Please Don't Roll Your Eyes
I'm going to start with some examples of fears I have and what I do to live with them, like the garbage pocket from last week I use to deal with my fear of throwing things away during class.
Fear: ordering food in restaurants. Solution: I don’t go first or last so no one will remember if I mess up. (I realize they won't anyway).
Fear: answering phone calls. Solution: I let it go to voicemail, so I know what it’s about, then call the person back.
Fear: eating in public, particularly cafeterias. Solution: I eat in the back where it’s less crowded, or with a small group of friends I'm comfortable with. I bring snack foods everywhere and eat those throughout the day because for some reason, crackers aren’t as scary as a sandwich.
Fear: drinking in front of other people and/or spilling. Solution: I use a water bottle with a straw. Can't spill with that and the motion of drinking from it is less obvious than a regular water bottle or cup.
Fear: grocery stores and check out lanes. Solution: I go at odd times when it’s less busy, use self-check outs whenever possible, have a set list, and know exactly where everything is so I don’t have to wander or ask for help.
Now, it’s possible that these sound like unhealthy behaviors. It may sound like I'm avoiding my fears and therefore giving them more power. I'm not. Avoiding my fears would be not going to restaurants, never calling people back, not eating or drinking in public, and ordering everything online.
What I'm doing is managing fears so I can conserve my energy for the big things, the things I have no choice but to face directly. Things like leaving the house. That’s a whole lot easier to do when you’re not wasting energy on panicking over a water bottle.
Last week, I promised I’d talk about how you can help, so let’s get into that. First off, I don’t usually ask people to help me with my anxiety, because that causes anxiety. If I do ask, feel special, you’re among a select few.
So what kinds of things might I ask? I may ask you to order before me, even if it doesn’t make sense. I may ask you to come with me to get something like a fork or a napkin. I may ask you to go to the store with me. I may ask you to proofread emails and texts before I send them, no matter how unimportant or simple they are. I may ask you to confirm the date and time of plans more than necessary. I may ask you a hundred times if I'm bothering you.
If I ask you any of these things, please don’t roll your eyes. Please don’t tell me no, or to handle it myself. Don’t belittle my fear or tell me it’s not worth worrying about. Trust me, I know it isn’t. I know it seems like I should be able to get a napkin by myself. Try and be patient and even if you’ve told me I'm not bothering you a hundred times, don’t show your frustration when I ask again. You can be frustrated, but please don’t show it. Don’t make me feel guilty about something I already feel ashamed of.
I can't describe how much I love the people who help me without question. Walking with me to get a napkin takes thirty seconds from your day, but it fills me with an overwhelming amount of appreciation and joy.
If I come to you for help, it means I value you, trust you, and don’t think you’ll judge me or make me feel like a burden. If you roll your eyes or make fun of me, I'm no longer sure I can trust you. You’ve solidified my greatest fear, and I likely won't ask for your help again.