This is likely going to be an awkward, embarrassing post. Yay! And, because it’s me, it’s undoubtedly going to be long. But, in all honesty, I’ve been turning a lot of things over in my mind a lot lately (see previous posts regarding the search for an entirely new career and add “way too much time” to that equation) and for some reason, all those thoughts landed on making this post. In part because at the end of all of this, I’ll have a couple things I’m seeking feedback on, whether personal feedback or outside, and in order to do personal reflection, I need it written down, and in order to have outside feedback (and this is a frightening thought) people might need a bit of a back history.
Like everyone, I struggle with certain things. In my case, I’m dyslexic and I have allegedly about 15 kinds of anxiety. I say “allegedly” because I honestly only remember two of the long list I was given over a decade ago as those were the only two that seemed 1) more important and 2) I agreed with. Those two are pretty basic: Social Anxiety and General Anxiety. I was technically diagnosed with Social Anxiety as a child, though back then it had an added “disorder” to it so I was SAD which was way too much fun.
General Anxiety means I will have full-blown panic attacks about seemingly nothing. Legit nothing to most people, and heck, even sometimes I am certain it is nothing and there is some part of me screaming SERIOUSLY while the other half is going “yep, seriously, this is now a thing” while I stress out over whatever it is that sent me into a panic. Driving, for example, can do this if too many people on the road are being questionably legal, I can start stressing about not being hit. On the plus side, I’ve largely gotten a handle on the panic attacks. And by panic attacks, I mean hypoventilating/sitting on the ground unable to pretty much be useful in any way, panic attacks. Unfortunately, they do still pop up at a level of 100 when they do rear their head, but each year is less and less.
Social Anxiety should be self-explanatory, but in case not, I’ll summarize: sheer blind terror of people. This one takes the prize for most likely to be a pain in the ass and most likely to ensure I never have a group of friends over the size of like…oh, three. It’s also one I’ve been actively combating since I can remember so it’s also the one I’ve “made the most progress” with. Go me.
I’ll be blunt: People terrify me. In theory, friendship seems appealing, in practice, the thought of attempting said friendship is so mind-freezingly horrifying that I may attempt it for a minute and then bail at the first sign of it going either good or poorly. Either way is stressful. Hence, the anxiety part.
For anyone with any kind of anxiety, I probably don’t need to explain things further, but if you don’t suffer from it, I’ll try to explain it. I’d like to make new friends, I want to make new friends, I’m petrified of doing something wrong while making new friends (or, let’s be honest, doing that with friends already made,) I’m crippled by the fear of doing something right while making new friends or keeping up with old ones (because then there is pressure to continue to do things correctly and that pressure = anxiety which…well I have.) And then, if there is a group, well, multiply the number of fears by the number of people and you have way more possibilities than my mind is okay with. And if it is a group of people I don’t know? If I make it into the room, probably having had at least four panic attacks, I will probably find a wall to try and attach myself to. I may stay there the entire time simply because I cannot comprehend the thought of approaching anyone I don’t know. This is embarrassing, this is me, this is beyond a level of frustration I can fully express.
Soooo, I’ll take vicious, reoccurring cycle for 1500 points, please!
Worse? I can/will have full-blown panic attacks about going to a party or something of people I already know! As a child, this included relatives. My poor parents are saints for dealing with me. If there were over five family members outside of my immediate family in a house – I was staying outside, possibly for the entire evening. For things like friends’ birthday parties? I had to be the first to arrive and doing something like helping to set up a table or a game or something constructive while everyone else showed up or I could not physically walk into the house. Yeah, looking back, embarrassing.
I’ve gotten better, in theory, as I can now go places, not be first, and eventually force myself to go inside acting like I’m not completely petrified, but it’s been a long time coming and it’s not perfected by any means. Four years ago a former boss, who is still my really good friend and is also my riding instructor, had a holiday party. I knew everyone coming. Hells, I liked everyone coming. Got to her house, had one of my worst panic attacks in years, and ended up calling her from my car in tears because I wanted so badly to get out of my car and join everyone but the thought of doing so was absolutely bone-chilling as well.
