It was 2 AM; I was warm and cosy under my blanket and watching Iron Man. My phone beeped. I turned over to see who it was. It was a colleague from my new office. I felt absurd because I barely exchange pleasantries with this young man at work. I could not understand why he would call me at 2 in the night. I ignored and got back to watching Tony Stark.
Exactly, 5 minutes later my phone beeped again. It was the same young man. I felt creepy. Sensing, it could be some emergency, I decided to return his call as a courtesy. After the first ring, my colleague answered the phone with a frantic hello.
I asked him if everything was okay, to which he said, “Yeah, but can you please talk to me for a few minutes, I am feeling a little anxious.” I managed to speak about music, which comes naturally to me, and divert his mind. After 20 minutes of mumbling, I politely hung up. But the whole conversation I had with him, lingered on.
There he said it. He was dealing with anxiety.
What I am sharing here is strictly from my own personal experience.
For a layman like me, depression and anxiety are very complex terminologies to understand and live with. Though they are two entirely different conditions; but honestly, I could never differentiate between them until some friends started inching towards it.
Their behaviour, sense of thinking, and general state of mind was changing. They would behave obnoxiously; have extreme mood swings, breakdowns, and unreasonable outbursts. And, their leave-me-alone phase started happening a little too often.
I wanted to help them out, but I was clueless how.
Initially, I concluded that they were troubled or worried over something and they will get over it. But with time, I realized it was just the tip of the iceberg.
Slowly, I became cognizant about it and learnt these few things that helped me to understand them better.
I don’t know if these things may work with anyone else or not, but these common and basic things did help me to be around a friend who was struggling with anxiety.
#1: Hear Them Out
Listen to what they have to say. Do not counter them. Understand that they want to be heard (right then and there), so try not to make sense out of what they are saying but simply hear them. There are times; when all they want is to convey what is going on inside their mind. Your interruption may aggravate their panic attack.
No questions asked, because, at times, there is no way they can explain what they are dealing with.
#2: Avoid – ‘I Understand’, ‘Stop Thinking So Much’ Or ‘Calm Down First’
Refrain from using phrases like ‘I understand’ or ‘you need to calm down’ or ‘stop thinking so much’. They have heard this over and over again and been exposed to these sort of passing comments all along. You cannot recognize their fears or worries. I tried using it once and the impact of the backlash still haunts me.
#3: Do Not Pity Them
Be extra careful while choosing your words. Even in your thoughts, never pity them or their condition. They are not enjoying being in this condition or behaving this way. Every minute is tough for them. When you are around them, be mindful that you do not utter anything which hints or suggests that you are pitying them. This is the worst thing you can do to them.
#4: Do Not Mention Their Fears
At any given time, if they have ever shared their fears or anxieties with you, never have a dialogue about it with them (even subconsciously). Saying their fears aloud or talking about it knowing they are not comfortable, often does the greatest damage to them. Keep away from bringing any memory, emotion or situation that was the reason of their anxiety. They are battling hard to stay away from it.
#5: Be There (Mostly)
I know it gets difficult to be around them all the time. After all, you do have your own priorities, need your personal space, and besides, your family and other friends need you as much as anyone else. But whenever you can, try and be there. Or if you can’t, just stay connected to them via texts or a phone call. But only do this when they need you. This is another way of showing your support to them.
All they want you to be is person, who is patient and understanding and not overwhelming.