What I Learned From Being a Hot Mess Online
Four years ago, I posted a series of stories on my Instagram. I had just recovered from an anxiety attack, returned from urgent care, and was heavily medicated. I talked about my stress in a series of videos and while hundreds of my “friends” watched them, only three actually reached out.
The knowledge that people saw my pain and didn’t seem to care enough to reach out was worse than the actual cause of my anxiety.
A few weeks later, I did the same on Twitter and was immediately ashamed. I knew why I did it — I wanted to open my mouth and scream but it felt as if no sound came out. I didn’t want to die, but the hurt was so palpable and constant. Our bodies are designed to handle only so much pain. What happens with the overflow? Where does the pain go? Are we forced to contain it until we shudder and burst? A few kind friends followed up and I was grateful for their love and friendship. Two reported my posts to Twitter, and I received a form letter about “reaching out” and “getting help” as if people who have depression don’t already know these things. The irony was that I was reaching out, but apparently, my pain was too much for others to witness. That form letter was yet another piece of duct tape affixed to my mouth. Others unfollowed me and didn’t care at all.
I had built friendships based on me being the fixer, the connector. I always knew someone you could talk to, I always had the solution. I was forever penning introduction emails and meeting people for coffee. I would bear the hurt of others and was consistently the voice of calm. The woman neatly assembled and put in order.
It’s only when I began to break did I notice how tenuous the bonds of friendship were — how my being human was a dealbreaker. How some friends quietly tip-toed away from my mess while others were more brazen, slamming virtual doors in my face. I had never had so many followers yet I felt alone.
So, I shuttered all my accounts. Gone were the nearly 10,000 Twitter followers and all the Instagram accounts. Many were seized with panic — how would I remain connected? Wouldn’t I lose work? Didn’t I realize the cataclysmic mistake I was making? Surely…