We’ve all had someone cancel on us at one time or another and let’s be honest, it can be disappointing. However, nine times out of ten they ‘bail’ because of something deeper than not being bothered.
If you have a ‘flaky’ friend or family member, this may result from their battle with an anxiety disorder.
The NHS website defines an anxiety disorder as: ‘a long-term condition that causes you to feel anxious about a range of situations, leading to both psychological and physical symptoms’.
If somebody continuously cancels your plans together, it doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t care about you or don’t want to see you. Try to keep in mind that there could be a genuine reason behind it, and this reason probably isn’t about you at all.
Last month on Twitter I created a poll, asking: ‘Have you ever cancelled plans because your anxiety was too debilitating?’
96% of votes answered ‘Yes’ and 4% of votes said ‘No’.
Now I completely understand the difficulty of stringing together the words: ‘My anxiety is really overwhelming today. I won’t be able to make it, but I’d love to rearrange and go another time…’
On the day of said plans, you’re faced with an urgent and deafening fear of something that everybody else seems to do without a second thought. Dealing with anxiety which is so controlling that you have to cancel your plans, can be exhausting in every sense of the word.
What Does An Anxiety Disorder Look Like?
From my personal experience with generalised anxiety disorder or GAD, the best way that I can describe it is like this.
Picture yourself driving. Suddenly you see a police car and there is an immediate wave of fear running throughout your body. The feeling is so dominant, even though you haven’t done anything wrong, and it remains when the police car is out of sight. This is an anxiety attack. An excessive worry about something in your life, which intensifies over time and doesn’t seem to pass.
Your body exists in a psychological period of emergency, in the absence of danger. But how do you escape from yourself?
Anxiety becomes deeply rooted in you to such an extent, that you trust it more than your rational mind. It makes you genuinely believe that ‘You don’t look pretty’, ‘No one likes you’, ‘You’re a failure’…
Understanding Excuses For Cancelling Plans
Disclaimer: I am writing the following excuses from the perspective of individuals with an anxiety disorder. The excuses listed below don’t only portray, and are not only tied down to anxiety disorders. However, they can be seen as common and go-to responses from individuals suffering with this.
For some, feeling tired comes from disrupted sleep, working the late shift and having to get up early. However, for others feeling tired is more than a lack of eight hours. It’s a tired which 48 hours of sleep could never fix. An exhaustion which makes it almost impossible to get out of bed or find the energy to eat, shower and work; to name just a few.
A lot of people are simply exhausted of fighting the voice which makes them feel inadequate.
‘I can’t get out of the house today, I won’t have enough time’
Anxiety can sometimes be triggered by change and the unknown. Having limited control over a situation can make some individuals extremely uncomfortable. If a normal routine is compromised unexpectedly, it may completely throw that person off and prevent them from doing what they had planned to on that day.
‘I had a really bad day’
After a panic attack, it can be terrifying to face potentially triggering situations. This leads to avoidance behaviours and isolation, because being in a safe environment reduces the risk of something bad happening.
‘I don’t feel well’
According to the NHS, the most common selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) for anxiety-related conditions are: citalopram, fluoxetine, paroxetine and sertraline.
The most common side effects of SSRIs include: blurred vision, dizziness, fatigue and nausea. Therefore, some people may not feel well enough to simultaneously battle their mental and physical challenges.
‘I have nothing to wear’
The things that you used to religiously wear, you won’t contemplate wearing anymore. Anxiety is a distressing voice in your head, which convinces you that ‘you can’t wear that, your thighs touch’ or ‘your arms are too big’. It rids you of confidence and eats away at your self-esteem, until there is absolutely nothing left.
‘I’m feeling sick’
I personally suffer with nausea as a result of my anxiety, especially when I feel overwhelmed and stressed. If I have an extremely distressing panic attack, my body feels like it can’t function properly. Sometimes, this stops me from completing my daily tasks and means that I am behind on my work- causing more stress. It’s a permanent, ongoing cycle.
‘Homework to do’
People with anxiety are more likely to experience the issues that come with perfectionism. Having unrealistic expectations about yourself, and inevitably falling short of them, can cause increased levels of anxiety, discontent and frustration. Perfectionism means that you spend longer than needed on your tasks, which wastes time and energy. As somebody that regularly feels quite flat, I need all of the energy I can get my hands on!
Although, I feel really uncomfortable with not completing things to my standards of ‘perfection’. This unproductive way of thinking has prevented me from working constructively for years.
‘My parents really need me today’
Being around a person or people that know you really well (such as a parent) can make you feel extremely safe. This could be because they are educated and aware of how anxiety effects you. They could act in a way which benefits you, which is near impossible to explain to a kind-hearted stranger, during an attack.
Whereas, being in the company of more uneducated people, individuals are generally more likely to receive judgement, insensitive questions and insults. Most of the time this isn’t intentional, but it is the last thing that anyone needs on a difficult day.
A message from your ‘flaky’ friend or family member
Please don’t judge people for cancelling plans with little notice. Everybody has to do what they feel is best for them: sometimes that is taking a mental health day, and on other days that could be facing a triggering stimulus.
Regardless of their decision, I promise you that they DO care. I can’t stress this enough angels!
For years I have missed out on countless experiences, opportunities and moments that I won’t get back. Anxiety has taken so much from me, which motivates me to challenge my anxiety disorder. I want to break free from my comfort zone and I hope that this post has inspired yourself to do so too.
Have you ever cancelled plans because of anxiety, angel? I would really love to hear from you in the comments below!
You can also find me on Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest!
Below are links to websites that can support you if you are suffering from a mental illness.
116 123 (24 hours a day, free to call)
0300 123 3393 (9am-6pm Monday to Friday)