Tuesday, April 11, 2017

I Didn't Used To Be This Way

When I was in my early to mid 20s, before my diagnosis though not before my illness set in apparently, I was given the nickname "energizer bunny." I've never been sure if it was a legit compliment, a backhanded one, or more of an observation, but still, it speaks volumes. Turns out, in hindsight, I was hypomanic and unmedicated much of the time. But still, I've always had a pretty high level of energy. I also used to think I had a general love of fun, and people. I drew people to me somehow, and I was actually OK with it, though even then I sometimes felt like it wasn't all real - like I was somehow unintentionally fooling everyone.  That I wasn't really as likable or successful or fun as they thought, but that through some actions other than my own (I am no actress and I have never put on any type of front), people thought that I was. But still, I felt fun and social.

Ten to fifteen years later, I have no such illusions. At 37, I spend the majority of my time hoping to keep myself in the cocoon of me, my fiance, our dog, and a couple of trusted family members and loved ones. Now, I'm often so exhausted that people actually ask me if I've taken something to make me sleepy because I'm obviously struggling to keep my eyes open in the middle of the day. And while my medication can make me a little more tired, it shouldn't make my eyelids turn to lead (at least not the one I take). These days, I sincerely sit there on Fridays hoping that we have no plans and can just relax at home. If I make it to 10PM it's a late night. If I manage to put on anything other than pajamas when I get home from work (even on the days when I get home from work at 2:30PM), I impress myself.

These days, I have so many triggers and anxieties and social fears that it borders on concerning. I feel bad for those around me, especially my fiance, who has to accommodate these on a weekly, and often daily, basis.
  • If it's a group event (as in going with a group), I panic:  I'll have to socialize, which often means small talk, superficial, surface level. It means people actually looking at me. If it's people I don't know (or don't know well), it's worse.  What if nobody else likes me? What if I'm too quiet or awkward or different? What if I actually get comfortable and let go a bit, and then I'm too loud and talkative, as I do, and it annoys everyone. What if they're standing there thinking, "God would she stop talking?" I have this fear almost continually, even with those closest to me. What if they think that because I'm talkative that I'm anxious or stressed or high strung? This happens all the time. When everyone else is energetic and excited, they're friendly and happy. When I am, people think I'm stressed and tell me to calm down, or just think I'm too high strung. Even when I'm happy or joking around. It's SO FRUSTRATING - My anxiety finally eases in a situation and people tell me to calm down thinking I'm anxious. I've become so self-conscious of it that I constantly feel the need to clarify that I'm just joking. People thinking I'm anxious when I'm not actually makes me anxious. It's awful. 
  • If I can't control the schedule or transportation, anxiety is extreme. What if I have a flare up or an anxiety attack or a panic attack and can't leave? What will I do? What if my ME/CFS hits and I get so exhausted that I can barely stand up straight? And then I come off as no fun. I don't want to bring everyone down. I don't want the people I'm with to have to leave because of me.
  • Does it involve a lot of drinking? These days I can't drink much because of how it affects my depression, among other things (fatigue, IBS, migraines, to name a few). And as I get older, drunk people annoy me to no end. I can't see why grown adults need to dedicate a whole days or even weekends to getting drunk. So by this point I'm worried I'll be too awkward or annoying, have a flare up, not be able to leave, and annoyed as shit, and it'll come out at everyone. Talk about a downer. 
  • Will I have to be out late? I know my anxiety over getting enough sleep will not let me sleep in, so then I'll just be lacking sleep which will make me cycle more. And then I won't sleep. And the cycle continues. 
  • The after-effects. Peopling and the anxiety and fear it causes can physically hurt at times. It can take me literally days to recover. The exhaustion, the anxiety, the anticipation even if I don't end up having anxiety when there, the worry over being too loud or quiet or awkward or whatever. It takes so much energy to put on the mask. To pretend I''m ok when I'm not, that I'm having fun when I just want to go home, that I'm not literally sweating from anxiety. It takes so much effort that it's draining. And I hate that my options are to either go through this or affect the plans and social lives of others. 
I didn't used to be this way. I used to be energetic, and fun. I used to go out and have fun and be the person people wanted to invite. And, though I always lacked a little confidence, I didn't constantly feel like people were just throwing me a bone. Like I was included to not hurt my feelings. Now, there are drastically few people (who aren't related to me) who I feel actually want to. And I don't say this for sympathy or for reassurance or accolades. I say it to illustrate how my illnesses have impacted me in ways that those without chronic illness may not think about.

