How to Deal with Blogging-Induced Anxiety
Not everyone deals with anxiety, but I certainly do. It wasn't until I was in college that I was diagnosed and it wasn't until weeks ago that I sought treatment from my doctor. I thought it would go away. Since I was a little girl I dreamed of being a published author. I was published in my early twenties and continued to write and publish. In 2010, I started writing my memoir--even though I was still in my twenties, I had a lot to say. As a pre-writing exercise I decided to start blogging. I'd read that nonfiction books (and memoir) were a lot easier to sell if you had a platform, so blogging fit perfectly into my writing plans. Throughout the time I spent blogging, I connected with thousands of readers who found my blog through a Google search or a friend. My blog started to become a full-time job and social media started to run my life.
Three years later I found myself sitting in a therapists office because of my blog. I wasn't able to say no to my readers or fans without feeling incredible guilt and more than that--the crux of my visit to therapy--I'd attracted a solid group of "haters", if you will. Whether I was writing about sex (openly), religion, or politics, it was an open invitation for vitriolic comments. To some degree, I knew this would happen. I just didn't realize it would affect me so deeply.
After months of absenteeism from my own blog and distancing myself from social media, I decided what I needed was a new blog. My old blog was self-sustaining in many ways and for months I'd wanted to expand to write about topics beyond my very narrow niche. My niche was fun to write about but I also needed some diversity. After brainstorming for almost a year, I created Farewell Winter. Farewell Winter was a symbolic name; I was literally leaving one of the darkest times I'd lived through and was ready to say good-bye. I struggle with depression and anxiety, so even though I don't expect to be entirely free of those disorders, I have been working with my doctor and therapist for a few years and feel better than ever.
I decided this time around to start blogging with a pen name. I did put some social media profiles up that are linked to the "real" me, but I'm writing with fewer references to my personal life and my other blog. I selected a pen name and started blogging with the pen name. It feels freeing even if it is just something to trick myself (since I couldn't get past connecting my social media profiles).
My hope is that, with minimal mentions to who I am in real life, cursory readers won't immediately identify my blog with me. I think as time goes on and my blog grows, this will be increasingly important for me to feel safe.
Tips to Decrease Blogging-Induced Anxiety
- Take a break: Whether it's an extended break or walking away from the screen for five minutes, sometimes all we need to regain perspective is a break.
- Use a pen name: If anxiety is eating you alive, yet you love to blog, consider using a pen name for blogging and/or social media. Just because you love blogging doesn't mean you have to put yourself through the stress of anxiety.
- Create Community Guidelines and stick to them: Whether it's on your blog or Facebook profile/page, create rules and guidelines for a healthy community. Make it explicitly clear what you expect from your readers who comment and encourage friendly debates. Key word being: friendly. Make sure you stick to them. If you need to delete a comment and/or ban someone, don't be afraid to post a comment saying something along the lines of: "This comment has been removed for violation of Community Guidelines."
- Ignore the hate: If you can help it, avoid reading emails or comments that make you anxious. If responding to emails starts becoming too taxing, consider hiring a student to read through your emails and sort them by priority. Create an email template for different emails and send them out as needed.
- Seek therapy: If all else fails, or if it's really getting to you, don't be ashamed of seeking therapy for internet trolls. Although it's a new phenomenon, the problem is only going to get worse. As much as I doubted it initially, my therapist actually understood why these trolls were triggering my anxiety. After just a few sessions of talk therapy, I felt better and my anxiety was replaced with creativity again.
(This post was adapted from "Behind the Nom de Plume" which originally appeared on Lisa's blog, Farewell Winter.)