Tip #127: Talk to someone.
The Why: Anxiety can make you feel like you’re on an island all alone, isolated from those around you.
You see the people around you seeming to function perfectly well, and knowing that your mind works in a different way now can make it seem like the world of normality is a distant land.
You may think that ‘normal’ people don’t think the way you do, don’t worry as much as you do, don’t understand when you can’t go to a crowded place, or a party, or even leave your house one day.
It may seem as though you can’t talk about the swirling storm of thoughts in your mind, because vocalising them would make people see you as weak, or afraid, or too different.
Your anxiety may tell you that people will push you away, give up on you, think you’re strange. This fear will even further maroon you on this island, always feeling like you’re hiding, that you’re behind a glass window looking in.
When you feel like this, here are a few things to remember.
Firstly, more people will understand that you realise. One in four of us will experience a mental health problem in our lives, people that you would never expect to be touched by anxiety or depression. In my own experience, after explaining to friends what I was going through, the reaction wasn’t one of shock or scorn, rather it was “you feel that too?” If you are on an island, it is populated by far more people that you may think.
Secondly, you are certainly not alone, or strange, and if you ever think for a second you are, talk to me, and I’ll remind you of the truth. What you’re currently going through is a normal part of the human experience nowadays and you are not the sum of all the bad things that happen to you. You’re still very much you, the good, the bad, and the brilliant. The only difference is right now, you have anxiety. There was a time where you didn’t feel like this, and there will be a time again where you don’t feel like this.
Thirdly, those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind don’t matter. Yes, I won’t lie to you, there may be some people who will never understand, who judge you, who treat you differently. You know what I say? Skrew ’em. You’re still the amazing human being you once were, and if they are willing to leave your life because of a transient bad patch, then they’re not worth it. It may be hard to let go of, and it may hurt, but you deserve to be loved no matter what you’re going through.
But even knowing all of this, it can be hard to vocalise what’s going on in your mind, because sometimes we can’t even describe it ourselves. How can you explain the true, ice-cold fear of a panic attack, or the constant self-critical narrative of an anxious-thought episode?
Yet, it’s so important to try. When a fear is in your mind, it is far more dangerous and powerful than when vocalised. This is because your mind, which has anxiety, will convince you of the danger because that is all it can see; it is by its nature irrational.
Saying it out loud to a friend, co-worker, family member or therapist removes it from this irrational thought cycle, and puts it out in the open for debate. Having someone else’s perspective to rationalise you fear and talk you down is an incredibly powerful tool against anxiety. Sometimes when the panic descends, it’s hard to see any other outcome other than the very worst one.
So, here’s how to vocalise your fears:
Step One – Make Sure You Know What The Fear Is
Before you start speaking about it, make sure that you know what it is that is causing you the current anxious thoughts.
This means that you can enter the conversation with a clear sense of what the problem is, and that will allow you, or the person you’re talking to, to come up with effective solutions. You can’t fix something you don’t know is wrong.
Step Two – Choose A Trustee
This is a crucial point; it’s important to speak to someone who you know won’t judge you, and who you trust. Assessing which people in your life are accepting and understanding of mental health issues will help create a safe environment for you to speak openly about what’s going on. This is vital in ensuring that you say what you really feel, and are honest. If you hold back, then the problem won’t be truly dealt with or spoken about.
If possible, talking to someone who has had, or has, anxiety will greatly help as they will be able to make you feel less alone in your experience, and also completely understand what you’re going through, and how to help.
Step Three – Know What You Want From The Conversation
It’s important before any conversation to go in with a (loose) agenda. Knowing what you want from a conversation helps you direct what you’re going to say, so nothing important is left unsaid. It also ensures that you have a specific outcome in mind when you begin, so you know by the time the conversation finishes if you’ve achieved it.
Whether that’s to have rationalised away the fear, to feel better about a situation, or whether to just have a vent, it’s good to know what you desire from talking it through.
Talking about anxiety is scary, believe me, I know. But talking out your fears is a great way of pushing through the worry, and rationalising them. Finding a trusted individual who you can use as an occasional sounding board for sanity is a great and valid way of removing the panic, and bringing you back to earth safely.
Besides, when we are open and honest about who we are, and what we’re dealing with, we allow others to do the same. So be brave, and reach out off the island.