A Week With No Whine

February 16, 2012 at 2:12 pm (Living With Chronic Illness, Mental Health, Uncategorized) (, , , )

(So the week isn’t technically over, but since I’m leaving for a weekend-long event tonight, let’s pretend today is the end of the week.)

On Monday, I posted the following status update to Facebook:

I am asking for your help in a very specific way today, so please play along. I am in a bad emotional state, and should not post anything to the Internet about said emotional state. This includes blog posts, Facebook statuses, FetLife stuff, etc. I will regret it once I feel better. I do not wish to engage in predictable, “feed me positive energy and make me feel better” behavior; it is bad for me and is equal to junk food for my soul. I need to feel like crap today; the reason I feel this way is completely legit and totally earned. So if you see any emotional panhandling today, please remind me of this and ask me to delete it. Thanks.

Because I have good friends who hold me accountable to this sort of thing, I knew I would really get it if I broke this “promise” and posted whiny stuff just so people could respond with nice things about me or supportive messages, which does sometimes feel like fast food for the soul – it fills you up in the moment, but the crash later is just as bad and it does nothing for you nutritionally over the long haul.

A secret behind this status update is that I had also just had a heart to heart with a friend about this sort of behavior; about posting serious-sounding things so that people will generate and send positive energy their way. I told my friend that this was a form of psychic vampirism, a kind that has diminishing returns over time. The more you cry wolf, the less people will respond; when you have a sincere emergency that requires emotional or energetic support, you’ll find that the well is dry.

I think this was the setting for a perfect Loki-flavored storm.So you think you can’t post anything on the Internet about what you’re feeling, eh? Let’s see about that. Enter one of the worst weeks I’ve had, emotionally as well as physically, in the last six months or so. There have been days where I thought the Fentanyl withdrawal was easier than this, because at least then we knew what was happening and when it would be over. I’m experiencing an amped-up version of my muscular and nerve pain, where normally I cruise around a 4-6 on the pain scale (where 10 is the worst); this week I’ve been consistently around a 8. On top of that, I’ve had some pretty serious miscommunications with my relationship partners, including telling my spouse that some of my friends feel like he’s making a very bad (in)decision because he’s not being more proactive about finding a new place to live.

(There’s more than that, too, but the “what” isn’t the important part, here. It’s just an illustration, a placeholder.)

There were plenty of times I pulled up Facebook and started typing about what a terrible week I was having. Or even semi-witty quips about barely being able to tolerate touch on Valentine’s day. I did go so far as to post something to FetLife about how I’ve been feeling invisible in the wheelchair, and for people who are attending the same event as I this weekend are encouraged to help me make it a better event for me. Even that, I was hesitant about and one of my friends posted a jovial warning.

Meanwhile, my week kept getting worse.

This all culminated last night. After my spouse was asleep, I asked Baphomet about this situation. I felt like I was stuck between this place where I felt like my Oath to Her was that I would post about my medical stuff online, openly and honestly; but that I really needed more discernment about what was “medical stuff” and what was “whining about my lot in life”. It was She who told me I should write about the situation and make my own conclusions.

I do feel that many people, including myself, tend to beg for spoon-shaped energy bumps when we feel crappy. Sometimes we may even exaggerate or phrase things a certain way to maximize the energetic return we get from what we say. And isn’t always the obvious, “I feel like crap today; please say nice things to make me feel better”. Some post how difficult their spiritual lives are, and how their Gods ask for Oh So Much from them and it’s terribly unfair. Some post enigmatic references that no one but them understand, slowly luring you into the energetic trap if you ask for clarification. I don’t think we always do it on purpose, either; I don’t think everyone who engages in emotional panhandling realizes that’s what’s happening. They just know that they feel better when they post stuff on the Internet and people comment on it. It’s a cycle; they complain, they feel better, they get energy cookie. They complain more, they feel more better, they get bigger energy cookie. If they’re lucky, they’ll post something “catastrophic” (whether it really is or not) and it will become a meme that friends pass around social media asking for prayers or healing thoughts or good energy for.

Before everyone reading this post thinks I’m talking about them in a negative way, I want to be clear that I do this, too. I did it in this post, mentioning how bad my week was and how intense my pain has been. I haven’t been able to discern the difference, yet, between “Factual Update About My Situation For Those Who Want To Know” and “Whiney McWhinerson Is At It Again”. Because I know for a fact that once I hit “publish” on this entry, I will spend the next 12 hours checking the stats for it, as well as check for comments not only here, but on the various social media I post notices to (just in case they comment there instead). Itwill make me feel better, at least for a short time, if someone responds with kind words about my pain. But I’m not sure it’s necessarily what I want as an outcome, or that it does good things for me over the long haul.

A Buddhist friend suggested that I need to work more on applying my spiritual energy on overcoming the desire that I wish things were different (that I wasn’t in so much pain, or can’t do the things I would like) and less focus on the physical suffering. I agree with them in an ideological sense, but it also feels like the same advice I get from people who say, “Your pain is trying to teach you something.” If my pain is a teacher, I’m a terrible student. The teacher follows me everywhere I go and just yells and yells at me; they won’t even let me use the bathroom in peace. I do desire that things were different; I desire it down to the center of my soul. I accept that all I can do is keep seeking out medical care, and being proactive about taking care of myself. But I’m not (able, enlightened enough) to just give up that desire and move on. Maybe it’s what I should be working on.

