Things that make me anxious, part 9: Blogging.
"You, sir, are a moron." You type. "You have clearly never had an intelligent thought in all your life. You probably eat caged-hen eggs. You look like a Nickelback listening, bumble-bee swatting, racist."
You click send and you feel good about life. You really stood up for your beliefs there; really showed that stranger on the internet that you wouldn't stand for discrimination and you weren't afraid to show it! Instagram user @picklemypotato will think twice before they pick on the little guy again.
You go about your daily business: you buy some orange juice, you eat some toast, you Google baby pigeons and then you do a complete solo performance of Let it Go for your dog; who ignores you mostly. Before you know it, you're half way through Bambi and find yourself thinking: What if I get shot?
That's ridiculous. You think. Why would anyone shoot me? I'm a free-range eating, peace loving, friend to all.
And then you remember that you wrote a not-so-nice comment on Instagram this afternoon. Would @picklemypotato think of you as a "friend to all"? You did just accuse them of liking Nickelback. If you were running through a forest with a baby deer and @picklemypotato was holding a gun, would they pull the trigger?!
You quickly log into Instagram and delete your comment. Even if @picklemypotato already saw it, they're unlikely to remember your username, find you and shoot you now. You can sleep with both eyes shut tonight.
Luckily enough, it's rare that I write anything online that is likely to make me any real enemies, but blogging is still pretty scary. I think, even without the anxiety that I am blessed with, there would be a certain amount of nervousness involved in publishing a blog. What if no one reads it? What if everyone read it and no one likes it?
I'm passionate about raising awareness about anxiety. I'm passionate about changing the way people talk about their own mental health and the mental health of others. I'm determined to say NO to stigma at 100 dB. That means that I'm talking about my own mental health experiences as openly and honestly as I can.
Sometimes it's a bit uncomfortable sharing my anxieties with the internet; sometimes it's downright terrifying. Proof reading is an absolute minefield - because my inner critic is ruthless and a total tit. I have received so many lovely comments, messages and emails since I started the blog - and I try to focus on these as I write. I try to think about the people who have gone out of their way to contact me to tell me that my blog means something to them, or that they can relate.
It's all to easy to do the opposite though. Too easy to think about the people who are judging me. Too easy to think about my ex, or his friends, or the people from school or work who might not like me. Too easy to think about the people who think that anxiety is just attention seeking, or that people living with mental illness should 'shut up and get on with it'. Or at least it was at first.
When I wrote my first post, I was so nervous that I couldn't even share it on my own Facebook wall. I was convinced that people would see me differently because of my anxiety. Although my close friends have always known about it, social media is full of acquaintances and friends of friends and people you met on holiday and I wasn't quite ready for them to see me at my most vulnerable.
Initially, blogging made me anxious just because it did. Thinking about my blog meant I was thinking about anxiety; and thinking about anxiety brought on anxiety symptoms. It wasn't the best of times. Or at least it wasn't at first.
It's different now; I look forward to it. It's comforting on a Tuesday, knowing that the next day I'll be offloading my anxieties. It's nice knowing that there's a pocket of people out there who are reading my blog and who know how I feel (or at least who are interested). It's actually HELPING me feel mentally healthier.
I suppose I'm saying that opening up isn't always easy. Blogging does make me anxious, but, unlike the Alanis Morissette song, life is full of irony. And it's worth it, I promise.