It can be hard to explain how anxiety feels, as anyone who has ever suffered from the condition will know.
The NHS describes it as “a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, that can be mild or severe”, but there is no one-size-fits-all approach to defining the condition.
After all, people experience anxiety in different ways, and the condition itself can range from generalised anxiety disorder to more specific issues, such as panic disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder.
Despite this, one woman has managed to write a letter that almost perfectly sums up the vast sum of most people’s experiences of anxiety.
Laura Mazza, a Syndey-based blogger who runs website The Mum on the Run, shared the letter on her Facebook page earlier this month – and her words make for crucial reading for anyone whose partner is dealing with the feelings associated with the condition.
The letter begins by addressing the “man whose wife or partner has anxiety”, before going on to state “there are things you should know” when helping someone to cope with anxiety.
“Anxiety isn’t a one size fits all, it isn’t consistent and it isn’t always easy to tell,” Mazza writes.
“You might think she’s just snapped at you, but it was anxiety that did it, you might think she’s angry, but it's the anxiety that's got a chokehold, you might think she’s not enjoying herself when you go out and it’s your fault, but it’s not. It’s anxiety.”
She goes on to describe how anxiety can feel like a “freight train” of thoughts that never ends.
“You know how she can’t understand when she asks you what are you thinking, why you would respond with ‘nothing’... it’s because she never thinks nothing,” she writes.
“Her thoughts replay like a freight train in her head full steam ahead, over and over. It’s exhausting for her. It’s why she’s tired. There isn’t a day that goes by where she doesn’t think.
“She thinks about everything, and usually it is the worst case scenario. She worries that something will go wrong. That some days if she leaves the house, something will happen. Kidnapping, deaths, falls, cars spinning out of control, that's why she can’t just leave the house or just go out, even though you've suggested it with good intentions.”
Mazza continues the letter by explaining the ways a partner can help, down to easing the pressure with simple things like holding their hand.
“You can see what gets too much for her, the crowds of people or bed time, dinner time, see it and help her by holding her hand and tell her you’re with her. Do it with her, take over, tell her to sit down for a while and breathe…
“If you see her struggling with appointments, reschedule them for her, encourage her to take it slowly. Too much is overwhelming for her, even though she has good intentions. Don’t make her feel bad for missing an appointment, a party, whatever. She wanted to go, but she couldn’t. She already feels bad. Tells her it’s okay.”
She adds that “not every day will be bad, and those days should be celebrated, but on the bad days, still celebrate her, because she needs it.
“Forever and ever, you just to need take her hand and tell her, ‘I am with you’.”
The beautiful letter, which you can read in full below, went viral online, with almost 74,000 shares and over 27,000 likes since it was posted to Facebook on 10 August.
It also received some 21,000 comments from people who were touched by Mazza’s words, from those who have experienced anxiety and find it hard to express their feelings, to those who are struggling to help a partner dealing with the condition.
“How have you organised all my jumbled thoughts and put them into something understandable??” wrote one woman. “Everything that I’ve tried to explain a thousand times but can never get out (especially in my frustrated moments of pure anxious messiness)! I think a lot of ladies are right now thinking pure gratitude towards you. Thank you for finding the words and sharing them.”
“I cried reading this... as if you’ve taken it directly from my mind and written it down...” wrote another. “Something I haven’t been able to do and make sense of for some time. Thank you for not making me feel alone and allowing me to remember how much appreciation I have for my husband.
“Anxiety has affected every aspect of my life for so long... Something I hope to overcome in time.”
You can read the full letter below:
The most recent statistics from the Mental Health Foundation found there were 8.2 million cases of anxiety in the UK, and women in England are almost twice as likely than men to be diagnosed with the condition.
If you, or someone you know, needs help with anxiety, you can call the Mind infoline on 0300 123 3393 or find more information on the website here
Images: facebook/themumontherun / iStock