I also used to be more able, more capable. 10 years ago, and this is going to sound super conceited but I don't mean it this way, I wouldn't have taken on projects and just not been successful at them. I wouldn't have done a charity walk for a cause so important to me and have to literally beg some of even my closest friends to give just $5. 10 years ago, I wouldn't have started a blog that I had to beg friends and family to follow (on the blog site, not just occasionally via Facebook posts) and share. I never would have had my advocacy efforts flop so spectacularly, when I put my heart and soul into them. I don't know how I did it, but I managed. It was like I was a different person. And while I'd tend to think that luck, it happened with almost everything from work to school to projects to social life (OK, not my first marriage, but that's a different story), so it must have been at least part me. Now, that probably sounds spoiled, but I worked my ass off for every single thing that I undertook. It was blood, sweat, and tears that got me those things. It was working through what I now know were cycles, and ME/CFS flareups, and IBS, and BDD, and eating troubles. It was going through that and accomplishing all that I did. And yet now, I work as hard as I can and it feels like so little works. It baffles me. 

I did not used to be this way. I didn't used to be so afraid and nervous and cocooned into myself. I didn't used to be so little fun. I didn't use to fail at so much. I didn't used to feel like a burden, like without people helping me wouldn't be able to stand on my own two feet. I didn't used to feel so in need of accommodation. I feel guilty when we have to say no to yet another social outing because of my illnesses. And sometimes I wonder, should I just force myself? But then I try, and it's usually disastrous. I break part way through, and then it's not only un-fun, but probably downright embarrassing for the people involved. And it makes my illnesses flare more badly, and I realize why I don't force myself. 

I know that life could be so much worse. Lack of social abilities and struggling advocacy goals doesn't hold a candle to, say, not being able to walk or breathe on my own; or not being able to digest anything and have to monitor every tiny thing I intake; or having to go through chemo and surgeries. There are so many people out there that are so much worse off and so much stronger than me. But it weighs on me, feeling an unsuccessful burden. And sometimes, I think "I can do it too. I can be strong and feel successful too!" So I get all ramped up and I put every effort into things - social, advocacy, writing, etc - and they crash and burn. And I think, "No, I simply used to be that way." 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

An Introvert With Anxiety Walks Into A Coffee Shop

I'd say a bar, but I don't really go to bars much because... people. Sometimes lots of people. Sometimes loud, annoying, drunk people who bump/push/fall into you. So, an introvert with anxiety, both general and social, walks into a coffee shop. That was me one morning last month.

I needed some headspace, and I didn't have to be to work until later than usual (woo hoo holiday hours!), so I thought I'd relax and write, sip some coffee, and have a granola parfait. For some reason, I thought that being a holiday, the cafe would be less crowded. I figured people stopped in on their way to work, or had their informal business meetings there, and being a (bank) holiday, they wouldn't be doing this. At first, I was affirmed.  I walked into only a handful of people there, dispersed throughout the shop, bought my coffee and parfait and sat down. I was about two minutes into writing when a pair sat down at my table and started talking - not to me, but still, talking. 

Now, the tables are "communal", but they aren't overly large tables - I think five chairs, and one of those is on the short end (head of the table style). In fairness, this pair sat on the corner, so I have to give them that. They didn't just plop down next to me and completely invade my large sphere of introverted personal space. But still, I ask before I just sit down. Maybe that person is expecting others. Maybe they're just having a really shitty day and need to not have two strangers sitting at the same table in relatively close quarters. Maybe they've been hermiting themselves away and finally had the courage to come out some place, but weren't ready to be sharing their table with people they don't know (or do), because being out with other people is about all they have in them. 