I am very curious what you think about the difference between factual posts and whining. One suggestion I got on Facebook was to disable comments on factual posts, to stem the tide from people who feel inclined to send that positive energy. I don’t know if I agree; I mean, if she posted something about having a hard week or having a need and I had real advice or camaraderie to share about it, why would I refrain from responding? What do you think?

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5 Comments

  1. Hel said,

    I think disabling comments might be the way to go when you’re worried that you’re maybe seeking energy cookies. If someone has something important to say about what you said, they can contact you some other way, but it makes instant gratification less possible.

  2. Renee said,

    Until reading your last paragraph, I hadn’t even realized that it was possible to disable comments on FB! I’m pretty sure, in retrospect, that I’ve seen comments disabled, but hadn’t realized it was a setting — I thought something was wrong with the post. I’m not sure what I did as a result — whether I messaged the person or just didn’t respond, but I remember that I found not being able to comment (under whatever circumstances it was) slightly distressing. Perhaps, if you do disable comments, you’d consider mentioning that you’ve done so folks don’t worry even more? (Then again, that could be a unique personal response.)

    As to whining vs factual updates, on a personal note, I find it disconcerting when I post something factual and get responses as if I were asking for support. The support wasn’t unwelcome or anything, but it’s taken me by surprise. I suppose that “hugs” or “I’m sorry to hear that” or “I’ll keep you in my thoughts and prayers” can seem as appropriate to a negative factual update as “congratulations!” is to a positive one.

    I think that, in general, if someone posts something factual — e.g., “bunny drama continuing. Advantage of vet further away — they always have liquid meds on hand. I’m not sure the shorter drive to the new vet is worth crushing a pill and mixing it with applesauce 2x/day” — it means that it’s something affecting their life enough to want to vent about it a bit. Or, perhaps,to solicit responses like, “yeah, I switched back to a further-away vet after that happened twice. Getting liquid meds is worth the time and gas for the extra distance” — hearing that they’re not nuts for wanting to go further away. As a reader, I might respond and say something like “what a pain!” but I wouldn’t read it as a solicitation for good energy.

    I used that example both because I was debating posting it the other day *and* because it’s an example of the kind of post that’s led to the unexpected responses I mentioned earlier. I might not be looking for “I hope your bunny feels better soon!,” but I suppose it can be a natural response for some folks.

    So what do I read as a solicitaion? Well, a direct solicitation — “life is being so challenging right now I could use a few hugs/some energy sent my way.” Or perhaps even something like, “dealing with bunny drama. Aaaaaargh!” To me the latter isn’t giving enough factual info really be a factual update, so I might very well read it as looking for general support in a trying time. Would I say it’s always that? No, but I might read it that way.

    With regard to being perceived as crying wolf, I think that, if someone usually only posts what I’d consider factual updates but then posts what I’d read as a solicitation, I’d perceive the solicitation as a *significant* request for assistance. I don’t know whether that would be true for others, but it would be the case for me.

    Now, whether the difference truly affects the other point you raise — about “fast food for the soul” … I’m not sure. I suspect that actual solicitations would result in more people sending energy etc. But if someone is usually getting, say, 2 to 3 helpings of spoons from a factual post, is that “rewarding them” for posting? I guess … but … is that enough of a predictable energy boost to constitute psychic vampirism? I suppose that answer is relative — for some people it might be, for others not so much — but I’m not sure that, for anyone, it would be a significant and predictable enough response to make it unwise to post a factual update.

    • dying for a diagnosis said,

      To be clear, the “psychic vampire” comment was directed at someone who has a tendency to post semi-cryptic updates that sound very dire; a recent one led Ninja and I to fear they were suicidal, and we weren’t the only ones. It turned out they were just having social anxiety about an upcoming event. So what happened was that they got a lot of people very concerned and sending lots of energy, thinking it was a significant issue, when in fact it probably could have been handled better offline.

      This was not the only time something liked this happened with that individual. There have been numerous times I thought their primary relationship was in serious jeopardy when in fact the poster was just sad because their partner was at work.

      I don’t think if I were to post a “Having some significant pain” sort of update that I’m necessarily engaging in psychic vampirism; but I do think if that were a subconscious or conscious way for me to get fed, energetically, and I pushed the button harder and harder (leading to more dire sounding posts over time), I could make the argument that it could be.

  3. Eric S said,

    You deal with a lot of people remotely and have a self stated obligation to discuss your health. I understand your concern and it is completely legitimate. You don’t want to use up the attention and energy of your friends and that is wise and reasonable.

    You can post things while disallowing comments. You could also end by saying you are merely informing and not looking for sympathy or assistance.

    I wish you luck in finding the best answer.

  4. AntB said,

    I have no answer, but to say that this was a thoughtful, and for me, timely post. Thanks!

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