I recently wrote about Fear & Anxiety, but I realized that I left out some crucial parts of what it’s like for the people experiencing the anxiety… especially the ones with an anxious mind and giving heart. This is probably the biggest, most consistent obstacle that I deal with as someone who experiences anxiety. It affects my daily life. It affects my marriage… and it definitely affects my friendships… especially the ones I care the most about. I care so much about people and making sure they’re okay or that their needs are being met in general. I’ve been this way for so long that it’s next to impossible to turn it off and it comes a price (my health).
It starts out simple and harmless enough… You’re having a text conversation with someone and you make a joke or forget to add an emoji to the end of something to signal that the message was a joke. Then, the other person doesn’t respond. You give it a few minutes, but then you start to panic, so you start sending them other messages to clarify… Then comes the radio silence… Now, things are awkward. You keep playing things over and over in your mind, wondering how you can fix the situation or what you should have said differently. You begin spiraling and “cycling”. You can’t sleep. You don’t want to eat. You check your phone excessively. You play the details over and over and over in your head. This is what it’s like to have an anxious mind.
Having an anxious mind and a giving heart complicates things even more. You meet someone (friends or more than that… it really doesn’t matter). You start to get to know them and find common interests and start thinking of ways you can make your new friend’s day/week/life better, because when you have a giving heart, you’re “all in”. Sounds fairly harmless, right? Not always for the person with an anxious mind. You do something nice for the new friend with an anxious mind and giving heart. They decide to return the favor. Everything is great. You’re growing in your relationship. Suddenly, SOMETHING comes up in your life. It had nothing to do with them. It could be personal life issues that you’re not ready to discuss. It could be your own emotional issues that you’re trying to deal with. It could just be that you’re having a bad day. For whatever reason, you pull back from this person to deal with life. The problem with this is that if you haven’t communicated with the anxious-minded friend to let them know that you just need a minute, they begin to take it personally. The quieter you are, the more they want to pull it out of you and the more they begin to worry. This is where the issues really begin. Communication. For someone with anxiety, it helps them to talk through feelings. Sometimes, they lose sleep over working things out in their head until they can make sense of it (and that’s even when they have all of the pieces to the puzzle). They stay up and just obsess over the situation until they are so upset that they feel helpless and they have created the worst-case scenarios in their head. Then anger sets in. This is about the time that the anxious mind decides that they are just “done” with it all. Then, after you finally get a replacement phone (because you dropped your phone in the toilet & THAT’S why you haven’t been responding), the anxious-minded person has probably already justified to themselves why they aren’t going to respond to your text when you do decide to come around… but we always do. We don’t know how to be any different. When you have a giving heart, it’s really easy to forget the past and pretend like it never happened, because at the end of the day… all you’re really looking for when you have a giving heart is for others in your life to do the same for you that you’d be willing to do for them.
It’s hard. We aren’t trying to be annoying or needy, but it comes across that to others. It is irrational but it does have good intentions behind it that you probably can’t see or understand if you aren’t communicating with the person. It can be extremely illogical and very confusing to the person that might not have an anxious mind. I’ve dealt with this my entire life. I’ve lost “friends”, I’ve had people end relationships with me that prior to that were going perfect, and I’ve had my feelings hurt more times than I can count because of this. This is why I always tell people to just be honest with their feelings or about what’s going on in their life. Someone with an anxious mind will always read more into a situation than is probably there, because that’s how our brains are rewired. It takes 2 seconds to respond to a text and say “I’m fine”. It takes a little bit more courage to say “I’m dealing with some stuff. It has nothing to do with you. I just need some time to myself to think”… but I promise it will save the anxious mind a lot of sleepless nights if you care enough about them to give them some peace of mind… because when you’ve got a friend who has an anxious mind and a giving heart and you give a little bit of validation to them, you will always get it back 100 times more.