To be clear, I wasn't upset at this pair. They didn't do anything wrong. I was anxious. They didn't say anything, but I'm pretty sure that I was visibly slinking towards my little corner of the space. If I'd slid over any further, I would have fallen off my stool. I actually pulled my coffee, parfait, and notebook closer towards me, like some sort of invisibility shield. As the coffee shop continued to fill up, a line formed right past my table. People stood on either side of the line (and the space is not large) waiting for their orders. This included people standing almost immediately next to my table, like I could have reached out and touched them (I didn't, that's creepy). I actually felt like walls were closing in. My breath started to get shallow, as it does with anxiety. 

And then, something miraculous happened. A dog walked in. A good sized dog (my favorite!) that looked like a yellow-lab, German Shepard mix. And the people melted away. I looked imploringly at the dog. By which I mean awkwardly stared, hoping the owner would say "Oh she's friendly, you can pet her". It did not happen, much to my chagrin. But for that ten minutes while the dog was in the coffee shop, my anxiety was in the background.   I don't know why dogs are less intimidating than people. But I do know that I could have 10 dogs literally sitting on me, or two people sitting five feet away at the table, and I'd take the 10 dogs any day. 

Now, I get that extroverts without social/anxiety probably think: "Well, if you don't want to be near people, don't go to a place where there are likely to be people."  And they have a valid point here. Which is why I tend to like to be home and with loved ones. I'd rather spend a Friday night reading than out at a party.  In fact, I actively avoid social situations where there will be 1.) a lot of people  and 2.) particularly, people I don't know. Because those involve interaction and quite often, small talk/superficial interaction, which is tricky and unpleasant for the introvert side of me. Talking about unimportant stuff that I really don't care about because I'm obligated to seems rather pointless and soul dredging. But coffee shops, minus a quick "I'll have a black coffee and a parfait", don't tend to involve this. So they are a safe haven. They give me the opportunity to be out and about without having to be overly social. But when people start sitting at your table, holding conversations two chairs over from you, that blurs the lines for me. They're "kind of" in your personal space. They're not interacting with you, but they're at the same table, not far away from you, and talking. You could jump right into the conversation if you felt like it (of course I didn't). It's a weird feeling. 

Luckily, they finished their drinks and left, hopefully no wiser to my massive level of discomfort. I felt bad - this wasn't their fault, and they were doing what many people do at communal, albeit barely, tables in a public space. So I tried my hardest to look pleasant and avoid any eye contact that might give it away. But I'm curious what other introverts with anxiety would feel. Would this type of thing make you anxious? What if they were dogs (insert favorite domesticated animal here) instead of people? Are there other situations like this that have given you bad anxiety in the past? Do you have tricks for getting past it? I'm all ears!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Hakuna Matata

I recently spent almost two weeks in Kenya and Tanzania. I travel often, and this wasn't my first trip to Africa, but it was certainly the most ambitious trip I've taken - there or anywhere. Now don't get me wrong - I wasn't camping out among the elements.  My "tented camps" were luxury five-star, complete with king sized beds and state of the art private bathrooms/showers, plus basically personal waiter service at every meal - in the five-star restaurant on site. Plus we had a private guide each day who knew exactly where to go and what to do.  We weren't roughing it. But still, there were a lot of (literal) moving pieces, and a lot that could have gone wrong - travel wise and health wise.

