Breaking Sad

Aside: This week just gone, I wrote two blog posts. I intended to save this second one for next week but after reading another post by Wil Wheaton (this was the first) and this post by Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess), everything seems to be telling me to share this now. Please read their stories and share them.


When I asked my friend and fellow blogger Sinéad for her superpower of choice her answer was so perfect I wish I’d thought of it. When it comes to superpowers the obvious options are flying or super-human strength. Nope. Step aside people, Sinéad’s desired superpower was this:

“Knowing the right thing to say at every given moment – the right thing to say to help someone when they’re hurting, or when they’re struggling, or when they’re in a wild rage and likely to hurt themselves or someone else, or when a painful truth needs to be shared with a delicate person, or when a misunderstanding with potentially dreadful consequences is looming and needs to be put right before it can do harm. It doesn’t sound like a hugely important superpower, but I think it would be amazing to be able to use words like this, to stave off pain before it even begins.”

I cut out the part where she promises to use the power for good not evil, but left the rest in because obviously, it is beautifully true. Perhaps it doesn’t sound as cool as flying, or lifting a car with one hand, but knowing what to say – who doesn’t want some of that? Who doesn’t remember a time when they have given or received the wrong words?

When my grandfather died, people said things like, ‘he had a good life’, ‘he was old’, ‘he had a good innings’ and – understanding the length of his illness – they often added, ‘he’s no longer suffering’ or ‘it must be a relief’.  And yes, all of this was true on some level. I felt privileged to have known him and I was undoubtedly glad he no longer suffered but while I’d nod and agree with them, every fibre of my being screamed ‘NO!’. If this was comfort, why wasn’t it comforting?

I read this beautifully raw post by Wil Wheaton and it really resonated with me. He speaks openly about the debilitating invisible weight of depression.

I come from a long line of anxious over-thinkers who suffer from bouts of depression. On occasion I’ve wondered how messed up I’d be if I hadn’t had a stable and happy childhood. Which, as us anxious self-deprecating folk know, is yet another reason to feel bad – how dare I feel this way when my life is awesome? *beats self with emotional truncheon*

I’ve sought help over the years and as I’ve grown older I’ve become better at dealing with it. But it is exhausting. It takes so much energy to reshape thoughts that are instinctive to you. Wearing a mask of smiles while holding a bomb of anxiety.

The first thing people want to do is fix you. Reassure you there’s nothing to worry about. When you’re a child, adults tell you you’re being silly then chuckle heartily to prove it. You learn to say nothing because even misguided kindness is still kindness.  The thing is, you know your feelings are irrational.  To be told ‘you’re being silly’ only reinforces you’re own lack of self-worth. To be told there’s ‘nothing to worry about’ only dismisses how you feel.

I had a minor anxiety episode last week. I had that nauseating ache in my chest and the only way I can deal with it is try and remember the cause. Last week’s trigger? I ordered some flowers on my mother’s behalf. Flowers.

The symptoms probably started as soon as I said, “Sure! I can organise that for you!” but they didn’t  kick in until I’d ordered them and my mind started racing. Had I ordered the right ones? Was the message too impersonal? What if I got the address wrong? What if I picked the wrong colours? What if they hate carnations?

The anxiety lingers long after my brain stops asking those stupid questions, so to quash the anxiety, I have to answer them. Of course they’re the ‘right’ flowers, they’re flowers – can you even order ‘wrong’ flowers? You can’t misinterpret or be offended by ‘Thinking of you’. The woman repeated the address back to me and took their phone number, of course they’ll get there. They are not going to reject the flowers because they don’t match their curtains. I couldn’t possibly know if they hate carnations, and in all likelihood, they’ll love them. They’re just flowers. They are all they need to be – they may even be perfect. Get a grip.

And soon after, the anxiety dissipates.

This was a mild episode. It was new to my husband when he met me. First he tried fixing me with logic and told me not to worry – I bet there were times when he wanted that superpower because nothing he said seemed to help. It took him a while to understand that part of that superpower included no words, just his company or a hug. Sometimes he’d manage to find a distraction, sometimes he’d find a way to make me laugh.

Often the ‘fix’ began when someone acknowledged I was broken.

Depression lies. Need support? Contact Lifeline Australia.


Blogged Down

Warning: Rant pending.


I *like* this, so it is completely relevant

While my blog appears to have plateaued in readership, maybe it’s time I wrote about this whole social media malarkey.  I remain confused by the persistence of the fisher-types.  Why? Why, I ask?

I’ve spoken of this phenomenon before with regards to Twitter, but it was early-blog days and those who read that particular post genuinely followed me. Now I’m getting blog-fishers and I’m increasingly baffled. You see, my blog is young and I have so few genuine followers I can surmise who’s reading it based upon the country of origin. And because it is young, it is screamingly obvious when I have ‘likes’ on my post but zero views. Wow. People take the time to ‘like’ a post they haven’t actually read.

In reality, when you do that thing called ‘conversing with others’, you don’t say ‘that looks lovely’ before you see it. You don’t say, ‘this is delicious’ without tasting it. Even a liar knows if they wish to maintain a facade of credibility, this is the wrong way to proceed. But apparently, because we are only dealing with others in a virtual context – this is OK? No, I don’t want you to lie. I don’t want you to pretend to read this so your pretend liking of me appears more credible. Read it, or don’t. ‘Like’ it if you mean it.

