In a world full of crowded subways, late work nights, bad dates, and credit card bills— friends are the cherry on top of the drudge. They're the people you can go to when you want to vent, have a couple of margaritas, or simply watch bad television with and sit in silence.
But if you have anxiety like I do, sometimes your friends can be a source of the worries that come along with that. When you’re having a particularly bad stretch of things, it can affect the way you handle and deal with your friendships. Sometimes it means you don’t want to see them. Sometimes it means you don’t want to go to parties. You don’t want them to write you off or think you don’t care, but you also don’t want them to misunderstand how you’re feeling or downplay your mental health situation.
It’s so easy to feel self-conscious when you’re feeling not-so-great about yourself, and that can negatively impact the relationships you have. A good friendship is one based upon people liking you for who you are, and if they don’t know who you are, they can’t be the best friend they can be.
Here are some ways you can approach talking to your friends about your anxiety:
1. . Let Them Know When You're Feeling That Way
When I’m feeling at my worst, I tend to avoid talking to people about it. Sometimes, friends end up feeling rejected by that feeling, or misinterpreting it by assuming I’m mad or disinterested in them. So try to let them know what’s up. There’s nothing wrong with sending a casual g-chat or text saying something like “hey, I’m feeling really anxious lately, and it makes me a little anti-social. It’s nothing personal.” Let them ask questions. Be open about it. At the very least, it will take away some of their own concerns: you’re okay, you’re going through something, and it has nothing to do with your friendship. Remember that they are people with their own worries, and you don’t want them to feel like you are drifting away from them.
2. . Tell Them What You Need and Offer An Occasional Compromise
There’s been weeks, and sometimes months, where I have no real interest in being social. So I’ll try to hang out with my friends one on one, or keep it to small groups where I’m familiar with everyone. I let my friends know this. My couch is always open for a television marathon or some glasses of wine and takeout. There’s also nothing wrong with letting your friends know you need a night off for yourself every once in a while. But be sure to step out of your comfort zone when it’s really important—if you can swing it, try to go to the events and places that your friends really need your support. Stay as long as you can, but try to be there for them when they need you. Leave when you want. Show them you care.
3. . Keep Them Updated And Take Initiative
Sometimes, my friends wait until I make the first move so they know when I’m over whatever I’ve been dealing with. So, try to reach out and make plans first. Tell them that you’re thinking of them and want to go to dinner or drinks or a movie soon. Make a plan. And if you’re not up to that, text them what’s up and let them know. Ask how they’re doing. Just because you might be going through your own issues doesn’t mean you can erase yourself from their lives or forget to keep up with the things they have going on.
4. . Don't Keep Friends Around That Don't Care
If you feel like you’re not getting the support you need, it’s okay to take a break from them. Now, don’t mistake this for friends who are truly there for you, but tell you some things you may not want to hear. They can be frustrating (and they might not always be right), but don’t leave them by the wayside— they're giving you tough love. Take a break from the friends who brush off your vulnerability, or tell you to get over it, or try to go out or drink instead of listening to what you may need. Those are the friends you can take a break from, and most likely than not, dump entirely.
5. . Let Them Be There For You
For goodness sakes, let them listen to you! You can talk about how you feel. You can talk about your bad days. You can tell them some of the things that you are afraid to talk about. You can let them be there because that’s what friends do. You don’t always have to carry the heavy load by yourself. They might not be able to help you get better, but they can be there when you just want to talk. That's what friends are for. Let them do it and keep them around.