First, I had to take antimalarial medication. One of the warnings of this medication is that it can cause some depression. I've taken it before without issue, but considering I already battle depression, each time I take it is a little nerve wracking. That said, I'm unfortunately familiar with depression and figured that I could get through it for the trip. I do not want to also be familiar with malaria, so I took my chances. Secondly, there were a lot of potentially anxiety-producing pieces. Such as long plane rides (I don't like flying, ironically). And short plane rides on 12-seat planes. Which I found out by unfortunate experience, are not pressurized and cause altitude sickness. Did I mention I get migraines with altitude? And suffer from vertigo and motion sickness? I vomited my way through the 45 minutes between Nairobi and the Mara and it took most of the afternoon to recover fully. It was quite possibly the longest 45 minutes I've ever spent. In addition to the health stuff, both countries required a visa, one of which (Kenya) we got before hand, but the other (Tanzania) which we had to get at the border. So while it was unlikely, there was always the slight possibility that they could not let us in. That kind of thing makes me anxious. Not just while I'm going through it, but days, weeks, in advance. It's an unknown, and I don't like unknowns. There were other pieces too. We were told that our local tour operators would meet us on the ground with all the vouchers for the flights, accommodations, tours, once in Nairobi. So we literally flew over with just our overseas flight details and an itinerary saying that we'd be met with the rest of our documents for the entire trip. Again, unknowns. I had to just bank on everyone being where they were supposed to and having what they were supposed to every step of the way.

When we got there, everything changed. I found (minus the whole vomiting through an entire flight) I felt better than usual. In part, this was due to everyone being where they were supposed to be, and having the documents they were supposed to, and just being wonderful overall. But more than that, it was the attitude of the people. They have a saying there, you might have heard of it:  Hakuna Matata. If, like me, you thought this was a fun phrase created for the Lion King, you are mistaken. I noticed it particularly in Kenya, but in Tanzania some too. Basically, it means (very loosely translated) 'Everything is fine." Or perhaps "Everything will work out". And they mean it. It's not a brush off. It's not the "calm down, relax" that us with anxiety get thrown at us so often. It's truly their outlook. If there was a concern or a mix up or a confusion, they took care of it. If you weren't feeling well, they took care of you as best they could. If you had a question, they answered it. If you needed something, they helped.  And more off, you knew they would. For someone that battles crippling anticipatory anxiety (i.e. worrying about what could or might happen), this made a world of difference. I didn't feel like I was out there struggling on my own, hoping for the best option but knowing that achieving it would take it's toll on my health, leaving me exhausted and drained at best. A while back, I wrote a blog in which I asked people to stop telling me it would be ok, when they couldn't actually do anything to guarantee that it would be ok.  But here, they actually did make it OK. They could do something about it.  I could actually relax. And it felt magical.

When you're out there in the expanses of the plains, among the animals, something incredible happens - you realize how small you are. You watch these creatures who instinctively know how to live their whole lives and you think, "Wow, I really don't have my shit together." This little gazelle is sitting ten feet from a lion - it's greatest predator - but knows that because it's the wet season it can easily outrun the lion, who does better in the dry plains. The lion knows this too, and for that reason, knows there's no point in him going after the gazelle. So there they sit nearby harmoniously. These animals know exactly how other animals will react at exactly the time of year, and I can't figure out which new back splash will best match my new cabinets in my condo. It makes you want to get your shit together. It makes you want to be part of that something bigger. Not the life cycles of animals on the Serengeti, per se, but just to be doing something that truly makes a difference, that matters on a bigger scale. I'm not sure how that all connects, but it seems to, at least in my brain. The expanses of the planes and the animals somehow get into your blood (not literally, hopefully!) and you want your life to feel more expansive too. At least I do.

So I came back with some affirmation of my efforts in mental health and chronic illness advocacy. It helped me to feel that my goals in this arena are well founded, and it motivated me to push forward, even when I doubt myself. And of course, as it goes with chronic illness and mental health, some days are drastically different than others. But at least it's a start. And it was a hell of a great way to get there. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

National Napping Day

Happy National Napping Day! Let me tell you, this is one "holiday" I can get behind. When you have a chronic illness, a nap often is more than a luxury - it's a necessity. Whether it's the condition itself (such as my MECFS, which actually has the word fatigue in the name of the disorder), the lack of energy from your disorder, or a side effect of medication or treatment, chronic illness often leaves you exhausted. Physically, emotionally, mentally.

