Before this year I was utterly ignorant when it came to anxiety. All I knew about anxiety was that my little brother had struggled with it for years and a woman I knew had become addicted to Xanax in her battle with the illness. Once I began my own journey with anxiety, more people came out of the woodwork, confiding in me their own struggles and triumphs with its horrors. I certainly don’t consider myself an expert after six months of experience, but I have learned a thing or two about what friends can do to help when someone they love is suffering with anxiety (and depression).
Not everyone will experience anxiety in the same way. What was helpful to me may not be helpful to everyone, but I encourage you to try these things anyway. Perhaps your efforts won’t help, but at least your friend will know that you care. And if you’re anything like my friends, you just may save her life.
Do call often. Sometimes talking to another person was the only thing that got me through the hours and hours of fear and darkness. I had friends and family members who called me every day (sometimes multiple times a day) for weeks. If you (or your friend) are not a phone person, send encouraging emails or frequent cards in the mail.
Don’t tell scary stories. Maybe you have an aunt or uncle or cousin or brother who was hospitalized with mental illness or committed suicide after their battle with depression or suffered from a horrific sleep disorder for years, but your friend with anxiety won’t feel better about her illness if you tell her those stories. They will frighten her and further convince her that the worst-case-scenarios that haunt her daily have, in fact, happened and could happen to her too. Instead of fueling her fear, fuel her faith.
Do sit with her. One of the most helpful things my friends did for me was to simply come to my house and spend a few hours with me. Sometimes I wasn’t much for conversation because my mind and body were too wound-up with panic, but just having a stable person present gave me some relief and helped me pass the time. When you’re fighting tooth and nail to get through each minute of the day, anything that makes the time go faster is a welcome reprieve. If you can get her out of the house and into some fresh air and sunshine, even better.