Editor’s Note: This post is not intended as medical advice. Always consult a medical professional or physician before treatment of any kind.
If you’ve ever been diagnosed with a mental health disorder, such as anxiety or depression, then you probably know all too well that your diagnosis doesn’t just affect you, but can impact your loved ones, too. The hardest part? Putting into words just what exactly is going on inside your head — a challenge that can make it difficult for those around you to support you in the best way possible.
However, Buzzfeed producer Kelsey Darragh, who’s been diagnosed with panic and anxiety disorder, recently came up with a brilliant solution for this; and the Internet can’t stop thanking her for it.
Darragh recently tweeted a handwritten guide she created for her boyfriend that not only helps him understand her condition, but also tells him how he can best help her when she’s having a panic attack.
“I have panic and anxiety disorder,” Darragh captioned the tweet. “My boyfriend does not … but wants to understand it so he can help me. SO I made him this list! Feel free to share w ur loved ones that need guidance!”
The accompanying list, which is chock-full of concrete and helpful tips, has struck a chord with many, leading to more than 9K retweets and 26K likes so far. It’s also ignited an important conversation, with many Twitter users sharing their own tips and advice for handling panic attacks.
Speaking with Babble, Darragh shares that she has struggled with an anxiety disorder since she was 17.
“It was so crippling during my early 20s, there were months that I didn’t leave the house,” she shares. “I couldn’t work. I couldn’t get on a plane. I couldn’t date.”
Her list includes straightforward advice to her boyfriend like, “Find my meds if they’re nearby and make sure I take it,” as well as more personal tips that she trusts will help to calm her down.
“Breathing exercises are going to frustrate me,” she wrote, “but they are vital. Try to get me to sync my breathing with yours.”
She also noted: “Sips of water can be helpful but don’t tell me I need to eat or drink because TRUST ME — I feel like I’m going to vomit.”
The ingenious thing about Darragh’s list is that it’s a preemptive measure; she’s guiding her boyfriend through what is going to help her before she’s in the midst of a panic attack and unable to communicate as clearly.
As someone who struggles with major depressive disorder myself, I found myself relating to many of these suggestions. I especially connected with her suggestion to “remind me that this has happened before and this too shall pass!” as well as her honest and gentle reminders to her boyfriend to “empathize with me.”
Men have a bad reputation for being poor listeners, but I think that oftentimes they practice selective listening with the intent to fix things. They are looking for a solution. So, by creating a helpful guide for her boyfriend, Darragh is providing him with insight into her panic attacks and how they make her feel, as well as concrete ways that he can help her through them.
“My boyfriend Jared is the most wonderful, accepting and loving person I’ve ever met,” Darragh tells Babble, “but he has no idea what it was actually like to get a panic attack.”
Darragh says that the list has helped him to understand how she needs him to react when she is suffering from a panic attack.
“I’m lucky to have a partner that believes my anxiety and wants to understand it,” says Darragh. “When I had my first panic attack in front of him (at Disneyland nonetheless) he had no idea how to handle me. I couldn’t clearly communicate what was happening or how I needed help. This is what inspired the list.”
Since then, Darragh says her boyfriend has completely changed his approach, going from trying to be a “fixer” to now acting as a “complete support system,” which she says is really all he can do.
She is absolutely right about that one — not to mention fortunate to have found someone who wants to be that support system for her.
The last tip on Darragh’s list is perhaps the most important one of all.
“Once it passes (like hours later), open up a dialogue with me about it,” she wrote. “How’d you do? What can we do next time?”
By keeping these lines of communication open, and being honest with each other, this couple is a wonderful example of how mutually supporting one another can bring about a deeper connection and help combat the pain that often comes with suffering from anxiety.
The post This Woman’s Anxiety “Tip List” for Her Boyfriend Is One We Can All Learn From appeared first on Babble.