So many days, I wake up with plans - I'm going to get this done and that done, these chores and those tasks. Then, I get home mid-day from my part time job, and I just physically cannot do it. Not that I don't want to do it, but I cannot. Sometimes, it's physical exhaustion, plain and simple. my MECFS is flaring up and it hurts to move. Or my depression is so bad that I physically am unable to do things - it feels like there's a giant weight pushing down on me, like my legs and arms are made of lead. (If you think that depression is "all in our heads", think again - there are real physical symptoms). Other times, I'm emotionally and mentally so drained that I might, at best, possibly go through the motions without actually being able to focus. Which means I can maybe do mindless tasks, but anything requiring brain power is off limits.

It's frustrating, to say the least. Especially when you own your own business, and are trying to build up a nonprofit project.  When you're self-employed, unless you're doing so well that you have tons of people working under you and business funds itself (and you and your employees) easily all of the time, a lot of the success is determined by your motivation, inspiration, and action each and every day. When you lose a day or two or five due to illness, it really takes its toll. Not to mention the number it does to your confidence and self-esteem.

And then there's social life. It's kind of rough when a good friend wants to spend time and you have to say "Well, I really need to nap instead."  It's tough to miss gatherings and time with those close to us. It's difficult to have to turn down or cancel plans because you need to rest. But it's part of chronic illness, and one of the many things over time that we learn to accept.

Finally, there's possibly the most frustrating piece of the puzzle - many times, the naps don't help. You take them because you truly are drained beyond belief, and it's the only thing you can do. You are legitimately tired. So tired that you think, "this time, it will help."  But ultimately, you wake still exhausted. Day after day, nap after nap. No matter how early you go to bed or how many days you take a nap. And sometimes you think, "Maybe I should just force myself to get through it. Maybe if I make myself work on that project or exercise (which can help, in moderation and small doses) or go out with friends, I'll be ok." So you try. But it doesn't work. You only feel worse, and you wonder why you tried in the first place. It's demoralizing at times.

But today, we get with reckless abandon! After all, it's a national day dedicated to just that. So here's to all of my fellow spoonies, for whom national napping day, if you actually get to "participate", is like Christmas (insert holiday you really like where you're given gifts). Not only can we nap without feeling bad about it, but we've paved the way for doing so!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The End of an Era - Celebrating A Life

I had another post planned for today, but I had to change it. I found out this morning that my Great-Aunt passed away. It was not particularly a surprise. She was the last of my grandmother's siblings alive, and while I do not know her exact age, I'd say she was probably around 90 and been sick for some time. She was, in a way, the end of an era. My Aunt Alice, widow of my Uncle Charlie (Grandma's brother), is still alive. But Aunt Clara was the last Albanese sibling. She was the last who knew my Grandma growing up, who lived in my Great Grandparents' house, where my mom was born. The last who knew the family recipes that, love or hate them, I associate with family holidays of my youth.

For reasons that I won't go into here, I hadn't seen my Aunt Clara since my grandmother's funeral in 2008. It was not because we didn't want to see her - she was sick and due to circumstances, unable to see anyone. So I can't say I have recent memories with her. She lived in Buffalo, NY, as does the majority of my family on my mom's side, so she wasn't right around the corner. But as children, until about the age of 16, we went to Buffalo every single holiday. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Easter, and at least one of the summer holidays. We spent a lot of time, those days, with Aunt Clara. Her generation always seemed impossibly old, being the eldest generation at the gatherings, but thinking about it as an adult, she was probably in her early 50s, if that.

Aunt Clara was my the closest sister in age to my grandmother, and her best friend. They did everything together. She was the sibling that we, as kids, spent the most time with on our visits. I honestly can't remember a holiday celebration without her.

As my family tends to do, instead of mourning a death, we celebrate a life. Often, with humor, or at least light-heartedness. It seems the best way to remember a person, especially one who suffered so at the end of their life - I don't think anyone wants to be remembered old and sick and suffering. And so, here are some of my most memorable Aunt Clara experiences and stories.

