How Did Anxiety Turn Me Into an Annoying Friend?
Anxiety made me an annoying friend early in life. I vividly remember the first time that my generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) inserted itself, without invitation, into my relationships. I was in third grade, playing in the sandbox during recess when I found out that Jess (names changed) had invited Katrina to see the new Shrek movie but hadn't extended the invitation to me. I remember being devastated and insecure. For the remainder of recess, I moped around the chain-link fence by myself, kicking up patches of dirt while negative thoughts swarmed my head. Why hadn't she invited me? What was wrong with me? These tentative thoughts soon turned into statements taken as fact. My friends hate me. Nobody likes me. I am an annoying friend and useless. I didn't talk to anyone else for the rest of that day.
How My Anxiety Disorder Turned Me Into an Annoying Friend
Generalized anxiety disorder talked me into becoming that annoying friend. Although I eventually got over the Shrek situation, my irrational thoughts continued to crop up whenever I felt even the slightest bit excluded or threatened. Growing up, I often took these thoughts as fact, and hadn't yet learned that our anxious minds tend to play tricks on us. If a friend didn't smile at me as much as I had hoped or didn't laugh at my joke, my anxiety intensified and I felt idiotic ("Anxiety and Feeling Unlikeable: What Can You Do About It?"). My coping mechanism has often been to ask for reassurance, over and over again. However, someone could reassure me hundreds of times, yet, I'd find another way to pick apart the situation and blame myself. In moments of high anxiety when I relentlessly ask questions in an attempt to ease the intrusive thoughts in my mind, I can sense my friends' annoyance. Due to my anxiety, I am a talented observer, for better or for worse. My friends think I don't catch the looks on their faces after I've asked the same question for the 10th time, but I see everything. That's the nature of my anxiety; I overanalyze everything. Even in the happiest of moments, I'm always wondering what could go wrong. When I sense my friends' annoyance, my thoughts feed off of my self-doubt, growing stronger. As a result, I shut down. In extreme situations, I dissociate.
How to Help an Annoying Friend with Her Anxiety
There are good things to say to someone who is feeling anxious, and there are incredibly damaging things to say as well. For example, telling your friend to "calm down" doesn't work. Trust me. Telling your friend that they are overreacting doesn't help either. Although it can be hard to understand what someone is going through if you've never experienced it, support goes a long way. The following is what I wish I had received during moments of stress.
- Validation--In moments of high anxiety, I feel like I have lost all control. It is as if my mind has completely taken over my body and I feel weak and powerless. These feelings intensify when I receive annoyed looks and comments about how I'm excessive and needy. I then go into a negative spiral of self-doubt and self-hatred, longing to be "normal" like those around me. I grew up forever chasing normal, but I have found that it's the friends who validate my emotions that have made me feel comforted. It doesn't take much to verify that how I am feeling must be painful and that you are willing to support me.
- Encouragement--I often avoid certain situations due to my anxiety, such as social events and new scenarios. When I express my concern around these situations, I've received questions such as, "Well why would that make you anxious?" I wish I knew the answer to that. If your friend is suffering from anxiety, offer words of encouragement and do not pressure them to do things they do not want to do. Do not get angry at them if they choose not to participate in an event. If they succeed in partaking in whatever event was causing them to stress, celebrate their success, no matter how big or small.
O'Grady, H. (2019, May 9). How Did Anxiety Turn Me Into an Annoying Friend?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, June 25 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/relationshipsandmentalillness/2019/5/how-did-anxiety-turn-me-into-an-annoying-friend