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I’ve completely obliterated many a relationship due to my anxiety. There’s been the sudden rage born out of feeling uncomfortable. Nausea has led me to cancel plans again and again because “I don’t feel well.” And I’ve ghosted really nice folks because I was afraid of spending time with new people but had run out of excuses for not getting together with them.
I’ve been an absolute turd.
Knowing now that I have anxiety, there are some guidelines I can follow to make sure I’m treating people right, but am putting my health first and still feel comfortable.
1. Tell everyone
Being honest about poor mental health is hard, but it does make life easier. When people know what’s going on, even if they don’t understand it, they can react with more compassion.
Being open also helps others feel less alone in their struggles.
2. Don’t make plans on a whim
While I was feeling good, I used to be optimistic that I’d keep feeling that way. So, when someone I didn’t know well reached out to set a coffee date or a good friend asked me to do something outside of my comfort zone, I’d say yes! And then regret it later, often canceling last minute.
I hated being a flake.
Instead, I now hold off on answering when people reach out to schedule something. Making tentative plans is totally okay, especially if it’s clear that it’s dependent on anxiety levels. My favourite plans are where a time is set but the activity isn’t decided until the day of. This leaves room for diving outside of the comfort zone or doing something super chill, dependent on how the day is going.
3. Say no
There are people who I’ve gotten awful vibes from or who I just never settled into feeling comfortable around, but who I’ve continued to date or be friends with. This leads to lots of anxiety, which leads to feeling sick and being irrationally angry, which leads to a super toxic relationship.
If you’re not feeling it with someone, back off. There are more than seven billion people in the world. That’s a lot of other people who you each could be spending time with.
4. Ditch the guilt
When plans are canceled or changed by someone dealing with a physical ailment, no one gets upset. Friends are open to changing their behaviour for people who are dealing with an injury. Mental health issues shouldn’t be treated any differently.
If you’re honest with people about why you’re sometimes not the best friend, they should understand. If they don’t? Fuck them. Of those seven billion people, there are plenty who have enough compassion to be your friend.
Meg Crane is a freelance writer and editor. Having struggled with anxiety and depression her whole life, she helps other freelancers and creatives learn how to take care of their mental health while pursuing the work they love. Learn more at megjcrane.com.