The presence of anxiety in people seems to be an instant connector. Sure, anxiety makes it so that it's not always so easy to make that connection (like, that would involve having to leave bed and actually initiate a conversation with a human). But when it happens, whether it's in person or over Tumblr or Twitter or wherever, it feels good. Someone out there gets it. You aren't alone.
Unfortunately, those with anxiety don't always feel that.
Eighteen percent of the US population suffers from anxiety. But what about the other 82%? (I literally had to just use a calculator to do that. It's fine. I'm fine.). If you suffer from anxiety, you will find some awesome people who know what to say (or not say) and how to try to understand your anxiety. This might be your best friend, your parents, your siblings, a teacher, or your therapist.
And then there will be the people that just do not get it. The outgoing people that love parties, never think twice about that embarrassing thing they did 9 years ago, and absolutely don't check their bathroom 3 times before they leave for work to make sure they didn't leave the hair straightener plugged in.
AKA The Enemy.
Just kidding. They're not the enemy. They just sometimes need a little help in figuring out how to handle people with anxiety.
I think that, when people who don't have cancer also don't understand what it's like to have cancer, that makes sense to everyone. Everything about cancer is unfamiliar to them. They don't know how chemotherapy feels, they don't know the emotions that come with being diagnosed -- so it makes sense for people who don't have cancer to be like, "Whoa, I know nothing about this so I'm just gonna sit here and be supportive." But with anxiety, it's different. You're anxious about going answering a telephone? Well, non-anxious people answer telephones all the time with no problem...so why can't you? It's more tempting for people to try to problem-solve because the problems revolve around actions that are familiar to them...and are not at all anxiety-provoking in their minds.
So how do you try to explain to your mom, who answers the phone daily with complete ease, that answering a phone makes you extremely anxious, to the point of tears? I think it's about capturing your personal emotional experience with anxiety and explaining it to the best of your ability. But it's hard to describe complicated feelings and emotions with words.
If you are living with anxiety and have a parent, partner, friend, or sibling who doesn't get it, try explaining the experience with pictures and comics. Drawings seem to be a really great way to frame feelings of anxiety in a way that's easy for others to understand. Check out the photos below for some great examples of art describing anxiety. Leave a comment and let me know if you think they are accurate!