By Lauren Jarvis-Gibson
Someone who has high functioning anxiety is skilled at hiding it. They are masters at concealing and covering up their anxiety, but it will surely come out of hiding when trying to be ‘ok’ becomes too difficult for them. And you need to be there for them.
Someone who has high functioning anxiety is someone who looks fine on the outside. This person may seem like they have it all. They may look like they take care of themselves, and seem like they have an all together great life. But you have to uncover that facade if you want this person to heal and to truly open up to you.
At first, they will have you fooled. But as time passes you’ll see the biting of the nails, the times they spend wanting to be alone, the days they put themselves down when they have no reason to, the times when they get a stomachache out of nowhere, the weeks they are convinced they are going to get fired, and the months spent freaking out over the tiniest of things.
You’ll notice that this is more than them just being perfectionists. That they are more than just people pleasers. That this habit of nail biting and pulling out their eyebrow hairs isn’t just a temporary thing. You’ll come to realize, that anxiety is manifesting itself onto this person that you love.
Don’t act like it doesn’t matter. Don’t ignore it like it’s going to go away. Talk to them about it. Tell them you’re concerned and try to encourage them to acknowledge that it’s not just ‘stress’ or that it’s ‘no big deal’. Let them talk to you, but don’t pressure them to do it when they aren’t ready for it.
Listen. Listen to them when they come home crying and ranting about a co-worker. Listen to them when they list their worries to you at midnight, thinking that you’re asleep. Listen to what goes on in their beautiful mind, and let them know that you are there for them.
Don’t brush it off. Don’t nod your head in agreement when they tell you it’s nothing. Don’t kick this to the curb. Don’t act like it’s not important.
Be patient with them. If they need to cancel plans with you last minute, don’t overreact. Realize that they didn’t mean to hurt you, it’s just the anxiety taking over. Be understanding in how they deal with the anxiety, and don’t judge them. For a second.
Encourage them. Life them up, instead of picking on them. Tell them why they matter to you, and how special they are. Don’t undermine their thoughts and feelings. Don’t downplay this illness. Compliment them on their strength and courage for opening up to you, and for living life with something that makes everyday life more difficult.
Don’t try to play mind games with them and say that it’s all about their ‘outlook on life’. Validate how they are feeling and don’t give them a reason to hide this from you.
Don’t give them a reason not to trust you with their whole heart. Don’t give them a reason to run.
Know that this illness does not make them weak. Know that it doesn’t make them crazy or unstable. Please just love them for who they are, and that includes the bad parts too. Just love them as they are. Don’t try to change them for anything in the world. They deserve someone like you, but most importantly, you deserve someone like them.