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.
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.