Well, it’s both good and strange to be back. I feel like I’ve forgotten how to blog, but here we go!
I shut down this blog around the middle of last year because I needed a break. It was a combination of things really. I was trying to focus on more “IRL” things like my volunteering and getting out of the house once in a while. Additionally, although I didn’t know it at the time, I was heading into a particularly bad mental health slump and had started to completely isolate myself; both online and IRL.
I took a break from social media too, though I’ve been back on there for a while now. The break had some benefits, but there were downsides too. I wasn’t staying in touch with online friends or sharing my thoughts at all, which resulted in some pretty epic “bottling up” of emotions.
My social skills deteriorated and I developed agoraphobia. I could go weeks without leaving the house. If I was forced to venture out, anxiety and panic attacks left me mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted. This led to a spiralling cycle of avoidance, anxiety, and depression.
The plan had been to shift my focus from online to offline, but what actually happened was that I retreated inwards, away from everything and everyone.
I think a large part of my need for a break from blogging and social media was this nagging feeling that I was oversharing. That I was making myself vulnerable to being judged and analysed and even humiliated. I experienced some paranoia about being monitored. But it was a fear that shadowed every aspect of my life – online and offline. To be honest, it still does.
Everything in me still screams “Hide!”, “Stay quiet!”, “Disappear!” and it would be really easy for me to do that. I’m an introvert who naturally gravitates towards being alone. Throw in social anxiety and agoraphobia and the hermit life seems the obvious choice.
The problem is that while this might pacify my anxiety in the short-term, the long-term effects, in my experience, are ruinous.
Being alone with my intrusive thoughts 24/7, ruminating on the vitriol my inner critic spits out with increasing intensity and frequency, desperately seeking a sense of purpose in a world with which I do not connect – it’s a recipe for disaster…
All this, coupled with some stressful life events and a lack of professional support and treatment, et voilà; mental breakdown! Intense suicidal thoughts, bouncing back and forth between active and passive. Sky-high anxiety, paranoia, flashbacks, panic attacks. Complete and utter despair.
It was horrendous and it’s still not over. I’ve still got a long way to go, both in recovering from this episode and in my general recovery.
As a side-note, I rang my local mental health helpline during this crisis. They are open 24/7 and it was out-of-hours to ring my CPN. They were actually quite helpful. The mental health professional I spoke to helped me to de-escalate and calm down enough to get to sleep. She had access to my records so she could have an idea of my situation without me having to explain myself too much, which was really helpful. Anyone can use this helpline and you don’t need to be under mental health services, but it’s okay if you are too. Click here and enter your age and postcode to find the phone number for your local area.
So where am I now?
Things have settled down a bit (i.e. I’m not in active crisis anymore) and I’m more able to use some of my coping skills independently. And now I’m allowing myself to reach back out into the void (aka the internet) and start trying to connect and share my experiences again.
It won’t be perfect. It might not even be good. But it will be genuine. Maybe actually helpful to some, including me.
Do you have experience of the link between isolation and mental health? Does social anxiety or agoraphobia make it difficult for you to connect with others? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.