5 Ways NOT to Help a Friend with Anxiety Attacks, part 2: It’s uncomfortable

5 Ways Not to Help a Friend with Anxiety Attacks

If ESPN broadcasted anxiety stats instead of sports scores, this would be the standing in my house:


I’m hitting the point in this pregnancy (27 weeks) where sleep is greatly desired, but I’m waking up more than I’d like. Last night I only got five hours of sleep before simultaneous heartburn, hunger, and the siren call of the bathroom got to me. After breakfast, I laid back down and tried to take a nap. Instead of passing out, however, I realized my breath was coming faster and faster, and my heart rate began to climb. Ever aware of the fact that what happens to me affects my baby, I had my husband take my pulse. I clocked in at 124 heartbeats per minute.

It only took a moment for me to really figure out what was going on. An anxiety attack was calling, and I’d left the door wide open. After a cautionary trip to the hospital last week to check on Jelly Bean, I’d decided to relax a bit until everything returned to normal. And while it was a good decision (in my opinion), it also meant I didn’t get nearly as much exercise as usual. (And exercise is my Numero Uno natural anti-anxiety “medication.”) Of course, there was also the song I was going to sing in some dear friends’ wedding this afternoon, and the fact that we’re moving in about two weeks, and I’m nowhere near packed or ready.

In short, there were lots of reasons for the anxiety to creep in.

My husband had a decision to make when I told him the reason for my crazy heart rate. He had to choose his words and actions so that they helped me overcome my anxiety, rather than making them worse. And thankfully, he didn’t choose any of these.

Today is the second of 5 straight Mondays in which we are going to discuss 5 ways NOT to help someone having an anxiety attack. If you can follow these 5 rules, you may just find yourself a new best friend. In case you missed it, here’s is rule No. 1. And now, rule No. 2:

Leave because it makes you uncomfortable

Much to my shame, I’m a crier. I cry when I’m frustrated, and I cry when I’m angry, so there’s a good chance that I’m not in the mood to do a whole lot of talking when I’m in the middle of an anxiety attack. When I’m already struggling to regulate my emotions, the last thing I want to do is break down in public.

That said, just because I’m not able to speak during an anxiety attack doesn’t mean I necessarily want you to go. If I don’t want you around, I probably won’t tell you I’m having an anxiety attack, or I’ll get up and leave on my own. If I’ve been willing to squeak out to you, however, that I am indeed struggling with an anxiety attack, it means you have some level of my trust. Just up and leaving me in my moment of need isn’t going to do much to keep that trust.

Instead, let me lead. It’s okay to ask me if I want you to stay. “Would you like some company?” can go a long way. I might want you to stay, and I might tell you that it’s okay, you can go, depending on the circumstances. But either way, I know you offered. And being with me when I’m scared and feeling alone can go a long way in helping me heal.

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