Aug 15, 2014

Anxiety and Me (But Mostly Me)

I'm going to a family party tomorrow. It's all people I know and have known for years, though I haven't seen some of them in a while. Preparations that have been made include dinner plans, time of arrival, and escape routes.

Wait, what?

Yeah. I have anxiety. Social anxiety, to be specific, though I'm also concerned about a million unlikely occurrences at all times, e.g. my house burning down if I leave a phone charger plugged in or a robbery if I don't lock the front door at all times. I've been diagnosed, and I'm on psychiatric medication for it.

So yes, I do have multiple escape plans, if need be. I will most likely walk into the restaurant weak at the knees, just a tad lightheaded, sweaty palmed, and really, really concerned about whether my family is being too loud for the other diners.

This is my normal. This is how I wake up and go to bed and how I do everything in between.

When I went to Target today with my mom, we were looking for Japanese candy—it's called Pocky. We couldn't find it anywhere, so she asked a worker roaming the aisles.

"POCKY?" she said—not rudely, but loudly. People turned their heads. "I'M NOT SURE. SHERYL, DO WE HAVE—WHAT IS IT—POCKY?"

I was sweating by the time we found the Pocky. When I reached for it, my hand trembled, and my palm was slicked with a thin sheen of perspiration. I don't blame the employee; how could she have known she was about to send me into minor hysterics?

Later, also at Target, I asked my mom if she could please be a little less noisy as we were walking down the aisles. I waited until we were alone in an aisle. She was angry for a moment because she didn't realize what I meant. Then, when she recognized she was causing me anxiety by talking a smidgen too loudly for my tastes, she nodded and put a finger to her lips.

We went to look at the YA books, and my mom stood at the end of the aisle. Someone my age came over and began browsing a few minutes after I'd arrived. I finished looking through the (admittedly not very good) selection as quickly as I could and, seeing I couldn't walk past her without saying "Excuse me," I walked all the way around another aisle to get back to my mom.

This is my life. There are many little inconveniences in it. It's imperfect—very much so. It sucks, sometimes. I still love it. I still manage to get by. I love people as a whole; I just can't be around too many at one time. I had my first panic attack when I was about eight because a girl at an all-you-can-eat buffet was maybe looking at me.

She was definitely looking at me then, after I started crying.

So when I say I have social media anxiety, I don't mean it as a joke. I really do have it. It's not diagnosable to my knowledge (nor does it really warrant a diagnosis), but it's still real, and it still affects me.

One time someone online called something I tweeted offensive, and I cried. I am not trying to become a victim—if I recall correctly, it was, in fact, offensive and poorly worded. I believe that person was 100% correct; moreover, I believe he handled it in a classy way.

I still cried.

When I tweet something, unless it's super late at night or an emergency is happening or I'm replying to a dear friend I know won't judge me, I proofread it at least twice. At the very bare minimum. Sometimes I have a hilarious joke I want to share and I try to fit it in one tweet, but it just doesn't work. Do I tweet twice? Nope—I instead try to find some magical way to sacrifice long words or clauses. Never grammar, though; what if someone with a lot of followers retweets it and then everyone laughs at my stupidity? I will go through ten proofreads, changing and tweaking wherever I can. This will take me probably seven to ten minutes. For one tweet, one small joke.

It won't get retweeted or favorited. By anyone. I'll delete it.

Now, I'm not trying to shame you guys into RTing/favoriting my stuff if you don't want to. By no means am I trying to do that. What I am trying to do is show you the inner workings of a mind touched by anxiety.

When someone I used to talk with on Twitter frequently hasn't initiated a conversation with me, I assume they don't like me. I will scroll through weeks of my own tweets to find our last interaction, and I will analyze everything about it. Did this person not use a period at the end of their sentence? That means they're being disingenuous. Two exclamation points? They're being sarcastic. Three question marks? They don't actually care about the question they're asking me.

It doesn't matter that I haven't initiated any interaction with said person either. If they wanted to talk to me, they'd have already. I'm actually going through this particular pocket of anxiety at the moment with an old friend, so if you're reading this and it could apply to you—hi. I'm concerned.

I don't follow a lot of people on Twitter, in part because I'm worried I'll miss some important news of theirs and not know to congratulate them and they'll notice and hate me. So the solution is just not to follow many people at all. Even if they interact with me frequently; sometimes especially if. Because what if I follow them now, after we've been talking for a while, and they notice I hadn't been following them before? Would they not like me anymore?

I don't follow anyone who states their political affiliation in their bio. I'm liberal (and also, you know, gay), but what if other liberal people are so very liberal that they don't think I'm liberal enough? What if conservative people hate me because I'm gay?

