It is not easy to be the friend or partner of someone with an anxiety disorder. Relationships are hard at the best of times but if you are my friend or partner, chances are things get a bit crazy when I am at my best, and quite frustrating when I am at my worst. It is safe to say, it is not for everyone.
If you are my friend a variety of strange situations may occur. For example, we are having a drink, everything seems fine and out of the blue I grab your arm, looking freaked out, pointing at my drink, which either has a speck of dust in it, tastes or smells funny or whatever took my fancy that day, and you will get the question “do you think this will kill me?”. What the hell do you do then, is there a right answer? It is safe to say that I get laughed at a lot, and rightfully so.
Laughing does work sometimes. Since I come up with idiotic concepts like planes landing on my head (long time ago) and cyanide in my ice-cream (unfortunately not so long ago) I sometimes need to be reminded of how ridiculous I am being. I wish laughing always worked. Sometimes it doesn’t and I need to be told about a 1000 times that I am fine, one cigarette will not give me nicotine poisoning. Not much fun for the friend who thought we were just enjoying some innocent drinks and a cigarette on a Friday afternoon.
The thing is that once my mind starts latching on to an idea everything else goes to the background. You can be telling me a riveting story about how your date behaved like a buffoon last night, or your kid walked for the first time yesterday and all I will be thinking about is, how I’m about to die, panic attack mode. So basically, your Friday night just turned into comforting me and not getting any attention for your buffoon-date, work-life or anything really. On a positive note, I tend to flee home when I am this far gone, leaving you, with your drinks and cigarettes, alone in a bar. This must be why I tend to have friends that are very independent. Handy.
Then there is the whole other barrel of laughs of me not leaving the house at all. Or not after a certain time, say 18:00. To be friends it is quite handy to meet every now and again, but there are times that I do not leave the house for weeks on end, except for work. Then, when I finally start trying to go out again, you will be cancelled on at the last minute quite often, if and when the anxiety takes over my bravery. I will be super embarrassed about it but that does not change the fact that you will be spending your Friday night alone, again, with your drinks and cigarettes, completely open to the dangers of an unfortunate one night stand. Which you can blame on me (that’s a plus).
Anyway, enough about me and more about you. If you really insist on being friends with someone with a mental illness, here are some tips and tricks. First of all, have a sense of humour, you are crazy too, I am sure of it. Secondly, be patient, with the right medicinal cocktail your friend is bound to come out of the house again. Thirdly, when you receive a phone call at three in the morning from your friend thinking she is dying. Just tell her she won’t, because you still need to tell her about that time you woke up outside FEBO, until you get a chance to tell her that story she is not allowed to die. Works every time.
As I said, it is not easy, and I cannot even tell you that it is worth it (that would be conceited). But I can say that I am grateful for the friends who showed some grit. I will probably continue to stand them up. But hey, I am trying!