Monday, December 26, 2011

Anxiety and Chasing The Social Media Dragon

Sometimes I wish I could do the dishes like this. Sometimes I wish I could do the holidays like this. Christmas is done, man. The teenage punks in Don't Tell Mom The Babysitter's Dead were onto something. Since about mid-October (or so I thought) I've been having these waves of nausea and random asthma. There were times where I felt like I was forgetting how to breathe and I'd have to take these deep breaths because every breath felt too shallow. It was around mid-October that I got an iPhone and when I really went public with my blog and started promoting it on Facebook. I joined Twitter and stepped into this huge world called "social media" where there is no guidebook or how-to manual. Every step of the way is trial and error. I didn't "get" Twitter. I didn't even "get" status updates on Facebook. Something about it felt so counter-intuitive, so narcissistic,  so full of shit. Who cares how I'm feeling this minute? Or what guy annoyed me on the subway? Or what I ate for dinner? Who cares about what I think? I felt pressure to come up with something clever or funny or at least different which I realized quickly was impossible. Everything that has been said on Twitter has been said by thousands of others at one time or another, sometimes even the same time. No matter how awesome we think we are, we are just not that original. 

I also started reading blogs and added them to my Bloglovin account. I started commenting while also taking on the challenge of NaBloPoMo where I posted everyday sometimes even twice a day while also posting links to these posts on Twitter, Facebook, the NaBloPoMo thread on BlogHer, BlogHer chatter and by commenting on other blogs. I suddenly felt like I was in this race. Part of it was fueled by my realization that perhaps I could make my dreams of supporting myself through writing a reality. That I didn't have to wait to be "discovered" or get an agent. That I could simply manifest my own success by being a self-promoter. The other part was fueled by the frightening realization that I did not know how to elevate myself out of the assistant world and that even though being an assistant has served me well and allowed me to have a full rich life outside of work, that maybe I had hit my burnout with making xerox copies and collating. Maybe my fingers could no longer manage refilling a stapler without shaking just a little bit with the pangs of disappointment. My ambition kicked in full force and I was a social media maniac and very quickly I saw results. And then better results and even better results....But it did not take long before all of my multi-tasking transformed into a racing heartbeat, sudden sweats and this nervousness I felt I couldn't contain. I emailed a friend of mine (who is a social media maven) about the anxiety I had been feeling since joining the race and she responded, "Yeah, man, it's bad. You're chasing the dragon, now." 

The anxiety grew worse aided along with taking on too many freelance jobs (Two back-to-back 700 page books I needed to read and do a write up on), still working full time, pursuing writing full time (including a book I have been working on for over a year), my commitment to a writing group and a writing class which meant every Tuesday I was doing one of these, tutoring, celebrating my 30th birthday, having a melt down at work, while cracking some tough eggs in therapy. About two weeks ago I hit my breaking point, and decided to seek professional help. After meeting with my general practitioner, I did not feel right about the diagnosis or the Rx. I then met with a psychiatrist for a very expensive consultation who gave a similar diagnosis and similar Rx although was more in tune with my hesitation about "meds." I hate to admit this but somewhere I totally subscribe to the idea that meds means I'm a failure. I grew up in a house where we didn't even have Tylenol. We never even took cold medicine. Once my mom left, all of that stuff did, too. My Dad did not drink at all and never liked a stocked medicine cabinet. My experience of what is appropriate when it comes to meds, alcohol, taking care of one's self, is skewed. The idea of taking a daily drug that could curb my anxiety or stabilize my mood freaked me out beyond belief and even writing this right now is producing anxiety because I am afraid of being judged by even toiling with this decision. A year ago when shit hit the fan, even then I was adamant on not taking an anti-depressant. But after everything felt like it was crumbling around the edges, I opened to the idea: Is this a moment where I am blinded by my own stubbornness? Blinded by my own refusal to accept help? I should be able to handle this on my own. I've handled everything else on my own, this isn't even the hard stuff!  

I am now in this moment in my life where I feel like I have no clue who I am. In one sense it is totally freeing and the possibilities feel more endless since I am no longer in my own way. (Or at least trying my best to get out of my way) In another sense, I feel more vulnerable than ever because the convictions I once proudly stood on and based tough decisions on are also gone. I am trying to honestly assess what is my own truth while trying to separate it from the truths I inherited as a kid. And I'm not judging those truths. I just want to make sure I am doing what is best for me because I believe it is best for me. 

I still have not decided what to do. Each moment is different. Most of the time I think, This doesn't feel right. But when that anxiety comes out of nowhere, disrupting my life, and the sadness hits, triggered by the smallest of things, I think to myself, It doesn't have to be this hard.  And to decide anything around the holidays feels loaded to begin with. Who can say that they are still in their normal state of mind, their normal state of emotions, around the holidays? Around their 30th birthday? Around publicly exposing themselves in the way I have done?

For now, all I can think is one day at a time. Christmas is done, man. The year is coming to an end and maybe the best thing for me to do right now is to sit still with my feelings until I feel at peace with a decision. In the new year, I might step back a bit from the social media craze, try to care less about the outcome of blog posts and get back to what it was when I started it before I cared about stats and "an audience," before I saw it as the potential life jacket to my present-day problems, and just get back to the idea of it being an outlet for my writing, a place where I hold myself accountable to this crazy dream I have always had and take it one word, one step, one breath at a time.


Sarah said...

Oh yes, the dragon. Thanks for sharing your story with your readers Tony, we're here and reading. Totally get that failure feeling, but I hope you know that at least this reader isn't judging anything. xo

Carmen said...

i always thought therapy was (at times) like organizing a messy room. sometimes it has to get messier before things finally get organized. maybe this anxiety is that stage before everything falls into place.