So, I’ve been offline since some time in July. It’s been a bumpy couple of months. August was full of a variety of family-related events, and my anxiety about them was consuming me, so I decided to take some time alone to focus on self-care in the hopes that it would make things go more smoothly for me. I find when I’m “unplugged” it’s easier for me to acknowledge and process my emotions; I sometimes get the urge to share things in a public way when I’m upset, to a degree that I often regret (whether or not I should), so removing that possibility reduces the “risk” of really experiencing and recognizing what I’m feeling. The last few weeks I’ve been in recovery mode, processing how things went and how I feel about it. My depression has still been flaring up lately, but I’m at least back to the point where the benefits of interacting outweigh the anxiety I feel about doing it. I’m more afraid of giving in to the silence now than I am of what I might say.
When I speak up, I tend to be afraid that I’m going to go too far or say too much and end up in a position I can’t handle. It feels like I might just explode, leaving nothing of myself behind. But I’ve been speaking up, in bits and pieces, in different ways, in bursts over the last year or so – and I’m still here.
When I stay silent, I become afraid that I might just fade away and disappear. It feels like I’m not being myself, and sometimes I feel like if I stop “being” myself, I might stop existing altogether. But I’ve taken time to be silent, when I can and when I need to – and I’m still here.
I’m still here.
My “real” social media accounts have been narrowed down to the people I really don’t want to lose. My “friends” are down to family and people I would (and do) genuinely miss, people who I believe genuinely care about me and would (or do) miss me too, and I rarely check these accounts unless I have a specific reason for doing so. Even with this limited number of people and small amount of time, I end up seeing something upsetting almost every time I log in. I hold on to the hope that by continuing to gradually exposed them to new information, maybe I’ll make some kind of difference and maybe they’ll begin to understand, but I often wonder if I’m just wasting my time and energy. I know it’s hurting me, to a degree that is probably unhealthy. But I’m still here.
I see posts that are bigoted and hateful towards all kinds of LGBT people. I wonder: Do you know you’re talking about me? Would it make a difference if you did? How can you not tell? How have you never noticed? I feel invisible. When I try to confront these comments, my identity is usually dismissed. I become the exception – “that’s not what I was talking about,” “you’re not like them.” My gender variance is belittled and dismissed, my marriage becomes a weapon – a means of erasing the complexities of my orientation. Who I am is replaced with an image of who they believe I am or want me to be. But I’m still here.
People post jokes and make comments about mental illness that are untrue and say disparaging things about mentally ill people and use mental illnesses as insults and make flippant remarks and jokes about suicide. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times I call out specifics and point out falsehoods and mention my own mental health struggles and explain that I can’t afford to take suicide lightly and have to protect myself from people who casually say things like “go kill yourself.”
Sexism and anti-feminism is as pervasive in my own feeds as it is everywhere else on the internet. Disgust is expressed for anything that might be perceived as “liberal.” Religious bigotry and condemnation is a constant presence. I’ve posted enough feminist and “liberal” content that it must be completely obvious that I fall into those categories, and I can’t imagine there are many (if any) people left who are unaware that I’ve left the church. Apparently these things are either being deliberately ignored, or these people care even less about me than I thought. But I’m still here.
I’m still here.
I’m still occupying this uncomfortable, unhealthy space. I’m still knowingly permitting people who hurt me to enter my personal sphere where they can do more harm. I’m still looking for a way to balance my desire to try to speak up for the sake of people still in this circle who feel alone and don’t have a way out (such young LGBT members or people who are financially dependent on members of the group) with my desire to protect myself and my happiness. It’s draining, and it isn’t an easy process, but I do think I’m beginning to find that balance. As I get stronger and healthier and construct a new support system, it gets easier to cope with the awfulness and easier to speak up in spite of the responses I know I might get. Over time, the people who are just plain hateful and not merely ignorant will become easier to recognize and separate myself from – and the more I put myself out there, the faster it’ll probably happen. Eventually I’ll find supportive friends and leave the hateful people behind and eventually this period of time will just be a memory and not an ongoing struggle. And until I get there, I’ll just keep reminding myself that I know I can get through this because in spite of it all, I still exist. I am still alive. I’m still here.