Everyone feels the dizzying rush of anxiety from time-to-time. That butterfly feeling in the stomach, a quickness of breath and a mind unable to stand still. It could be before an exam, an interview, or preparing to have a difficult conversation with someone close to you who might not want to hear what you have to say.
But for people who suffer with anxiety disorders, that feeling is something they are forced to cope with far more often, sometimes completely irrationally, the point it severely threatens their quality of life.
For example, those who suffer from General Anxiety Disorder, or GAD, “feel anxious most days and often struggle to remember the last time they felt relaxed”, according to the NHS. People with Panic Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder and phobias also experience anxiety as one of the main symptoms
The chances someone you know experiences anxiety in the modern world, with all the pressures that entails, is fairly high. Which is probably why this letter from Sydney-based blogger Laura Mazza has been so unbelievably popular.
Mazza shared a candid post on Facebook to anyone whose partner is dealing with an anxiety disorder in a bid to explain some of those behaviours that can seem puzzling and inconsistent.
“Anxiety isn’t a one size fits all, it isn’t consistent and it isn’t always easy to tell.
“You might think she’s just snapped at you, but it was anxiety that did it, you might think she’s angry, but it’s the anxiety that’s got a chokehold, you might think she’s not enjoying herself when you go out and it’s your fault, but it’s not. It’s anxiety.
“You know how she can’t understand when she asks you what are you thinking, why you would respond with ‘nothing’… it’s because she never thinks nothing,” she continues, describing endless thoughts as like a “freight train”.
“Her thoughts replay like a freight train in her head full steam ahead, over and over. It’s exhausting for her. It’s why she’s tired. There isn’t a day that goes by where she doesn’t think.
“She thinks about everything, and usually it is the worst case scenario. She worries that something will go wrong. That some days if she leaves the house, something will happen. Kidnapping, deaths, falls, cars spinning out of control, that’s why she can’t just leave the house or just go out, even though you’ve suggested it with good intentions.”
On what partners can do to support their significant others, she writes:
“You can see what gets too much for her, the crowds of people or bed time, dinner time, see it and help her by holding her hand and tell her you’re with her. Do it with her, take over, tell her to sit down for a while and breathe…
“If you see her struggling with appointments, reschedule them for her, encourage her to take it slowly. Too much is overwhelming for her, even though she has good intentions. Don’t make her feel bad for missing an appointment, a party, whatever. She wanted to go, but she couldn’t. She already feels bad. Tells her it’s okay.”
“Not every day will be bad, and those days should be celebrated, but on the bad days, still celebrate her, because she needs it,” she concludes.
“Forever and ever, you just to need take her hand and tell her, ‘I am with you’.”
Of course, we can gender neutralise this and apply it to any human, with the understanding that everyone experiences anxiety differently, and this is Mazza’s own take on it.
Never-the-less, we think it’s well worth sharing with friends, lovers and family if this sounds like you or someone you know. Since it was posted in August, it has been shared 74,000 times, so you’d be in good company.
And if you’re thinking for the first time that this description fits you, book an appointment with your GP for a diagnosis and support.