I have a problem with planes. I have a problem with boats. I have a problem with blood. I have a problem with IVs. I have a problem with interviews. I have a problem with being alone at night. I have a problem with darkness. I have a problem with eating in the morning.
I have a problem with the PATH. No, not trains. The PATH. Not the subway, not the LIRR, not the NJ Transit. The PATH.
If I could just “calm down” when I find myself in or among these situations or things, trust me, I think I would.
All of the things listed above can make me:
a) Want to crawl back into bed and not move for three days.
b) Pass out, throw up, sweat uncontrollably, panic, scream.
c) Avoid a situation altogether, no matter what it is or how important it may be.
This is what I deal with day-to-day. This is anxiety.
Someone once told me, “I don’t understand mental health days. What, you’re stressed? We’re all stressed. Just, like, calm down.”
Yes, just calm down. I remained quiet and reminisced on that very morning, when I had nearly thrown up – again – on the PATH, because the walls were closing in on me, and I was nauseous, and I couldn’t breathe, and the bald dude across the car was giving me the, “Don’t you do this, not during Monday morning rush hour” look. Ah. I should have just calmed down.
There are many issues I have with the, “What’s the big deal with anxiety? Everyone has it!” crowd.
Telling a person with anxiety to calm down is like telling a person who just broke their nose to reset it and keep it moving. You’re slowing us all down with your broken nose! We have shit to do! What, you’re not going to go to work because you just broke your nose? Come on!
Would you be considered an idiot then? Well, there you go.
Judging people who need medication to manage their anxiety is shitty. Don’t be shitty. If I didn’t pop my pill every night, rest assured, I wouldn’t make it out of my apartment. But… but… LIFE CAN KILL ME!!! Am I a zombie? No. Do I still get anxious? Yup. Am I able to think more clearly and make rational decisions to combat what’s making me anxious because my medication stopped my stomach from turning and my head from spinning? Abso-fucking-lutely, soldier. It has me feeling like cool Peter Parker.
Chances are, telling someone to calm down will cause the opposite reaction; yes, they’ll freak out even more. Calm down, bro! You’re making everyone uncomfortable! Yes, this is more about me than it is about you. Sure, you’re the one having the panic attack right now, but do you know how it makes me feel? I can’t even help you! So just chill, bro. You’re working yourself up for no reason. Hey, why are you turning red? Are you about to pass out?! Oh no, I wasn’t trained for this since, like, Boy Scouts! Shit! Don’t do that! Just… CALM DOWN!
You can’t fix them, but you can steer them in the right direction and show you care. Educate yourself on anxiety disorders. Be available. Be patient. Be supportive. Encourage professional help. Celebrate the small wins, like, shit, getting back on the PATH, even if it’s an empty 8 p.m. train with the A.C. blasting and enough open seats to lay across them. Let them know there’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Just be there.
Stop telling people to calm down. Like, everyone. Because even if they don’t have anxiety, it’s still counterproductive and will make them angrier. Cue all the crazy relationship memes.
Until next time!