I sat with a friend as I watched her slip a little further into her anxiety. Gasping for air under the weight that was holding her down, I recognized myself in her stress. It was six years ago; I lived my life — such as it were — paralyzed by the invisible bandit that steals productivity. Before I learned about my disease. Before I understood its magnitude and formed a plan for its treatment.
I don’t tell people how to live their lives (my children excluded). I’m not such a stellar specimen of success that I have any right to tell anyone how to do anything. In that moment, I saw was a hurting friend. In that moment, I knew I needed to do something hard. To speak truth in love.
I found the words coming out of my mouth before I could stop them, “You need to call your doctor.”
There is a moment when anxiety takes over and starts to interfere in your life. It’s different for everyone. Some people can keep their anxiety under control with breathing exercises and relaxation techniques. Other people use mindfulness and mediation. Some sweat it out and balance the chemicals in their brain with physical activity.
Sometimes, however, a medical professional needs to get involved. It’s scary and shameful to feel like you don’t have control of yourself. It shouldn’t be; no one would fault you for seeing a doctor to treat diabetes or cancer. Somehow, mental illness carries such a stigma that seeing a doctor feels like weakness. In reality, it’s one of the strongest steps you can take.
More than likely, someone in your life is struggling with depression, anxiety, or another form of mental illness. When the time is right, when it’s quiet and still, when they are safe, speak truth in love. Remind them that you love them, that you’re proud of how strong they are trying to be. Remind them that it’s okay to struggle, it’s good. Remind them that, when they’re ready, it’s okay to ask for help too.
Not tough love, just love.