Unsolicited Advice when it comes to Mental Health

So I came upon an interesting situation over the past few days. I was having a conversation with a few people and my anxiety came up with managing emotions and such the like. Someone chimed in and told me about their experience with anxiety and someone in their life who was suffering from it. They were telling their story about having someone in their family having general anxiety disorder and how they were having panic attacks about school and finals. She detailed a time where she had pulled an all nighter studying for a test and had so much anxiety in the morning that they couldn’t drive to school.  The individual had asked for a ride but the family told them no and take an uber as a way to push her past her anxiety almost. However, they said that their anxiety and panic had all subsided and they learned how to plan time so it didn’t happen again. They had mentioned to me that maybe planning ahead could definitely help me with my panic attacks.

I completely understand their thought and appreciate them trying to help, however I did not take this advice well. To me, this anxiety was caused by school stresses and learning time management was key in alleviating it. Now, I don’t know this person very well and I don’t know if there are other parts to the story that can give me a more broad picture of this individual’s mental health. But, it was during finals. Nearly everyone in college is extremely anxious and stressed during finals. Panic attacks happen during this time to people who have never experienced them before. So, yeah planning ahead and managing time is a great way to alleviate school stress. So I’m sure that will help that person with what they are dealing with.

HOWEVER, I shared a very small picture of my life by saying that I had been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. While I appreciate the concern and intention behind their advice, I don’t like when people assume what my condition is. In my understanding, people with GAD can have all different experiences. For example, I usually don’t get school stressed because I am very much a person who likes to get things done right away. My anxiety is triggered in different situations like crowded social events, being home alone, and other random ones. I understand my triggers and have learned how to work through them. Now, I have done a lot of therapy, medication and self discovery to get to a place where I can function in my daily life without having panic attacks twice a day. But, I still have panic attacks. Panic attacks that I can’t control. They come up at random times like when I’m walking my dog at night or eating my cereal in the morning. Planning ahead is not going to do much for those.

Here’s the thing with mental health advice. It shouldn’t be directed in a way that can be understood as “here is what you can do to make it better because it worked for someone else”. Just because it worked for someone doesn’t mean it will work for someone else. I think we’ve come to a point where mental health is a topic of conversation more often than not, which I’m incredibly grateful for. But we need to be careful. Just like pregnant women don’t like random advice, people with mental health disorders may not like it as well. These are so intricate and complex, it’s hard to give any advice without understanding their story and journey. Well that’s at least my opinion. This is something I feel will become more common now that we are having more conversations around mental health so I wanted to just put my thoughts out there since this situation arose and irked me a little more than it probably should have.

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