Anxiety sucks so hard.
1: a : painful or apprehensive uneasiness of mind usually over an impending or anticipated ill
b : fearful concern or interest
c : a cause of anxiety
2: an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physiological signs (as sweating, tension, and increased pulse), by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope with it
Anxiety affects a lot of different people in a lot of different ways, so as always, I can only speak to my own experiences here.
My anxiety is a mixture of social anxiety, which means it is brought on by social aspects of my life, and anxiety related to my depressive disorder. Which I will talk about another time.
Social anxiety is a complain drain. Going to see close friends for a hour can use up my energy for the day, so much so that all I can manage when I get home is to change into my joggies and lie in bed. It means I cancel plans more often than I go out, especially if I’ve had to work that day, as my job takes up so much headspace.
My anxiety means I am so strung out constantly that my neck and shoulders permanently ache, and I need to take sleeping pills to make me sleep.
My anxiety means if I miss a blog post because I have had a bad week with my depression, or I’ve been slammed at work, I chew myself up for the next week because I’ve let people down, and then there’s even more pressure to put out a post the next week.
My anxiety means I imagine situations that will never happen, and talk myself out of doing anything because I’m so scared of the consequences.
The Mighty, a great website where people share stories and articles about all manner of health issues, has a whole section on anxiety, if you want to learn more, or find out how people coped with anxiety situations more like your own. I highly recommend checking it out.
A big thing I need to point out here though: if you friend has anxiety, they’re not looking for you to cure it for them.
At most, they’ll just want a little bit of support. Don’t badger them to follow through with plans. Don’t make them feel bad for cancelling again. Don’t stop inviting them to things, even if you think it’s stressing them out. I guarantee they’ll feel worse for being left out.
There are little things you can do to help. If you’ve arranged to go out for a coffee, and your friend finds that too difficult, how about inviting them to yours instead? It’s likely to feel like a much safer space, and you still get to see them.
Give your friend plenty of notice for plans, and if they share an anxiety with you, work with them to find a solution. Maybe you meet them 10 minutes earlier than everyone else, so you can get settle before the group arrives. Maybe you introduce them to other people before hand, even online, just so they know what they’re facing.
I don’t think any of the above is too taxing, and I know your anxious friend will appreciate it.
At the same time, don’t coddle. There’s nothing worse for an anxious brain than feeling like we’re being an inconvenience, it’s stressful as fuck.