Anxiety is not just jitters or butterflies. Its more than just fight or flight. It’s stomach-curling dread. It’s terror. It’s the unshakeable sense of oncoming darkness. It’s disgust and fear and anger and shame all rolled up into one fun-filled emotion. It’s an unshakeable belief that the worst is about to happen, that rejection, humiliation, and ruin are around the corner. To have an anxiety disorder is to live every day with an awareness of danger and loss and pain and death.
When we ask the anxious people in our lives to resist washing their hands, or sit near that household chemical, or not ask that reassurance question we might as well be asking them to put their finger in a socket, or to jump from a plane with a parachute that has a 50% chance of working. It’s our job to help them see that nothing bad is actually going to happen, that the risk involved in daily life is, in fact, minuscule. But we must also remind ourselves just how dire things are inside of their heads.
People suffering from anxiety put on their best face when they need to, for teachers, for doctors, for therapists, even for family and friends. But underneath, they are suffering, and it’s usually those closest who take the brunt of that suffering, who are there when the anxiety sufferers unleash their anger and frustration and misery. And that can be hard to take. And it can be hard to see them sabotaging themselves, and believing untrue things, and repeating their same old patterns. But let’s not forget the emotional pain that drives them to do these things.
The truth is that things will get better. Life will get easier. Anxiety can be overcome. But such strong emotions won’t pass overnight. This is going to take time.