful] advice as I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy.
So the next time someone tells you to look at the birds take it as a positive.
You are doing okay.
You maybe do know whats best for you. Because at least you can come away from the conversation fully confident in the fact that looking at birds will do f*ck all for your anxiety.