previously on “my basket case life”
meet your local basket case (yet glaringly less edgy than your classic john hughes character): elise. she may not be addicted to eating laundry detergent or her husband’s ashes, but she’s one reckless tweet away from her own tlc show.
i generally try to ignore my problems until they spiral out of control. or i die (whichever comes first). i could be missing all of my limbs but still insist that it’s only a flesh wound. (stop me if you’ve heard this one before). but i’ll skip the banal preface by ripping it out in a dead poet’s society-esque manner and go straight to the sucking the marrow of life part.
i’ve tried (and still do, both active and passive verb tense) desperately to normalize the severe effects and impacts of my anxiety. it got to a point where id have (on average) 5 panic attacks per day and i thought it was okay (hence being the aforementioned basket case).
last semester my problems did that thing where i ignore them until they spiral completely out of control. and wow did they spin out of control like a blender without a lid. fast forward. mid december i was prescribed anxiety medication. the first day, i just kept thinking,
“this is what people get to feel like all the time.”
i cried for a really long time.
i felt like a real human.
since then, ive been able to step back and objectively assess what i need and how to be able to help myself. so aight chris brown: look at me now. and @ you drake: i started from the bottom now I’m here. poppin xanax and valium on the reg. (i am extremely joking). medication only changed my physical reactions. i need to emphasize and explicitly postulate that taking pills will not fix you like a coldplay song. i’m gonna say it again because it’s so utterly necessary: pills, prescriptions, and medications are not your holy grail to recovery. this will not cure anxiety or mental health. and you can’t just take one pill in ibiza and assume that’ll solve everything (stares pointedly @ mike posner).
however; this is low key (definitely high key) a bilateral relationship. the whole ’emotional’ aspect goes hand in hand with the ‘physical,’ it’s constitutive that you find ways to cope with the mental/emotional reactions, too. this blog is a collection of my individual thoughts, ideas, and experiences with learning my own anxiety. this is what does and doesn’t work for me. (elise. human being. basket case.) to further clarify: do not try this at home kids (or on other people). what applies to me doesn’t necessarily apply to everyone.
— end recap —
the abridged preface that you did not rip out of your book (robin williams approves this one)
i imagine you’re thinking “here it goes again (ok! go style), i bet my bottom dollar this is just another post that’s gonna try to normalize the deconstruction of societal stigmas and initiate dialogue about mental health in hopes of helping those who don’t know how to help themselves.” well lucky for you, your name must be little orphan annie because you bet the right bottom and the right dollar because that’s exactly what this is.
i mean. duh. if you expected anything less then you missed your exit and gotta merge back onto I5 in rush hour traffic. and why tf is there still construction by the tacoma dome it’s been like 8 years.
ive written a lot about experiencing anxiety. it’s featured my own journey with it; but like, shit. somehow i forgot about the moon and spent too much time in the sun. similar to other things that go hand in hand; for every person with anxiety is the ethereal experience of someone without anxiety.
SO this one’s for every person who lives life on the other side. (i whisper ‘hello’ while wistfully staring at you on the other side.) this is tailored to those who don’t know how cumbersome living with mental health problems can be. who watches a loved one struggle but doesn’t know how to help. this is the elise guide to empathetically offering love and support. i’m basically your douglas adams minus the sci-fi. full disclosure: these suggestions come from my personal experiences & preferences. anxiety is a dependent factor with variance for each individual. that being said…
let’s go-go and start with the no-no’s.
here are some things that you might say or do with the intention of helping someone with anxiety but are 100% counter intuitive.
- “everyone gets a little anxious sometimes” really judy? does everyone get so anxious they have to take prescribed medication and physically remove themselves from normal, every day settings to avoid the risk of having a panic attack in public? please. tell me more judy. invalidate my feelings. i love it.
- “well just relax, it’s fine” brilliant. why haven’t i thought of this. someone get this person a fucking nobel prize. now that you have dictated my emotions i think my body can reschedule this lil bout of anxiety for later.
- “what’s wrong?” everything. obviously. 93.6% of the time, i have no idea what’s going on and suddenly there’s a burst in the grand hoover dam that is my emotional imbalance so prepare for flash floods y’all. this question is really well intentioned, but not once have i been able to answer.
- “what do you have to be anxious about?” in case you missed the one above; everything. still. everything is still shit. in the event that judy is still here for god knows what reason, she could invalidate me even further by asking what i could possibly be worried about. you’re establishing uncorroborated anxieties based on whether you feel they are worth worrying over. which is, entirely, subjective. (also im just so done with you judy tbh)
- “it could be worse” yeah well no shit, sherlock; don’t think i haven’t been thinking about that too. that’s exactly what i’m afraid of.
