It's hard to understand anxiety, but you can still support someone

I was diagnosed with anxiety when I was 15 and it’s something I still struggle with today in my twenties. For a while now it seems like it’s all I’ve known, and a big portion of my life has been either trying to hide it or desperately trying to find people that I can open up to that will be kind and give me the support I need. I dare say I’ve found those people.

However, sometimes it feels like even those people don’t care about me. The constant worrying that I’m not good enough, that no one will ever truly like me and want to spend time with me, the fear that my friends are only my friends out of sympathy. I still can’t get rid of those intrusive thoughts.

I think I’ve been lucky in terms of the people I have around me, my friends and family who listen on the odd chance I feel comfortable enough to speak about how I feel. There are, of course, people who don’t understand, my dad being one of them, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t mean well.

I remember how he’d reference how he knew I had ‘problems’ but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try to do things. That always hurt, but with time he’s become more patient with me. He’ll never ‘get it’ though. My dad is one of the most confident and outgoing, extroverted people I know and that’s why me telling him I just feel too anxious will never resonate with him; I got my worrying tendencies from my mum after all. But that’s ok because he still tries and that’s what matters.

I used to get really upset about it but as I’ve grown up, we’ve learned to understand each other more even if he’ll never quite know what my anxiety is. I wonder if he thought it was just teenage angst that would eventually go away. That’s an attitude I’ve found to be quite prevalent now, as well as when I was younger, the kind of attitude that made me embarrassed to admit I was struggling.

It’s important to be kind, to listen, to believe those around you who reach out for help when it concerns a mental health issue like anxiety, let them know that you’re on their side. You don’t have to ‘get it’, what matters is that you want to learn, and you can be mindful of what you say and do. These small changes in attitude can affect someone more than you realise.