This is a compilation of things I tweeted today about not poisoning the social media well with anxiety and panic. It's primarily aimed at Twitter users, but I expect it's probably useful for Facebook too.
As a person with an anxiety disorder, I really understand the urge to conflate being ANXIOUS with being MOTIVATED. The reason I understand that so much is that it is a lie anxiety whispers—or sometimes yells—in my ear every day. "You need me!" anxiety says. "Without me you wouldn't notice or accomplish the important things! Without me you'd be a useless lump!"
This is a LIE. L I E pants-on-fire lie.
For one thing, anxiety often paralyzes. For another, it occludes judgment. "Fight, fly, or freeze" is the choice anxiety presents to you. These are immediate, adrenaline-powered responses to immediate threats. They are USELESS in the long term. Their only purpose is to keep you alive long enough to HAVE a long term. Panic consumes all your energy in a single explosive burst and leaves you exhausted. It is very bad for your brain and your body.
Right now, what we are facing is a very large, multifaceted set of threats, short-term and long-term but not immediate. Panic will actively impede our ability to respond to those threats. It will not motivate us. It will only harm us.
If you have been feeling anxious or panicky about the news, please take a moment to make a PLAN for how to prevent and treat your anxiety. "I will go on social media and say I'm scared and everyone will reassure me/be scared with me!" is not a plan.
Read TGStoneButch's #DailyCoping threads (that's a roundup link on a blog for those who don't read Twitter) for some really good specific pointers on dealing with different kinds of stress responses.
Right now, my primary anxiety prevention strategy is CLOSE THE TAB. Anything that makes me panic is harmful and I will move away from it. This doesn't mean cutting myself off from all sources of information—only panic-inducing ones. I get a lot of political emails. If they fearmonger, I unsub. I keep the ones that are about concrete action, like http://tinyletter.com/resist and http://tinyletter.com/re-act.
I unfollow even dear friends who only post about being angry and frightened. I love them, but I need to protect myself. And I reach out to them by email and IM instead so that we can connect in other ways.
If I am feeling anxious, I take anxiolytics. I make myself do this even when the anxiety is screaming that I need it to survive. It is very hard to treat anxiety. Sometimes I envision it as a living entity that wants to survive at any cost. I even feel bad for it. But I need my brain more than my brain parasite does. So I take my anxiolytics, and breathe and meditate, and do other #DailyCoping things.
For longer-term treatment of anxiety, I work with my therapist and my family on various strategies. In the past I've taken SSRIs.
So that's my plan. I really strongly encourage all of you to make one too. Especially if you haven't been anxiety-prone before now.
I spent yesterday in crisis mode. I spent today having the belated panic reaction that would have kept me from functioning yesterday. So I am SUPER AWARE right now of the difference between panic and responding appropriately to a crisis. We are in a crisis. We can't let our totally understandable anxiety about that prevent us from taking appropriate action.
And please, if you feel anxious or panicky, DO reach out for help. But DON'T just broadcast your panic; it's infectious. Call a friend or a hotline or your therapist. Email or IM or DM someone. Enact your plan.
Twitter has been our collective id for nearly a decade. It's very vulnerable right now. Please take care of it.
BTW, I'm really pleased to see a lot of people returning to LiveJournal/Dreamwidth. That's a great place to write about big feelings! You can filter them, and cut-tag them, and let people opt in to them, all while expressing yourself at length. Dreamwidth accounts are free and it's a wholly user-supported company with great community aspects. I recommend it highly.
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