I’m not sure why WordPress allows its other users to ‘like’ a post without opening the link. I assume it is to encourage connectivity. And as irritating as I find this, I irritate myself further by submitting to curiosity and tracing the fisher’s avatar back to their blog. And I guess this is the core of it, they don’t use the ‘like’ button to assess my blog, it’s an invitation to theirs. I guess if you ‘like’ enough people, sooner or later you’ll connect with right people.

I traced a fisher’s blog the other day to discover he started blogging when I did. I can see why people follow him and he doesn’t really need to fish. But he does fish and he now has four-thousand odd followers. Of course, this leads me to wonder about the benefits of having a large follower count if you can’t tell who’s reading it or which ‘likes’ are genuine. Does a high follower count influence a blog’s likability? Are new visitors more inclined to take to the time to read it?

Now. This next sentence is really important, so be sure you read it carefully. There will be a ‘like’ button at the bottom of this post but please ignore it. I repeat – IGNORE it. Even if you think this post is made of awesome, resist the urge. Feel free however to leave a comment, (even if you can only manage one random word) just so as I know you’re participating in my WordPress experiment. Alternatively (and it would be amazing if you could), insert a random instruction into your own blog post in the next month and see who in your readership notices (don’t forget to link here so I can check it out).

Breathe in. Annnnddd out.

OK. My inner scientist is getting all excited. To give this some perspective, you need to know I’m dealing with a pretty small sample size. I have (to date) twenty-four blog followers. My highest ‘like’ count currently stands at eight. So this isn’t going to be a mind blowing exercise (prepare to be underwhelmed).

I want to add too, this is not a judgement on anyone’s following or ‘liking’ habits, I’m aware it’s part of the social media machine – I just don’t understand. And for me personally, I’d really like to know what is real.

So thank you for reading this.  Thank you to all those who support me and my blog.  Of course, you are under no obligation to participate in my zany ideas, I’m sure my husband wishes he had the chance to opt out (HIM: What do you mean you want to put a fish tank in a piano? ME: It’d be amazing! HIM: Ugh).

For today only, I hope you don’t like me *knowing wink*.


Any thoughts on blog-fishers? Am I mad not to subscribe to the technique? Check out this post that discusses the correlation between followers and ‘likes’.

The Hollow Follow

0e689add9f898cff852ecc11d29c3139I don’t want to be the person who expects a follow-back. Of course, when I follow someone I do have this faint hope that they might check out my profile and like it. Realistically, especially when the person of interest/admiration/adoration has a few thousand followers, noticing you while they’re navigating their fame-machine is like expecting to be noticed under the cover of darkness in an invisibility suit. It marks my insignificance with a big red squiggle*. As Ms Under50Followers, I once sent a tweet to Mr 5000 in the slim hope of a retweet or reply. Nothing. In his feed I noticed he’d sent a similarly hopeful tweet to Mr 950000 and he got nothing back either. It’s all relative isn’t it? We have this daft desire to seek acknowledgement from those we respect and Twitter gives us this false sense of being able to touch their lives. Sometimes, there are golden moments when we do.

I was ecstatic when I got my first follow-back. My ‘Yay!’ dissolved quite rapidly into an ‘Oh’ when I discovered he return-followed everyone. It’s like eating chocolate with a soft-centre of disappointment. I genuinely believed with delusional naivety (and yes, all those words are required to express the extent of my foolishness) that each follow meant something. No. Welcome to Twitter. On the upside, no matter how slight the possibility, one day he might accidently read my tweet and then read this. Just in case – Hello.

Then there are the Fishers. They always follow back, they always expect a return-follow and consider yourself unfollowed if you don’t comply with these conditions. One Fisher, even though I followed them first, went to the trouble of sending me a direct thankyou message and a return-follow, only to cull 90% of their fan-base once they’d reached one thousand hits. Conversely, there are a rare bunch of Fishers who honour their decision to follow you despite no return-follow. These are often talented unsponsored people trying to promote themselves and prove they are worthy to receive more of the next type of follower – the Enthusiast.

Enthusiasts (not to be confused with Stalkers) are the followers we all want. They read your tweets, read your blog, read your books, cook your recipes, listen to your music, watch you on TV, see your film, laugh at your jokes, marvel at your satire, hear your truth and if you’re not achieving any of those things on a large scale, they believe you could. They are the Twitter-folk that one day might allow you to earn some money.

Sometimes Fishers are also Enthusiasts and many Enthusiasts take the odd fishing trip. It’s inevitable. When Unknowns attempt to be heard over the noise of several hundred million other Unknowns, Twitter becomes a numbers game. I don’t know what kind of benefits a decent follower count yields, but I wonder, is a follow-back courteous if it is meaningless? Is any follow a good one?

My husband warned me against posting my Twitter observations. He said that I risked isolating myself from my (meagre number of) Twitter followers. But will I? If all I am to someone is a follow-back then they’re not reading this. If, however, you have come to this via Twitter you are an Enthusiast. Even if I’m unfollowed, you’re that person who takes the time to discover whether or not you like me.

I can follow that.

* I hope you misread that as ‘squirrel’ like I did on my read through. I may actually prefer my insignificance to be marked with a big red squirrel.