I made my blogging debut on this site by coming out with my Postpartum Depression and struggles with anxiety. It wasn't intentional to have that be the theme of my series on here, however it is what is currently permeating my every day life, so it would be nearly impossible for me to not write about it. Cora cut TWO teeth last week, which made her fussier than her usual, perpetual state of displeasure. My anxiety was at an all time high, and the guilt of not being able to "handle" my motherly duties was sending me in a downward spiral. As much as my family and friends tried to console me, there was just some thing off about their words of encouragement. Now that I have survived months of mental illness, I have become pretty skilled at coming up with analogies to help my loved ones understand my anxiety and depression in a more concrete way. This week, it was: I am not a contractor. You wouldn't tell some one who isn't a contractor, "Hey, build an addition onto your house." Why not? Because some one who is not a contractor does not have the tools, abilities, or resources to build an addition onto their house. I'm not blaming my friends and family for trying to give me bits of advice... The problem is, that they aren't helpful.
Now, they don't know that they aren't being helpful. In fact, their perception frequently is that I am not being receptive of their advice. "You just need to see how blessed you are. You just need to calm down. You just need to stop worrying so much. You just need to take a deep breath." When I don't do these things, I am seen as being stubborn and clinging to the anxiety I supposedly hate. The truth is, I do hate it. The truth is, I wish that I COULD: see how blessed I am, calm down, stop worrying, and take a deep breath... but I am not a contractor. I do not have the ability to do those things at this point in my life. Would I love an addition added on to my house? Of course, but I'm not a contractor. I can't attempt to build some thing that I have no knowledge of or experience with. I don't have the tools. I don't know how to calm myself down when I am on the verge of a panic attack; I don't know why I can recall all the terrible qualities about myself but not all the blessings in my life. I wish I had a way of coping when all my worries begin to overwhelm me, but I don't yet. That's why I'm in therapy, taking mood boosting supplements, doing tests for hormonal imbalances, participating in group therapies, and learning grounding techniques.
Telling some one who is trying to heal from persistent anxiety these "tips" is actually insulting in a lot of cases. How? Because chances are, that person is doing every thing in their power to learn about their disorder and manage it. If anxiety and depression could easily be cured by a deep breath then TRUST ME, I wouldn't be dumping hundreds of dollars into therapies and medications every month. Telling some one to "be more positive" implies to the one suffering that you do not think they desire to be positive. However, just because one wills to be happy doesn't always mean they can be. I will to have a bigger front porch, but that doesn't mean I have the ability to go build it. I am not a contractor.
I didn't write this piece to put down the people who love me and have been trying to help. I didn't do it to blame any one for making people with anxiety more anxious. I wrote this piece to normalize our symptoms and to let you know that we're glad you're here to help; only some times, a different approach is needed to help the ones we love. Last week I made a new friend who lives down the street from us and confided in her about some of my struggles. Within the next few days I texted her that I was having a tough morning and she responded by saying, "What can I do to help you today?" I didn't know it until I read it that that is the perfect response to some one who is reaching out in a moment of panic. Don't put any more demands on them ("calm down, take a breath," etc.) put them back in control since they have reached out to you in a moment where they feel out of control. Its really that simple, and extremely helpful.
Published by Samantha Motto