  • Aunt Clara was the world's WORST cook. I mean the absolute worst. She would substitute ingredients simply because they looked alike. No sugar? It's ok, there was salt for that! Literally. We used to all spend time at a house on a lake (I should know the name of it but I cannot) and on one occasion, against our better judgement, we let her make dinner - she'd chosen hamburgers, which seemed a pretty safe bet (I was about 8 then, so still ate some meat). No sooner did we eat, then every single one of us ran out in the bushes to get sick. Every. One. She tried so hard and we didn't want to hurt her feelings, so we just took turns vomiting in the bushes and trying to distract her so that she didn't notice. 
  • She always clearly dyed her hair, but for a while, she had this really bad reddish orange color. She was so sweet that nobody had the heart to tell her it looked terrible, but it was a badly kept family joke. 
  • Her house was, for some reason, always a mystery. It was messy beyond belief - I remember it taking effort to get in the door. But she always invited us over and dutifully, we went. I think she had some cats - I associate her house with cats, but I may be wrong. There was also something weird about the bathroom. To this day, I couldn't tell you what it was, but like her cooking and dye job, it was just something known in the family. "If you have to go to Aunt Clara's, make a pit stop before hand, because you do not go in the bathroom." I don't think it was filthy, I think it was just some place you didn't go. 
  • Of course, there's that family infamous cake-baking story. My Grandma and Aunt Clara decided to bake a cake for a special occasion (I believe, but I don't recall the occasion). The cake called for egg yokes.  This was in their younger days, and they were not wealthy, so they didn't want to waste anything.  So "naturally", after they'd separated the yokes out, they forced themselves to gag down the raw egg whites. They simply couldn't toss them. Several steps later in the recipe, they realized it now called for them to add in the whites.
  • Last but not least, there was the time that Aunt Clara and Grandma visited England, got sick on a bus ride, and then, being too embarrassed to say anything, stashed their vomit bags in the bushes outside of Buckingham Palace while everyone was busy watching the Changing of the Guard.

All joking aside, though, Aunt Clara was the kindest person. When I think of her, I picture her the way she was when I was about 10, with smiling eyes, badly dyed hair, pink lipstick (also a bad idea), and the voice that my grandmother and her two sisters shared - they sounded almost identical, or at least they do now in my head. She always seemed so gentle to me, almost frail, but she was not. I picture her in the kitchen in my Grandma's old house, where we all gathered each and every holiday. I do not picture her old and sick. That is not how I will remember her. Instead, I will chuckle about the horrendous beach house dinner episode, the trip to London, the cake, and the mysterious bathroom that I doubt we'll ever figure out now. These are what made her, her. And they are cherished. Rest in Peace, Aunt. You were the last of the four siblings, and you are now all together again. Perhaps they'll finally teach you to cook. 

Aunt Clara, Grandma (Lena), Aunt Lucy, and Uncle Charlie in their youth. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Unusual Things That Come Naturally To Chronic Illness Sufferers

Let me clarify: by unusual I don't mean it in a derogatory manner. I mean "things that feel completely common to us, yet that those without chronic illness probably don't do/think/experience". And I mean that in the best way, because knowing that there are others out there that do the same as I do, that may have to do the same as I do because of illness, is wonderful. It makes me feel less alone, less of an anomaly. And it's only when I step outside of my spoonie community that I realize "oh, not everyone does/has to do this." And I remember why I love my spoonie community so much - because they get it.

1.  We know the "nicknames", abbreviations, and details on illnesses that others (outside of the medical field) have never heard of. This also goes for every spoonie/chronic illness chat hashtag.

2. We have ready answers for our favorite medication trackers/tools/organizers (either electronic or old fashioned pill cases).

3. We actively post photos where we look our worst, because it shows others what our symptoms look like, or how we look during a flareup.

4. We rate how we're feeling for the day in spoons.

5. We choose food according to how it helps us digest our medication. (Mini cheeses are great for mid-day meds dose, you guys!).

