Reappearing act

Good morning! My internet is now working again – the engineer said the company had done some work at one of their sites on Friday and some of my wires had been crossed. A common occurrence in my life 😛

I have spent most of the last five days feeling rather sorry for myself, although also recognising how silly this is. I mean, people in Ethiopia are starving to death and I’m upset because my internet is down? Well done Katie, you get the prize for over-reaction of the year. I suppose what’s missing here is any context to my freak out. Since the age of 16, most of my social life has been played out online. I’m naturally shy and my awkward manner can easily be mistaken for aloofness, so I find it hard to make friends. On top of that, up until recently when I met new people it was impossible for me to make even the smallest of talk without being asked for some sort of explanation as to why I wasn’t working/studying. I could say “I have a chronic illness but I’m a lot better now and hope to start work again soon”, but that always came across as me being a bit mysterious, and I was usually asked what the illness was. So my choice was to either give a potted version of my life story or refuse to talk about anything but the weather, and run away when the difficult questions started. I’m not the sort of person who likes to spill her deepest secrets to everyone she comes into contact with, but it’s amazing how hard it was to make conversation without doing so. Take taxi drivers or hairdressers, the patron saints of small talk – they always asked if I had a day off work, or what I studied at university. There was no easy way to answer those questions.

Now I have a job and I’m about to start yet another degree, so I can avoid scaring the crap out of people until they get to know me a bit better. I find it easier to interact with people now. But for nearly ten years the only place I felt able to be myself was on various internet forums for people with mental health problems, or on my blog in the last couple of years. I have a boyfriend now, and some friends from my last counselling course, but the boyfriend is often ill and the friends are busy themselves. Most of my socialising is still done online, and without the internet I feel extremely isolated.

Most of my activism work is also done online, although I also do “real life” stuff with the local ED charity I volunteer for. Yesterday dozens of articles were published on a study which showed the numbers of children being admitted to hospital due to eating disorders – in three years, around 600 under 13s needed inpatient treatment, which apparently translates as about 3 in 100,000 children aged 5-13. Not a massive number, and probably not a case of rising prevalence but of greater awareness, but the tabloids went mad. People in recovery immediately protested the idea that this was to do with “size zero”, because it makes sufferers look vain, shallow and really rather stupid, and eating disorders are hugely more complex than a simple reaction to our culture. God, I really wanted to join the debate. If I hadn’t been at work I would have sat in the library all day, stealing their internet.

There are so many articulate and intelligent people out there, and this is great because it means there are a lot of allies to my cause, all fighting for the same thing – better understanding and evidence-based treatment of eating disorders. But at the same time, I felt rather redundant yesterday. I can’t say these things better than anyone else. I don’t have as much knowledge as some. I don’t have the same way with words. People will never share my blog posts around on FB or twitter – okay, that’s a lie, it has happened occasionally in the past, but very rarely.

It sounds like my pride is dented, like I want to be a blogging superstar with adoring commenters fawning around her. This isn’t really true. I like my blog being small, because I like to follow and comment on all my followers blogs too – it makes it seem more personal. If I had three hundred comments to each post I would feel terrified of falling from grace and under a lot of pressure to keep up the standard/frequency of posting. I wouldn’t really feel a part of the community, because I wouldn’t have time to get to know everyone properly – and it’s the sense of community which keeps me blogging. So having a small but very personal blog is a good thing. The problem is that I feel like people will forget about me if I’m not useful to them in some way. If I’m not leaving helpful comments, joining my friends in fighting ignorant reporters, writing posts myself, sharing things on twitter/Facebook, and so on then I lose my purpose to others. A psychologist once told me that I seemed to lack intrinsic self worth, which meant I only felt like a worthwhile person when I was doing things to help others, whereas to her mind I had value just by virtue of being born. This was about five years ago, and I still seem to believe that I will disappear from the minds of my friends if I’m not being useful to them in some way. And I hate to feel lonely. I spent too much of my adolescence feeling like a crazy little island standing out against a sea of  normality.

