Stories, skills, and positivity- to anxiety sufferers from anxiety sufferers.
When it comes to living with someone with anxiety, there are no guidelines or rules. Every person is different. No matter how well you know the individual, every day is new and always keeps you on your toes. It is like riding a rollercoaster blindfolded, because you never know what to expect and there is no limit to the emotions you will endure. Just imagine how they feel.
There is one necessary characteristic you can have, however. One that will get you through the twists and turns of living with someone with anxiety: patience.
Patience is an incredible virtue for all areas of life. It will get you through the hard and challenging times regardless of who you are working with. Personally I have found that having patience helps me do my job better, think before reacting and handle personal challenges better. Over the years, patience has saved my own mental health.
My brother has anxiety disorder, and living with him has never been simple. It hurts on a daily basis, for a number of reasons. Firstly, he’s a jerk. I can say that as a loving sister, and also as an honest human being. He is disrespectful and rude on a weekly basis. It can really take a toll on one’s confidence and happiness. Teasing between siblings is one thing, but sometimes he treats me like who I am, and what I have to say, is worthless. He can treat my parents even worse. Home should be a safe place but, living with him, that isn’t always the case.
Secondly, he wears his emotions on his sleeve. That in itself is not a bad thing, but it makes him explosive. His anger affects all of us, if he is not directly taking it out on us. We become his verbal punching bag and, like I mentioned previously, that takes a painful toll on one’s mental health. It also makes for a very stressful home environment. I never know when something is going to set him off, when doors are going to be slammed or homeware thrown across the kitchen. As a sensitive person myself, that kind of confrontation can be a living hell for me. When we were younger, that certainly was the case.
It is also hurtful to live with someone with anxiety, because you watch them suffer and there is nothing you can do about it. As much of a jerk as my brother can be, I love him dearly. I wish every day that I could take away his pain, that I could solve the problems of his past so that maybe he wouldn’t be struggling so much today. But I can’t. I can stand by his side through the explosions of rage and the bullying and the sadness. I can make sure that he knows I am there for him when he needs it. Aside from that, it is a challenge he more or less has to face on his own. All I can hope to do is make sure he knows that he is never alone.
It is with patience that I am able to do these things. Patience gets me through his screaming fits, through the slamming doors and having to watch him be disrespectful to our parents yet again. Patience reminds me of the battle that he is constantly facing, that sometimes screaming is the only way for him to work through the confusing and conflicting emotions in his head. Patience gives me confidence to believe that I am a good person, that I do deserve to be happy, and that it isn’t personal.
When I have a clear head and am able to see through the scary and hurtful, all of the good moments he has shines brighter.
About four years ago he got fired from his job. It was a traumatic time, and caused a second downward spiral since the time he was first diagnosed. Two weeks ago he reached the six-month mark of his new job, one that he is enjoying.
On my parent’s anniversary he brought home a giant rack of lamb and wouldn’t let them pay him back for it. He also contributed to buying them a weekend away for the occasion, and was adamant that we make it luxury.
One day I woke up to him screaming because he had lost his jacket. He threw cutlery across the kitchen and stormed around the house swearing. An hour later, I was sitting and watching T.V. when he comes back into the room. He sits down and watches with me. He makes conversation. He had moved passed it.
Whenever he shares a funny story, listens supportively to what is new in my life, and we get to share a brother/sister moment, I know that he is going to be alright. Every time he chooses to interact, when he takes a step out and manages to make it to an appointment or a family function, it is a small victory for all of us. No longer am I scared when he walks into a room, but more and more I find myself with a sense of anticipation and happiness.
There are a lot of traits that can help you get through living with someone with anxiety. Compassion, empathy, and optimism are all vital characteristics. Patience is what ties all those things together. Patience means taking that deep breath so you can remember to empathize, and think positive. It gives you the strength to stand on two strong feet so that all those virtues work
I needed therapy and the support from my parents to feel confident enough to stand tall during my brother’s episodes. As much as you care about your loved one with anxiety, it is also vital you take care of your own mental health as well. You can’t help them if you are suffering too. So be patient with yourself, because there is a lot of learning to do. There are ups and downs, victories and steps back. The love that my family has for each other, and our determination never to give up on each other, means that we have been getting better. It is slow, and always changing, but I see an improvement. I cherish those moments of joy.
For those of you diagnosed with anxiety, I applaud you. It takes strength, courage and determination that I bet a lot of you didn’t know you had in you. But you do! Every day is a victory. While I am speaking from a loved one’s perspective, I think what I am saying applies to you as well. Take the small victories when they come, and be patient with yourselves on the days when it’s harder to roll out of bed. You deserve it. As much as my brother is learning to cope with his anxiety, I am learning to cope with him. I am never going to give up, neither is he and neither should you.
Katie McLean holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, and bases her anxiety aid in personal experience, as well as techniques that have been passed on to her by counsellors, friends, and fellow anxiety sufferers.