- “calm down” honestly the only response that goes through my head when someone says this is frozone yelling “where is my super suit” and i think that’s all you really need to know.
(editor’s note: judy is a fictional character. i do not personally know a judy but if i did im sure she’d be more empathetic than this hypothetical bitch)
if you’re reading this, i know what you’re thinking. “oh hot potatoes i have done all of these things.” that, or “oh sarsaparilla i’ve heard all of these questions before and they’re giving me anxiety simply by reading them rhetorically.” or, if none of the above, then maybe, “jumpin’ jehoshaphat i can’t wait to order this pizza bagel.”
no worries, pal. that’s what part ii is all about. por lo general, anxiety stems from feeling like we have no control over a situation. if it’s possible, give us some control. consider this your dr seuss opener as you encouragingly read the “go dog go” of life (but instead it’s pushing you to go, dawg, go. you can do it.)
let’s vamos, y’all (this is part ii)
- “where are you on a scale of 1 to 10” i really like this one because it makes me internally assess how i am in a situation which, in turn, helps those around me assess how much help i need.
- breathe with me and just be next to me. don’t force me to take deep breaths with you like a doctor with a stethoscope to my back promising that ‘just one more’ like 14 times. just be aware of your own breathing. take deep breaths yourself (but not obnoxiously, like. chill. you don’t need to pant). i’ll probably follow by example. physical proximity can be key, too. if you know me, you’ll know that ‘physical touch’ ranks 0 among my 5 love languages. ergo; do not touch me. but allow me a space to reach for affection/hug/please play with my hair if i decide that’s what i need. (side note & general rule of thumb: forever play with my hair).
- “we have all the time you need” please don’t make me feel pressured and more stressed than i already do. this gentle reminder is my own bob marley way of saying ‘every little thing is gonna be alright.’ sometimes it just feels as if there’s no time & i can’t stop to process or catch a break. being rushed freaks me out.
- “you wanna get some fresh air/go outside/be somewhere quiet or isolated?” while distracting, fresh air helps me exercise deep breathing working to counteract the beginning stages of hyperventilation. busy, hectic, loud places are my own donnie darko nightmare. ill jump at any opportunity to avoid/escape it.
- “it’s okay if you can’t (go/do it/etc)” if you don’t make me feel obligated or guilty about upholding commitments and expectations, i instantly melt like jello with relief. if i’m not disappointing others, i’m not disappointing myself.
- “i love you.” the moody, grumpy part of my inner psyche is impatiently tapping its foot to a 1996 cardigans song begging you to love me, love me (and coincidentally to say that you love me). during times of panic my mind is literally an unquantifiable distance away from both my body and, y’know, normal human reason. yet despite the turmoil of inter-organ communication discrepancies, validate my humanity by reminding me i’m loved. which hopefully you love me. (otherwise, oh how you fool me).
- silence. i don’t wanna be alone getting twisted & convoluted in my own thoughts. but i get overwhelmed around groups of people. so if it’s just you and me sitting on the couch listening to kendrick’s damn. without feeling like we have to force a conversation, then that’s all i need. your presence is the best present you could give (pun so obviously intended).
- “what was the best part of your day?” this always reminds me of my friend collin because i know he loves to ask it. i could be forced to relive the 2016 election night and find at least one positive thing in those 24 hours that came from me being alive. sometimes i hate this Q, but ill never not love it because it forces me to think at least one happy thought for the day.
i’mma let you finish. but like. is this even applicable or
i find it constitutive to asseverate that these short bullet points do not serve as a panacea for responding to another person’s anxiety. so please. don’t run around yelling about invoking the right of parley because i, similar to tropically situated pirates, honestly believe these to be more guidelines than a code. also if you run around screaming then that undoubtedly will only further magnify any preexisting anxiety. all of these things in mind, try to remember: this is not our first rodeo. we’ve ridden the bull. that being said, we usually know what’ll make us feel better. we just can’t supply that answer in the heat of the moment.
so to you, you lucky duckling who’s not as much of a classic basket case: i have one favor to ask.
ask the person you love how you can help. learn the best things to say or do for your person. don’t wait until they’re hyperventilating in a crowded street or triggered by a graphic television advertisement to suddenly start asking how to help.
does that answer your question?
the breakfast club