So I’m glad to have my internet connection back. I also need a better social life, and to stop thinking that I’m worthless unless I’m doing something worthwhile. This is easier said than done.

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7 responses to “Reappearing act

  1. Sounds very much like your lack of internet usage and my lack of running have similar effects in terms of perpetuating low self-worth. Except that my running is an entirely selfish activity, where as at least your motivations are geared towards helping others!

    I worry about being forgotten too, precisely because I am of no use to anyone and my blog is primarily read for crazy running mileage and race successes, of which there will be none any more. I spent my teenage years in exactly the same way, so I can really understand the terror of going back to that kind of place, because it’s bloody horrible there.

    You’d never disappear from my mind though, regardless of if you were online and commenting or not. There are so many places around Newcastle that I now link with you for example: ‘Katie’s’ bridge, Jesmond Dene, the entire Tynemouth coast…and I agree with your therapist that obviously, you are a worthwhile person even if you decided never to help anyone again and your blog became a long, self-indulgent rant (oops, I just described my blog…). Not that it ever would, but you catch my drift!

    Glad to have you back with us 😉

    xxx

  2. I’m committing the heinous crime of commenting without properly reading this post (I’ll get struck down with a thunderbolt for that) but I was checking the internet as distraction after a bit of an upsetting dog-related occurance (hence the heinous skimming, and lack of ability to spell..) and saw you were back and this passage stood out: “The problem is that I feel like people will forget about me if I’m not useful to them in some way….”
    and just wanted to say, I don’t read your blog because it’s ‘useful’ (I mean, it IS useful, so please don’t get me wrong and think I’m discounting your hard work!) but I read it more for the Katie as a person.
    Sorry, my brain is a litte broken, but I wanted to let you know that you are not forgotten, that you are valued and a big HELLO!!!! (and now please forgive me for skimming? I just had an urge to let you know you were missed. I re-skimmed as I wrote this comment, so I guess you could say I’ve read the entire post now, but the brain isn’t processing, but I’ll be back to re-read 😉 ).
    xx

  3. My reaction to a lack of internet access is similar to yours! I always wonder what people did before the internet was around… and I ought to know that, because I was around in those days too, but I just feel so completely lost and untethered without it.

    Which is weird, because in some way, not having a connection can help persist the illusion that I’m actually missing something “exciting” or in which I matter, which is never the case. :p

    That said, I don’t read your blog for its “usefulness” either! I’m the same way about feeling like I need to “do” something for people in order to be worth their time, but the truth is, you’re worth it just for being you.

    ❤ ❤

  4. Even as one of those quiet people reading your blog but never commenting, you’ve definitely given me reasons to keep pushing forward. Over and over again. You’re one of my biggest role models for life after an eating disorder. I can’t explain it, even if I tried, you have such a huge heart and a beautiful way of writing about the difficult things that have happened to you. Although we’ve never so much as have had a conversation, you’ve impacted my life. You are Carrie were the first two recovery oriented blogs that I came across, the first I saw that I wasn’t alone in this whole eating disorder. And when things have been rough, my goodness, your stories and successes have helped me know that I need to keep trying and that I really can do it, and go back to living a more peaceful life.
    Thank you. There’s no need to worry, you’re sending out far more ripples than you will ever see.
    With care,
    Katrina

  5. Girl?
    You put AMAZING words out there … what are you talking about?

    Most people don’t take the time to read text heavty posts and so maybe that is why you feel like you aren’t being shared. They like pictures of oatmeal and bullet points.
    But those who need to hear your message will take the time.

  6. I think you do yourself and your blog a disservice!

    And I can’t cope without my internet connection either. 😉

    xx

  7. Glad you are back ‘in the world’… I’d feel lost without an internet connection too. I read only 3-4 ED blogs on a regular basis, despite there being loads of them, and that includes yours. In fact, I’ve recommended your blog to some friends who are struggling with recovery on their own. Don’t put yourself down; you’re awesome!

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