One of the hardest things to understand about anxiety disorder is that it causes the sufferer to isolate. That isolation is both a symptom and a side effect of anxiety. Anxiety Blobs may crave social interaction, but often the thought of being around other people, even people we love, can be daunting. Anxiety tells us we are awkward and strange and unworthy, and that vague doom awaits if we stir from the safety of our home. These thoughts, of course, are incorrect, and a good therapist will tell you to challenge them. On better days, you remember that we are all awkward and strange and that you are no less worthy than the next weirdo. But on the hard days, it doesn’t feel that way. You no more want to go out in public during an anxiety flare-up than you would if you had full-blown chicken pox all over your body. Which brings me to this: online communication can be a lifesaver for those dealing with anxiety, especially when depression settles in. A screen may be your portal to the world.
It’s very popular these days to declare an internet fast. In a time of overwhelming connectivity and information overload, people are trying to take care of themselves by setting boundaries. This is important, especially for children. BUT. The blanket condemnation of social media and the constant exhortations to unplug and go have real experiences are incredibly ableist. Well-meaning, but ableist.
First, who gets to define an authentic experience? What assumptions are being made about which interactions are real and meaningful and which ones are fake or insignificant? And how do those who deal with mental (and/or physical) disabilities maintain connection with the world?
When an Anxiety Blob is particularly low, something as simple as a nerdy text can be as helpful as a good night’s sleep or a coffee date with a friend. That moment of interaction is real. It matters. It has value. On more occasions than I can count, my friends who live in the computer have been my solace and my companionship. Especially on the days when taking a shower seems monumentally impossible or the thought of being in the physical presence of other humans in my loathesome state induces actual panic. You know what helps? Geeking out in a way that lets me engage with others on a level that is feasible.
Accessing the world through screens is not a substitute for meat-space experiences and relationships. But it’s a wonderful option to have. If that’s all you can manage, don’t beat yourself up. You are doing just fine.