While reading some stuff on anxiety last night, I came across a post (well, article since it was on what seemed to be a legit site, but it read more like a blog post) that talked about “indulging” your anxiety and how doing so can make you an asshole. And, if you do indulge in your symptoms, then you ultimately don’t deserve relationships at all. After all, one can’t expect their friends and family to be inconvenienced by episodes of anxiety. Or depression, as depression was mentioned, too.
No, I’m not going to post the link, as the website doesn’t deserve the traffic, but I am going to rant a bit. Typically I would just roll my eyes and move along. There’s always going to be a few idiots who think it’s appropriate to say really stupid things, but in this case, there was a shit ton of comments, and in many of the ones I read people agreed and voiced how tired they were of people playing the “anxiety card.” That was one was new to me — first we had the Race Card, then the Woman Card, now Anxiety Card. So, I’m going to do the rant thing a little and maybe someone with similar thinking will come across this and take heed. Probably not, though.
First of all, “indulging one’s anxiety symptoms”? Typically indulging refers to someone getting/doing something they want. Indulging in chocolate. Indulging by buying your grandkids a bunch of toys. Indulging by doing something you want, whether it’s a healthy something or not. But no one with anxiety or depression (or any other mental illness, since I’m sure that displaying symptoms of those would also warrant being accused of playing the (Whatever) Card and inconveniencing people) wants this. A lot of it is out of their scope of control.
Here is a list of general anxiety disorder symptoms from good ol’ WebMD, also known as the anxious person’s hell, in case you’re not clear on the frivolities people suffering from an anxiety disorder are indulging in:
- Feelings of panic, fear, and uneasiness
- Problems sleeping
- Cold or sweaty hands or feet
- Shortness of breath
- Heart palpitations
- Not being able to be still and calm
- Dry mouth
- Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
- Muscle tension
The last time I checked, feeling like I couldn’t breathe and was having a heart attack, feeling like I’d be en route to the ER if I didn’t know better, isn’t exactly indulging. Taking medication, avoiding triggers, and all the breathing skills in the world don’t do a damn thing sometimes, especially for the anxiety episodes that come out of the blue with no apparent cause.
I wonder, when someone with a physical illness experiences symptoms that they have little to no control over, is it indulging then? “Oh, please, you’re just indulging your laryngitis by not being able to talk in a loud clear voice.” Or something equally as stupid.
Second, the notion that friends and family should “dump your ass” if you “give in” to multiple episodes of anxiety is just ridiculous. If that’s the way someone feels, then maybe they’re the one with the problem. If they can’t see past the inconvenience of dinner plans being canceled or having to postpone game night until next Tuesday, and have a little compassion upon hearing the reason the plans were canceled, then is that really a relationship someone should want to keep up? Yet the writer of the article made it out so that the people with anxiety were the assholes here, the ones who were the toxic people.
Oh, and when people with an anxiety disorder back out of things, it’s not because they want to risk further isolating themselves. It’s because they can’t do whatever the thing you want them to do without feeling absolutely miserable. And wouldn’t that be kind of a party killer anyway? Panic attacks between shots of tequila doesn’t sound fun for anyone.
Yeah, the irritability and mood stuff can be difficult to deal with, but again, would you shame someone that was suffering from a physical illness for acting pissy every so often? Even when they feel terrible for it, take responsibility, make amends, and take steps to prevent it from coming out around others?
Third, stop the tough love bullcrap. It. Does. Not. Work. Why, why, why would someone think that it’s appropriate to tell people suffering from an anxiety disorder to stop doing the things that help keep them grounded and get through the day? Apparently telling the anxious person in your life to kick that shit to the curb or be kicked to the curb themselves is a form of tough love. No, that’s just bullshit for saying that you’re so selfish that you don’t want to be inconvenienced by other people’s problems, that if everything can’t be on your terms, then you’re not interested.
Now that I’m getting close to the end of this, let me go ahead and say — for the record, yes, people with an anxiety disorder can be assholes, because I’m sure someone will pipe up and say “Well, I know someone with an anxiety disorder and they’re definitely an asshole.” But guess what? They aren’t assholes because of their mental health problems anymore than the asshole three doors down is an asshole because he has diabetes — they’re just assholes who happen to have an anxiety disorder. Maybe they like to blame treating someone like shit on anxiety or another problem to try to get a free pass to do whatever the hell they want, but know that it isn’t so much the disorder as it is the pre-existing asshole condition. Certainly don’t suggest that all people with a mental illness are assholes because they’re experiencing a symptom.
Let’s stop with the “playing the (whatever) card.” Spewing that bullshit does nothing more than create shame and make it less likely that people struggling will forgo or continue to forgo seeking treatment.