6. We choose food according to how badly it affects our illnesses.

7. A nap is not a luxury; it's an essential.

8. We have to create a plan to store up energy for important events, and plan recoup time to replenish.

9. We understand that grocery shopping or running errands for an hour is a big outing. And cleaning the house (when we can) requires reserve storage.

10. Trying to figure out how to take sick days from work is confusing. Every day is a sick day, so... maybe we should do the reverse and take the day when we feel slightly less sick. This way we can actually enjoy a "good" day!

Have more? I'd love to hear them!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Stop Telling Me It Will Be Ok

Clarification: This is not a political post. I've seen a lot of political posts on social media with this type of tagline, so I just want to clarify. It's about mental health, through and through.

There's something I think people don't fully understand about anxiety. In fact, I think that unless you've battled it, it's near impossible to understand, because it's what happens inside of the brain when anxiety takes the reigns. And without anxiety, you don't experience it.  That "it" is that when you battle anxiety, you can't not worry. And trying to not worry makes you feel worse. Because then, you start to worry about worrying. You end up chastising yourself for an illness you can't control.  It doesn't matter what the topic is, or how trivial it may seem to others. It doesn't matter how unlikely it is that what you're anxious about will actually occur.  And here's the piece that I think can be most frustrating to those we're close to, those who witness this anxiety: no amount of reassurance will make us feel otherwise. In fact, it often makes things worse.

Here's the thing: unless you are, somehow, the person who can actually make a situation OK, you're just guessing.  You may think it will be OK. Or you may mean that even if the worst happens in a given scenario, eventually, the person will get back on their feet. Or that what they're worried won't be that bad. But you're looking at it from your perspective, not from what's going on inside their anxious mind. You can, in no way, guarantee that what happens inside their head will be OK. You cannot control how their anxiety or depression or panic acts. You can't insure that they won't feel like they can't breathe, like their brain is going to explore or their body break down. You probably can't control their external circumstances (unless your specific actions are what they're worried about in the first place and then hell, do something about it!), and you certainly can't control the internal ones. So really, you don't know that it's going to be OK - not from their perspective and experiences, anyway. And yet you promise it will be, and want us to believe you and act accordingly. You want us to control something in our brain that we cannot, simply because you tell us it will be OK.

Continually trying to insist it'll be OK only alienates us. It makes us feel like you don't understand us, or how we're experiencing the situation. It invalidates, in a way, our worry.  Especially when you keep insisting on it, even when we tell you that we know the emotions we're in for, and they are not OK.  Basically, you're telling us that you know our body and brain better than we do. That, without being inside of our head, you know how it will react. You may not mean it this way, but it's how it comes across to use nonetheless.  In a way, I almost wish that you could have a glimpse of my worry - that you could spend even a second or two inside my head. If you understnad what the worry felt like, I wouldn't feel so isolated in my feelings, so wrong or broken for being worried.

Now, there may be times when you can help to control at least the external circumstances. If we're anxious about money because we're having trouble paying the bills and you offer to help, you actually can make the situation better. But most of the time, this isn't the case. There's rarely something you can do, right at this moment, to improve our worry. Partly, this is because much of our worry is about the future - I won't be able to do that, this will happen, that will occur. And because you can't control the future, you literally cannot prove to us that these things we are worried about are not a problem.

So what can you do to help? Stop making our worries feel trivial. Stop trying to convince us of things you have no actual proof of. Stop trying to pretend you know what will be going on inside our heads, which is where the anxiety lives.  Be there with us. Listen to us without contradicting how we feel or think. Promise us that you will be there, whatever happens. Let us know that we aren't alone, that even if the worst happens (which surely we're anxious about), that we will at least be going through it together. That won't eliminate our anxiety, because it's an illness - and illnesses aren't cured with kind words. But at least it will let us know that you are there, and that you don't think our anxieties silly, and we are not so isolated, misunderstood, and alone.