Anxiety disorders affect millions of people worldwide, and if you are as unlucky as I am, you know that it can interfere with your day-to-day activities at the most inconvenient times! Knowing this ahead of time, it be at your benefit to give your roommate a little heads up. Whether you are an incoming freshman or a returning student, a new roommate can open up a room full of possibilities and adventures. With that being said, you don’t want to feel as though you have to hide your anxiety from your roommate because as you probably already know, hiding your anxiety will inevitably make your anxiety much worse! Here are a few tips on how to tell your roommate that you have anxiety and open up to them:
1. Find the right time!
While you don’t want the first words you ever say to your roommate to be “Hi, I have anxiety!”, you also don’t want to wait until your anxiety is interfering with your friendship to pull out the “I’m sorry I have anxiety” card! Instead try and find a time when you feel safe and comfortable around your roommate. For me the opportunity presented itself when we were creating out roommate agreement. This time allowed me to open up about what I’m going through and what I expect from her when my anxiety fluctuates. Whether it be over dinner or on a lazy Sunday, find time that works for both of you in a familiar and comfortable environment.
2. Honestly really is the best policy.
When trying to open up to your roommate, you want to be as honest as you can be. Lying is only going to dig yourself in a hole. It becomes extremely exhausting lying to people and trying to remember who you told what story to. If you are going to confess to your roommate about your anxiety than you might as well be honest!
3. Share only as much as you are comfortable.
While this may seem obvious, don’t feel pressured to talk things you aren’t comfortable talking about. Your mental health is your business and you have a right to keep certain things to yourself. Going back to number 2, be honest but don’t feel the need to share every waking detail of your anxiety.
4. Tell them what you need or expect from them.
This can become a grey area for your roommate once you disclose your situation to them. Your roommate will most likely want to help or be there to support you but may not know how to. Let them know what they can do to help you, even if it’s giving you space when your anxiety spikes – tell them!
5. Let them know it isn’t their fault.
Your roommate may start to question what they do or say around you, and in turn they might feel like they have to walk on egg shells around you. This is simply a result of being unfamiliar with anxiety. Let them know that while your anxiety might spike at times when you are around them, your triggers are not always set in stone and your anxiety will come and go as it pleases.
6. Explain to them your coping mechanisms.
It may be beneficial for you to disclose to your roommate some of your coping mechanisms for dealing with your anxiety. This way you can feel more comfortable being yourself in your own room. If you have a close relationship with your roommate, they may even be able to help you get past the tough times.
7. Don’t put unrealistic expectations on them.
This is really important to make a note of. While you may think that telling your roommate you have anxiety will make things a lot easier for you, remember that they are only human! Just because you explain your situation to them doesn’t mean they are going to understand everything you are going through. Give your roommate a chance though even if they are taken back at first – they may surprise you!
8. Be yourself, don’t change for anyone!
You are who you are, quarks and all. Don’t let anyone’s negativity bring you down. Not everyone you meet is going to understand what you are going to and they don’t have to. You know who you are, and all that’s important is that you take care of yourself. Remember that you don’t owe anyone an explanation, you never have to disclose information about your mental health if you are not ready to.
Always remember who you are; you’ve made it this far and you will continue to grow every day. Anxiety is just another bump in the road you may have to overcome, and while its easier said than done, know that there are people out there who care about you!