One of the tricks when dealing with depression or anxiety is spotting when things are bothering you. It’s easy to not even notice when things are upsetting you because you’re too busy being upset. It’s also very easy to gloss over it with “it’s just my depression” or some similar glib response, rather than actually digging to find out what set it off.
Once you’ve figured out what makes you uncomfortable, however, the next hurdle is doing something about it. When it’s something like crowded places or certain activities that set you off then you can avoid those situations… but what do you do when it’s behaviour in others that triggers the response? How do you tell someone that something that’s considered perfectly reasonable to 99.9% of the population actually really bothers you?
It’s a tough question, as many people have trouble understanding that simple things can really bother other people, even if they don’t bother them! I’m still working on it myself, but here are some of the tricks that I find help:
– “I” statements work a lot better than “you” statements.
“I’m not comfortable being touched” is more likely to be taken well than “You touching me makes me uncomfortable.”
Many people have insecurities of their own, and it can be easy for them to take “you” statements as criticism, rather than requests.
– Simple statements are often the best way to go with this.
Let people know what’s wrong with you as quickly as possible:
“I’m sorry, I don’t feel comfortable with so many people gathered around me.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t feel comfortable being touched by people I don’t know well.”
All the time you spend trying to explain is time where you’re still in an uncomfortable situation. Also, if you keep trying to explain after people have got the idea it can seem like you’re making excuses rather than just letting people know.
– If possible take steps to avoid the discomfort while you explain.
Take a step back from someone who’s too close, while explaining that it triggers your anxiety. If you’re still getting flustered while you are trying to explain then you’re less likely to be able to put your point across neatly. There’s also no point in leaving yourself in an uncomfortable situation any longer than necessary.
– Be sure that what you’re asking for won’t cause discomfort to them
It’s one thing to ask someone to take a step back, or to give you some time, or to lower their voice, but if you want something that will require them to go out of their comfort zone then be accepting if they say no. If you’re having a problem and they’re not comfortable with your suggested solution then it’s probably best for both of you to extract yourself from the situation!
That’s not to say you can’t ask, mind you. But be aware that what you’re asking may be a big deal to them.
– If people don’t co-operate with your first request then say it again. But this time firmer.
I would tend to escalate my requests something like this:
“I’m sorry, I’m feeling a little crowded. Could you step back please?” (stepping back a bit myself if possible)
“Please step back.” (In a firmer voice, with maintained eye-contact)
“You’re in my personal space. Step back.” (At this point it is a criticism of them 😛 )
If by the third request they still haven’t responded, or have come closer to you (or in some other way made the situation worse) then it’s time to take yourself out of the situation completely. Leave the room, or in some other way take yourself out of their company. By this stage you’ve made your point clear, and if they’re continuing to upset you then it’s best to avoid them until either you or they or both are thinking more clearly. (Or, in some extreme cases, entirely)
– Have back up.
The more people you tell about your triggers the more likely it is that one of them will step in and explain on your behalf. Or at least speak to the person upsetting you while you extract yourself from the situation and calm down.
– Ask for some time.
Even if the person (or people) in question really don’t get what’s bothering you about their actions they’ll often understand a simple request for some time and space. Proper explanation can be left until later when you’re not reacting to triggers.
It’s easy to feel that you’re being unreasonable, or that you somehow shouldn’t be upset by these things, but the fact is that they ARE upsetting. It can be awkward to bring up the fact that they’re upsetting with others, but I’ve found that most people are really accepting of the fact, and once they know what does and doesn’t bother you they often feel much more comfortable.
Remember, your close friends can often tell when you’re upset and don’t like to upset you, so being told clearly and simply exactly what is upsetting you and how to avoid it can be a huge relief for them as well as for you!