Friday, January 25, 2013


how to assist a person with an anxiety disorder
things we are trying to do all the time: 1. be safe
things we can’t help but do all the time:
1. second-guess ourselves 2. behave impulsively and reactively and defensively
3. take everything personally 4.worry 5.worry 6.worry 7.have difficulty
accepting compliments
8. have difficulty reciprocating friendly gestures 9. have difficulty
finding the courage to respond 10. have difficulty not being
suspicious of others’ intentions 11. make a huge deal out of the
smallest thing
things you should keep in mind:1.we’re scared of everything 2. pretty
much all of the time 3. it’s an actual disorder
4. it manifests as impulsive behavior 5. you can’t fix us with words 

6.telling us “worrying is silly” won’t make us stop worrying
7. it’ll only make us feel silly 8.and then we’ll worry even more
9.“oh god, am i worrying too much? what if she calls me silly
again?” that 11.also, we wear a lot of armor 12.cold,
heavy, affection-proof armor with spikes 13.we constructed this armor
as children
14.we’re fairly certain you will never be able to pry it apart
15.but there is a nice person under there, we promise

 things you can do
for a friend with an anxiety disorder:
1. stick around 2.ask him/her if they’re comfortable in a place or
situation willing to change the place or situation if not 

4.activities that help them take their mind off of things are good!
5. talk to them even when they might not talk back 6.(they’re probably
too afraid to say the wrong thing )7.try not to take their reactions
(or lack thereof) personally 8.(the ways they express themselves are
distorted and bent because of their constant fear)
9. (and they know this) 10.give them time to respond to you 11.they
will obsess over how they are being interpreted 12.they will anticipate
being judged took me four hours just to type this much
14. even though i sound casual 15.that’s because i have an anxiety

things you shouldn’t do:1. tell us not to worry
2. tell us we’ll be fine 3.mistake praise for comfort 4.ask us if we
are “getting help”5. force us to be social 6. force us to do things
that trigger us7.“face your fears” doesn’t always work
8. because—remember—scared of fact, it would be more
accurate to say we are scared of the fear itself

emergency action
procedure for panic attacks:
1. be patient3. don’t be condescending4. remind us that
we’re not crazy 5.sit with us 6.ask us to tighten and relax our
muscles one by one 7.remind us that we are breathing
8. engage us in a discussion (if we can talk, then we can breathe)9.
if we are having trouble breathing, try getting us to exhale slowly10.
 or breathe through our nose11. or have us put our hands on our
stomach to feel each breath
12.  ask us what needs to change in our environment in order for us to
feel safe13.  help us change it 14.  usually, just knowing that we have
someone on our side willing to fight our scary monsters with us is
enough to calm us down

if You have an anxiety disorder: 1. it’s okay.2.even if you worry that
it’s not okay.3. it’s still okay. it’s okay to be scared. it’s okay to
be scared of being scared.
4. you are not crazy. you are not a freak.5. i know there’s a person
under all that armor.6. and i know you feel isolated because of it.7.
i won’t make you take it off.8. but know that you are not alone. 

Don't Forget to Breathe
10.5 x 7 inches
ingredients: vintage book pages, image transfers, found objects, vintage dress pattern, vintage ephemera,
 stitching, on vintage book cover

I don't know who wrote the brilliant poem/words above; if you know who the author is, please let me know so that I can credit him/her. 


  1. I battle my own armor - it is painful. Your work is lovely and intriguing and a journey in exploration for the viewer. After I looked at this piece I came to the conclusion I need to loosen my zipper to breathe better. xo teri

    1. Thank you, Teri. I wish loosening the zipper was all it took... xo

  2. tu me surprends toujours! j'aime!

    1. Merci beaucoups, Elfi. This one is a bit different from my usual, but change is good, right?

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  4. Thanks Sharmon, Wow!!! that was an amazing essay. Feels much better to think this is a common thing.

    1. Apparently, it's more common than I used to believe, which does make me feel a little better, too. I hope you're coping well. xo

  5. Such a dramatic picture of anxiety. I'm sure we all have our moments, but this takes us into a place beyond where most of us are taken. Thanks for your brave and powerful words.

    1. Annie, I knew I had to publish this piece of writing when my friend sent it to me- it so dramatically re-creates the feeling. I'm not brave at all, because I've hidden this from everyone for so long. Maybe if it enables even one person to empathize, some pain can be avoided as a result.

  6. Reading this I did forget to breathe. I do know someone who suffers panic attacks and this post has given me a clearer perspective. Thanks so much for sharing, Sharmon. I love "Don't Forget to Breathe". The zipper is such a clever way to unite the two sides.

    1. I so appreciate what you say about a clearer perspective, Robyn. I published this, despite my embarrassment, for just that reason. Glad you like the piece, too.

  7. As someone who has suffered panic attacks in the past, I can appreciate this on a very personal level. And what I found interesting as such was that I didn't even notice the zipper in your piece until I'd read other people's comments here. That's what a panic attack feels like--one is unable to find the way to undo the mounting pressure. And even when the release-zipper is found, fear takes over again when we feel that the zipper is sewn over with zig-zag stitches, like being sewn into a body bag of panic. But I have learned, as your collage instructs, that breathing is key to controlling the symptoms and getting back in control of the body's unpleasant (I'm going to die!) sensations.

    1. Lynne, I'm sorry to hear that you've had to go through this awful experience. I think it's difficult for people to understand that it's a real disorder, and you're not just being a wimp... that's why I decided to share it. I hope you're feeling well, and panic-attack free! xo

  8. I know a handful of folks with anxiety disorders... this was an informative list. How often does someone feel confident and clear enough to hand one the manual of how to support them? Awesome. Cool piece.

    1. Thank you Valerianna. I knew these were the perfect words to accompany my piece when I read them; I could never express myself so well in words. Whoever it was that had that confidence and clarity has my gratitude.

  9. this is totally utterly brilliant Sharmon and so timely as one of our friends is trying to climb out of a deep hole made with pain, fear and addiction and I have been wondering how to help... this helps.

    1. Mo, I'm glad to hear this is helpful to someone; that was my intention. I wish your friend all the best- he/she is fortunate to have someone who cares.

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  11. It looks like you have a friend with a certain issue and your art piece is a wonderful way to help understand -- art can be healing.

    1. I believe art is healing, too, Donna; it can also be a wonderful way to communicate and spread understanding. Thanks for visiting.

  12. Stunning, both words and the artwork, I am deeply moved by both.

  13. Don't forget to "lift up your eyes unto the hills" again soon, Sharmon. Those hills got me through some rough spots, years ago.

  14. great piece Sharmon, and stitching over the zipper is BRILLIANT!

    1. Glad you like it, Cat. I struggled with this piece quite a bit, but the zipper is probably my favorite part.


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