Thankfully, my friend is a superstar and I’ve come to the conclusion that confessing to my anxiety once I’ve known people for a little while is less embarrassing than having it ambush me and having to explain it to people while I am seemingly freaking out over life, so when I called her to let her know I was stuck in her driveway, she helped talk me out of it. I made it inside, I spent about thirty minutes shaking like a leaf, feeling like an idiot, and cursing everything about anxiety vs. me in the privacy of my mind…and then I relaxed, I had a great time, and I can now go to those holiday parties without being stuck in the driveway. Though, as I no longer know everyone at the barn as well as I used to since I no longer work there, I still have the crushing feeling of the world might possibly end in the hours leading up to the party. Which is why sometimes improvement is referred to as baby steps.
So, how does this cross over into the online/having self-published two novels?
Well, turns out if there is such a thing as Online Social Anxiety, I have it in spades. Yes, I am writing this post, yes I have written other posts, yes I have a website, a Goodreads account, a Facebook account, a fairly new Twitter account, and a pretty public email…but having all/any of them have been something I consider a waking nightmare a lot of the time and I’m pretty much a failure on the whole usage of all of them.
Twitter I do not, at all, understand. So with the exception of Twitter happily posting everything I post to the website for me…I’ve rarely tweeted anything. The like button is slightly less anxiety-inducing as, well, other people are liking tweets so in theory I’m not an idiot or doing it wrong? One can hope anyway (yay for anxiety…it’s the bestest guys, it so is.)
Facebook…yeah, I’m pretty much not on it as more than to see what everyone else is doing because I’m 99% positive that’s 1) safer and 2) less likely to make me look like any more of an idiot.
Here. Here, I am actually making a conscious effort to try and be…human? Normal? Assertive? I’m making an effort to do something. Pretty sure it’s another fail, but at this stage of the game…trying is something. The ulcers its probably giving me will heal at some point and maybe, just maybe, one day it will not be panic-inducing. When pigs fly or hell freezes over.
As for my novels…the thought of letting anyone even see them, in the beginning, was gut-wrenching. Once that had happened, and I started getting pushed to do something (hint, telling someone with anxiety to do something is the quickest way to watch us self-destruct for a minute or for days) with said stories. Finding an editor was another terrifying adventure because the thought of not only letting a stranger see things but make comments and possibly flat out tell me I was an idiot…well, that was fun. But eventually I reached out to a possible editor and that went surprisingly well. Unfortunately, she is no longer editing which means the ordeal will have to start anew…and I haven’t quite been able to force myself to reach out to anyone yet. One day, in theory, it will happen.
So managed to get an editor, managed to get a cover artist, a formatter, and then somehow physically managed to hit “go” on Amazon and Createspace (r.i.p. Createspace) which landed me with a live novel. This was mostly due to me somehow, against all odds, joining a writer’s group that just happened to have a pretty successful self-published author as a member who was like “DO IT NOW” sooo…yeah. Managed it, and then less than a year later I did it again. Perhaps even one day I will do it a third time to test the waters and then I may hang up the towel.
In theory though, before that, I need to actively engage with the public and therefore reviewers…so if you have any go-to mental horror movie music in your mind, start playing it.
Which brings me to the question/or advice seeking part. Due to all the uncertainties I struggle with and the anxiety about absolutely everything…I haven’t reached out to any reviewers/book bloggers. I somehow managed to enter the SPFBO, which was such an anxiety-inducing event I still have no idea if I consider it a success or something I should never again repeat.
But, I cannot force myself to email anyone about a possible book review. I’ve taken baby steps – I’ve posted here and in a few other places that I am actively seeking reviews and am willing to offer ebook/physical copies in return in wanted, but every time I do my due diligence in researching potential reviewers, find someone I absolutely adore and type up an email to ask…I freeze. Every email sounds stupid, every attempt seems futile, and my anxiety reduces me to someone I despise because I end up throwing in the towel and the email either remains as a draft, and a reminder of another failed try or I end up trashing the draft so I don’t have to face it.
So…any tips? Alas, telling me to just go do it sounds oh so simple and amazing, but is honestly the entire problem and why I’ve managed to only attempt things. While no one likes negative reviews, that’s not my problem. There is absolutely anxiety about a negative review, because, hello, anxiety stricken person here, but my true anxiety culprit is the reaching out to strangers and not sounding like an idiot or embarrassing myself any more than I already have the double-sided privilege of doing.
Anxiety is horrible. Anxiety about having anxiety is even worse. If you struggle with anxiety at any level for anything, you have my sympathies. This is not something anyone should be forced to face, and as a fellow experiencer…the battle is forever ongoing occasionally defeating.