What Not To Say To Someone With Generalized Anxiety Disorder


I've personally struggled with anxiety for most of my adult life.

I've also suffered from bouts of depression.

I first noticed it during my senior year of college. I was anxious about everything from my classes, the retail job I hated, my apparent inability to maintain healthy relationships, and anything else you could think of. While all of that was racking my brain, just the thought of taking the next steps into adulthood would leave me clutching my knees in defeat on my apartment floor. I never really talked about it with anyone back then. I just concluded I was a sorry excuse for an adult and I dropped out during the second trimester of my senior year thinking this would alleviate some of my mental anguish.

I was wrong. It only added to list I had created about how I was failing at life and my anxiety was at an all-time high. I say all this to say that you never truly know the severity of what people are going through, especially as it relates to mental health. Anyone who has struggled with mental health issues, be it short-lived or a lasting condition, has probably had someone express doubt or indifference to their condition. Below are just a few of the unfair generalizations people with mental health issues experience.

"You're Being Dramatic"


I had a friend in high school who used to have anxiety attacks. I always thought she was a little on the dramatic side, so I figured this was just a part of the package. I'd eventually realize how judgmental I was being. Fast forward to my 20's, life was happening, and not how I planned. Eventually, my circumstances overwhelmed me and I had my first anxiety attack.

It started out as a normal day. I was standing at the sink washing dishes, quietly fighting with my ruminating thoughts. From time to time, I'd glance at my two little ones playing in the hall. They had such a pure, happy and worry-free existence. I felt unworthy to be in their presence. "I'm such a sh**ty mom," I said to myself. In an effort to calm myself, I attempted to take a deep breath.



I tried to take another breath. Nothing. It was like I had a cap on how much oxygen my lungs could take in. I started getting dizzy. I rushed past my toddlers, oblivious to my condition, grabbing at my legs for hugs. I clambered to sit down on my living room couch. Tears began to stream as I hurried to call my mom. In a defeated breath, I struggled to explain what was happening. My parents quickly arrived and my dad whisked me to the ER while my mom stayed home with my little ones.

It was terrifying. I felt like I couldn't breathe, and every time I fought to take a breath, I felt like I was draining what little energy I had left. I was super lightheaded and I just felt (as dramatic as it sounds) this sense of doom. After a trip to the ER, I was given a clean slate of physical health. After another visit to the same ER for the same symptoms, I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and was told to follow up with my regular doctor and a therapist/counselor.

Although I didn't do it right away, I noticed the benefits of talking to someone immediately.

"Pray It Away"


I can't remember the last time I set foot in a church, but my relationship with God has done nothing less than thrive. I won't say it has been a perfect road but it has made me seek my own relationship with God on my terms. I understand wanting to congregate with like-minded souls. That's beautiful. But the hypocrisy and judgemental air that exists in a lot of congregations makes me less than enthused to wake up early Sunday morning, drape myself in my Sunday's best and head on to church. I realized I could find solace in singing my favorite spiritual songs, reading from my devotionals and having a one-on-one time with God.

This has made me view myself as more spiritual than religious. I will say I am a believer in the power of pray. I understand that a talk with God can do wonders. But I also believe that some people want another human being to talk to. Someone that walks this earth and sees and experiences the surroundings like they do. I believe that God places people in our lives for a reason.


Some people are blessed with an exceptional ability to understand, sympathize, and help us find solutions to our mental, emotional, and physical struggles.

I've been in a place before where the thoughts are so loud that you need to see, hear and feel someone physically. Whether it be a hug while you cry. An empathetic ear to listen to your troubles. A human gaze to see your pain. Rather than saying, "God will fix it, they'll be fine," ask God how you can help someone. Take the time to let someone know you are there should they need you.

"It Will Pass"


True. To an extent.

An event or moment will pass because technically you can't live in a moment forever. Moments end. Some of those endings feel like a defeat. Some of those endings are traumatizing. Some of those endings bring about lingering negative side effects that need to be addressed and worked out. This takes time.

While some people can do this without assistance, others may need to seek help. There is absolutely no shame in that.

I expressed all that to say this: don't judge. You never know what someone is dealing with. You never know what someone has been through. Brave faces can hide a tortured mind. If you are struggling with mental health issues, please take the time to talk to someone. Whether it be a trusted close friend, family member, a doctor, therapist, or counselor. Show up for yourself and your mental well-being.

Your life is too precious.

If you are someone you know is suicidal please reach out to someone you trust or The National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. They also have a chat-room you can use to speak with someone.

Featured image by Shutterstock

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
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