Advice for Family and friends
I was asked to write this page so as to try and help partners or friends understand more of what the person they love is going through and how much their help and support is needed at this time.
Let me start by saying I was one of those people that thought conditions like anxiety did not exist. I would see them as work dodgers, hypochondriacs. I was as ignorant as they come on anything outside of what I understood. How quickly my attitude changed!
What we don't understand does not exist.
That really is the problem, if we see someone with a cold or a broken leg then they will get our sympathy as we have been through it ourselves and understand it's not pleasant. But on the other hand if it is something we have not gone through then we can't relate to it, so we may ridicule or not believe it possible.
This is the very reason so many anxiety sufferers suffer in silence, the reason they feel they have to keep it a secret, the fear that people won't understand, that they may ridicule or label them. This really is something that needs to change, the sufferer wants nothing more to be able to chat freely about how they are feeling, to gain help and support from those closest to them.
I was very lucky in that my mother at partner were very supportive. I said to both, ‘You may not understand, but just believe me' They never put pressure on me to be better or told me to pull myself together, they were just there when I needed to offload and listened without judgement when I explained how I felt.
A lady once said that her husband was on her case to pull herself together, to stop all this nonsense. She said one day she just snapped and said to him ‘Do you really think for one minute I want to feel this way, to not enjoy life like I once could, to not be able to smile like I once did?'. Your partners lack of understanding can place far more pressure on you to recover and can hinder progress. Your body and mind need space to recover and this starts with an understanding partner, one who won't judge or put pressure on you.
I receive emails from partners and family members saying they have read my book to try and really understand what their loved one is going through and since reading they have far more sympathy for them due to a better understanding. A lot of the initial pressure can come through frustration that the person they love has changed and is not the one they fell in love with. Trust me that person is still there, it's just at the moment though they are just buried under symptoms.
The person suffering may also take it out on the ones closest to them. This is where the outbursts can sometimes come from. I sometimes took how I felt out on the people closest to me, I would snap or be unreasonable. This was my own frustration on how I felt and how much I wanted to be the person I was before. My partner used to just say ‘Paul I know it's not really you, so I don't take it to heart when you take it out on me.
So my advice to any partner or family member would be to not judge even though you may not always understand, but just believe them. Trust me no one wants to get better more than the person who suffers with anxiety. Your help and support is needed now more than ever. Put no pressure on that person to be better, be there when they need an ear and try and be more patient and understanding, maybe even try and learn about the subject more.
I had this support and understanding and it was a big factor in me finally pulling through.