Why you should stop telling people with anxiety to “just relax”.

I can’t. I want to, but I can’t. I cannot help that my mind makes up the worst case scenarios, that I start getting a tight feeling in my chest, that I’m on edge. I know most people that haven’t experienced anxiety don’t understand, but guess what: I really don’t understand it either. Rationally I know I’m being ridiculous and there are times where I can tell myself that, but there are also times where my anxiety gets the upper hand and freaks out my mind and in return, also my body.

I never really had anxiety. Growing up, I had a great child hood, a good relationship with my family, friends, a good education. Nothing major had happened to me, until I moved across the world at age 25, but let’s be honest; that was something I had control over, something I chose. Sure, it gave me anxiety at times, but not the kind that I can experience today. Not the “something is going to happen to my child/spouse” kind of anxiety I can get at times.

I’ve heard it often, most from the people closest to me. “Just relax”, “Chill Sanne he’s fine” “Why do you see the danger in everything?”.

I had a chat about this with a friend a few weeks back. A friend I have never met in person but I still consider my friend. We connected when we experienced our first miscarriage at the same time, and since then, even though we both eventually got our rainbow baby, we have both been through a lot. She told me she hates it when people tell her to “relax”, to which I replied “I know, I can’t help but see the dangers”. She agreed. And so it got me thinking, how can we let those around us know how to help, or maybe even more important… let them know what does NOT help? My anxiety will not go away simply because you told me to relax or chill out. It actually can give me more anxiety or trigger me because honestly, I wish I could just relax. Believe me when I say: people with anxiety want nothing more than to be able to “just relax”, they just can’t. They can’t help to see the dangers, or that they have irrational fears, thoughts and/or insecurities.These feelings are legitimate for the person who experiences it.

Let me give you an example, when I watch Finn play and explore and climb, I love it and encourage it, I’ll be having a great time with him in the park. Here comes anxiety… All of a sudden I see an image of him slipping and falling and breaking his neck. Not cool anxiety, not cool. I find myself often telling Tim things like “you should watch him better”, “no he can’t have a blanket” and “you didn’t pull his seat belt tight enough”. I literally see dangers everywhere. To be honest, I can hide it quite well, I always try my best not to show Finn, because I know it will affect him. I can also be just fine for days or even weeks, but the anxiety always seems to build up over time and there are times where it catches up to me.

The reality is, when I had my second miscarriage I didn’t think I could ever have kids. And now that I do have one, I’m scared sh*tless that he will be taken away from me. I’m the happiest, but also the most anxious I’ve ever been. Comes with the (loss) mom territory I guess. I’m definitely a different mom than I would have been had I not experienced my hardships. Maybe I would have been a less anxious mom, but maybe also a less strong and grateful mom, I count my lucky stars every night that somehow I get to enjoy Finn every day, I never take him for granted. And he’ll grow up knowing what a miracle he is to both his parents.

So if you ever find yourself wanting to tell an anxious person to “just relax”, please think twice. You probably have no idea how hard we already try, and how much we want to. Oh if only I could, I would, if only I could.

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