Your friends don’t tell you anything about their anxiety. They don’t tell you about how it paralyzes their tongue, or the vice grip around their lungs that steals their voice. They smile, and when you ask they tell you nothing’s wrong. They will blame their trembling hands on too much coffee, and their distractedness on being tired.
They won’t tell you, because they know that their feelings are irrational, unrealistic, delusional. They won’t tell you because they don’t want to look like weak, pathetic losers, or seem like they are whining. Because they fear your criticism, dismissal, judgment. You tell them, “you should just get over yourself,” and, “there’s nothing to be afraid of,” and “if you’d calm down and focus, maybe you wouldn’t have so much to worry about,” and they say, “yeah, you’re right” and never mention it again, because they know that you are right, and that you are just trying to love them. They don’t tell you their biggest fear is that you won’t love them.
So they walk the walk, and talk the talk. They don’t tell you about the spiraling obsessive thoughts that multiply like horror movie zombies threatening to eat their brains. They don’t tell you about the swarm of sinister black butterflies that randomly invade the stomach for no logical or apparent reason. They don’t tell you about days swallowing so much imaginary fear that they lose their appetite for actual food, when you ask them what diet they’re on. They go to work, and go to school, and take care of the kids and the house, give you advice, comfort your tears. You think they’ve got it together; they don’t tell you how it always feels like everything is about to fall apart. Their biggest fear is that no matter what they do, everything will soon fall apart.
They don’t tell you that their biggest fear is everything. How at times, suicide seems like a sound and reasonable solution, but they’d never even consider it because they wouldn’t want to impose negativity upon anyone. They don’t tell you how crazy that makes them feel, and how the last thing they want to be seen as is crazy. They won’t tell you how many times they have started to dial your phone number but then hung up, because they were afraid that if they told you how they really feel, you’d reject them and go away. They won’t tell you that their biggest fear is that you will reject them and go away.
Your friends with anxiety wear a poker face that they have created over the course of a lifetime. Not because they don’t want to show you who they really are, but because they hope to show you who they are without anxiety. You may not even know they have anxiety, because your friends are brave.
So tell your friends that they are brave. Tell them they are awesome, and that you have their back. Hug them hard every time you see them, and seek them out when you haven’t seen them for awhile. Love your friends, and let them love you back. They won’t tell you how much it helps when you let them love you back.
They are fighting a battle they will never tell you about. So is everyone. This is how you help the war effort. Now you know.