(For the record, I know many conservative people are LGBTQ+-friendly. I just don't know very many conservative LGBTQ+-friendly people personally, so I sort of automatically go into a conversation with a conservative person with my guard up.)

I try not to use trending hashtags, because what if someone I don't know ironically retweets it to make fun of me? Almost every time I use a hashtag like #noooooo or #pleasestop or whatever, check to make sure it's not popular or trending at the moment. Today I clicked through to a hashtag, accidentally favorited some stranger's tweet, and had to take a few moments to catch my breath and slow my heart rate.

I still love Twitter. I love blogging. I love you guys, my readers and my followers, and I love that you give me all this love in return. It's just hard. And sometimes there's no "but" to add to the end of that statement, no lesson to be learned.

And sometimes that's okay.

Aug 6, 2014


So! I finished a book!

A while ago, actually, and it's my fifth completed novel, in fact. I totally forgot to blog about this. It's called FOR THOSE WHO LISTEN. It's a YA kissing book—er, contemporary. It's got lots of drama and intrigue and cheese. And I love it, and I'm going to interview myself about it.

Interview yourself? you ask.

Yes. Well. Some of us are not famous enough to have someone else interview us and are also mildly solipsistic, so. Get over it. This is a fun new thing I'm gonna be doing every time I complete a manuscript instead of blogging about said manuscript when I get the idea for it. Which, if you know anything about me or read my blog archives, know doesn't work. (Hi, REVERIE.)

So, without further ado:


I did! Well, I've written five. But you're probably referring to my new one, right? FOR THOSE WHO LISTEN?

I dunno, dude. They just pay me to look pretty.

Um, is that a...profitable line of business?

YES SHUT UP. Anyway, what's it about?!

FOR THOSE WHO LISTEN is about kissing. And also I guess about trust, trust falls, the trusty ol' irresistible force paradox, sad indie rock music, change, cityscapes, bridges (and other things to burn), and the definition of love. More specifically, it's a YA contemporary with a side of romance about three teens trying to throw themselves off the same bridge on Christmas Eve who find themselves stuck in a supermarket. Also: hijinks! Goat cheese debates! Bread product fights! Lobsters! All this and more, and I'm pitching it as Ned Vizzini's IT'S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY meets The Breakfast Club.


Do you actually think so or are you just saying this because you wrote that?

The latter.


Who are the main characters and why should I care about them?

Aidan: straight-edge guy with a slight anger issue and a big heart. Has depression and a pretty extensive arsenal of non-curse words ("Tonka-truckin'" for "mother****ing," anyone?). Ally. Friend. Awesome dude. Prickly edged.

Chris: fifteen-year-old transgender dude with a thing for video games and awkward pauses in conversations and similarly has some amazing curse words if I do say so myself ("Twinkle, twinkle, little sh*t." "For he's a jolly good little motherf**k." If that doesn't make you want to read this book, I don't want to know you).

Mara: feminist LGBTQ+ ally non-Catholic-but-still-kind-of-Catholic. Irrational, illogical, bold. Both a lover and a fighter. Impulsive. Strong. Enduring. Good with words. Convincing. Probably among my favorite of my characters.

Oh, and one of them still wants to die after they get inside the supermarket. Did I forget to mention that?

What's on the playlist?

The obligatory Taylor Swift ("All Too Well"), not to mention Ed Sheeran ("Photograph"; "Kiss Me"), The Fray ("Hold My Hand"), Daughter ("Youth"), Hunter Hayes ("Invisible"), P!nk ("Who Knew"), Sara Bareilles ("Bright Lights and Cityscapes"; "Gravity"), and then a smattering of indie rock bands.

I'm confused: is this a happy book or a sad book?

Well, I'm a writer, so I'm not going to answer this one way or the other. (This is what we do.) I will, however, say that FOR THOSE WHO LISTEN has both lighthearted elements and darker themes. There are hijinks and fun and laughter, but there's also, you know, the theme of adolescent suicide.

Why did you write this book?

So I don't really make it a secret that I was suicidal two years ago. That's a big reason why I write a lot about suicide—I don't know what it's like for every suicidal teen, but I do know the foundation of that experience firsthand. Also, I kind of wanted to show how suicide could touch three very different adolescents struggling with different demons. Also also, I wanted to explore the dark mind of a person who doesn't like goat cheese.

What does the title mean?

Well, if I just up and told you, it'd ruin the eventual reading experience, wouldn't it? But I will say that FOR THOSE WHO LISTEN is not a product of my mind; it's exactly half of a quote. You can actually Google "for those who listen" and the first result is the quote, but hey. Shhh. No one has to know.

Thank me for having me, me!

Thank me!