As someone who deals with anxiety, something I’m commonly aware of is that how I might act towards someone may not provide a clear indication of how I feel.
So, in this blog I’ll be going through a few scenarios that I can think of, reflecting on how I have acted in the past, and what this might indicate regarding my inner mental state. I’ll also be providing some advice after each scenario, if you often find someone in your life acting this way.
*This is based on my own experiences, I am by no means seeking to generalise*
How I act: Seeming distant and uninterested
Does NOT mean: You are boring me, I am fed up of this conversation.
Does mean: I’m having a lot of thoughts right now and consequently I’m really struggling to stay in the present moment. I want to be engaged and attentive to you, but my thoughts keep pulling me out of this moment.
Advice for you: You could ask me if there’s anything particularly on my mind that I’d like to chat about
How I act: Irritable, tense, on edge
Does NOT mean: You’re making me feel angry and annoyed
Does mean: Perhaps I’m really tired, perhaps my head feels really busy and I’m battling with multiple thoughts at once. I feel quite overwhelmed with these thoughts.
Advice for you: Try not to take this behaviour to heart. Perhaps suggest a soothing activity for you both, such as grabbing a coffee or watching their favourite TV show.
How I act: Being repetitive with what I say, rambling about my worries
Does NOT mean: I’m trying to annoy you, or that I want to be selfish and take up this entire conversation
Does mean: I trust you and feel I can open up to you. Venting to you makes me feel more at ease, and it feels good to get stuff off my chest. If I ramble to you, I probably feel you’re a really good listener.
Advice for you: Try to just be present and listen to them. If you can see that the person is spiralling and stressing themselves out, perhaps gently steer the conversation in a different direction.
How I act: Quieter than usual
Does NOT mean: I can’t be bothered to engage with you
Does mean: I’m probably exhausted. I give so much of my energy to my thoughts that I’m often left with a draining battery, particularly at the end of a long day or week. Sitting in silence with you, someone I trust, is comfortable for me and helps to regain my energy.
Advice for you: If you’re comfortable doing so, sit with them in silence. You could put on the TV, or get on with some personal work/reading. This way, your friend doesn’t feel pressured to talk, and will feel comforted by your presence.