“But it’s not that bad; why are you letting it bother you so much?”
I have heard this way too many times. I start telling someone about my anxiety and I mention the challenges of an irrational fear or something. Sometimes, people give me a confused look or comment on how “it’s not that bad.” Yes, having to steady my breathing after using running water (Yes, I have an irrational fear of running water. It’s a long story.) doesn’t seem that bad. And I could manage that. But think about how often you wash your hands, fill up your water bottle, brush your teeth, flush the toilet, wash laundry, clean your living space, take a shower, etc. That’s a lot of times. And that’s just one irrational fear out of many. There are other hard things, too: getting up in the morning, fighting the thoughts in my head, convincing myself to eat some days, etc., etc., etc.
My irrational fear of running water isn’t what makes me question on some days if life is worth living anymore. The constant fight – while waking up, eating, taking notes in classes, taking a shower, etc. – is what makes me think about death and dark things.
I understand that when I first open up to someone, you don’t know about all the other things. And if you haven’t experienced something like this, you wouldn’t understand what it’s like to be told that “it’s not that bad.” But now you know a little bit. If someone starts opening up to you and tells you about something small, be patient and don’t make assumptions on what it feels like. Opening up about this stuff is hard, and it’s unfair to them to make judgments without knowing the whole picture. Maybe it is the only thing going on, and maybe they tell you that it really isn’t that bad for them. Just don’t be the one to make that judgment.
So, yes, my irrational fear of running water is not that bad – alone. When I have to face it in combination with a bunch of other struggles (most of which are also not that bad alone), it’s enough to become suffocating.