Supporting a friend with anxiety

Friends are the people we call in a crisis and tag in the most hilarious Instagram and Facebook videos. If you haven’t tagged them in a Kardashian meme, is your friendship even the real deal? Like literally. Friends are there for the good, the bad and the awkward, and it is an undoubted fact that without them life would be all the more boring. But for people suffering with anxiety, friendship can be more complex and can mean a whole lot more. Your friends have more power to help and hurt you. As anxiety makes you feel things deeply, a thoughtful gesture like being given the last Veggie Percy can make your day. But being left out of a gathering can leave you feeling blue until Percy sprouts wings and soars.

At this time of year, friendships are magnified by Christmas gatherings and New Year celebrations. It can get tricky for people like me. Tis the season to be jolly, but going out for a few drinks doesn’t always instil the same level of excitement in me as it does in others. It’s not that I don’t enjoy going out with my friends. I really do. I have a great gang to spend time with who provide as much entertainment as my Sky subscription. I have a flamboyant friend, a dry humoured friend, a good listener friend, a loyal friend. I have the perfect formula for a sitcom cast. But before meeting up with the people I have known since before I could hold a pencil, who stuck with me through the pre-enlightenment era when I still thought that hairbands and smocks were more catwalk than cat litter, I still worry. Sometimes I can’t quite put my finger on why. But just like applying foundation as part of my pre-party routine, smudging these nerves requires the same amount of skill and precision. Sometimes I can blend them in, but other nights can be a little more patchy.

So, I thought I’d write a post about how anxiety can affect your social life and the little things my friends do to help me get on with the big stuff.

1. Asking me to continue a story if I’ve been interrupted. Whether I am talking about something as coma-inducing as Quorn or telling an action-filled anecdote about a family holiday, letting me finish what I started to say means a lot to someone who believes they are the president, chairperson and secretary of ‘Team Boring.’

2. Being asked to do something first. It doesn’t have to be anything major like being your Maid of Honour (But if you feel this way inclined, please be aware I require six months advanced warning to start the 5:2) It can be as simple as going for a walk, grabbing a coffee, or offering a lift home. I’m a cheap date.

3. Letting me stay in. As much as I love the fresh air and getting the gang together, there is only so much of it I can manage before I have to recharge my batteries. A night in with a strong cup of tea watching Once Upon a Time is my equivalent of a Duracell battery. Consider joining me in my isolation and getting to see my Mickey Mouse onesie as being initiated into my inner circle.

4. For understanding that my anxiety can manifest itself in many ways. One evening I might be eager to please, tell jokes, laugh loudly and thrive on being the centre of attention. But the next, I might feel less confident, stay quiet and avoid eye contact. Sometimes my mind’s sorting office works overtime and doesn’t close until I’ve mulled over every single possible scenario no matter how ridiculous. I should really pitch some plot lines to Warner Bros.

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5. Not forcing me to do rounds of drinks at the bar. It means I’m under pressure to keep up the pace with you, which is a bad deal for us both. I feel that I have to throw back my drink rather than savour it and you’re left waiting half a light year for your second beverage.

6. Being able to understand that my inability to make plans is not laziness, flakiness or a reflection of you. I sometimes struggle to commit myself to a date, time and place because I am never sure how I’m going to be feeling on a particular day and don’t want to let you down. A big round of applause is due for the good ones who manage to squeeze in my last minute plans between family visits, dates, house hunting, babysitting and general adulting.

7. For understanding that despite my fears having the same likelihood of becoming a reality as Piers Morgan marrying Lord Sugar, the Queen winning Ninja Warrior or Bear Grylls becoming vegan, that my feelings are still legitimate and real.

8. Making me smile no matter how anxious I may be and for keeping me sane in an increasingly frenetic world. Our in jokes, quarterly catch ups, reminiscing about old times, coffee and cocktail dates and the annual barn dance are the things I look forward to and long may they continue.

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