#LiterarySpoons: A New Twitter Hashtag Event for Spoonie Writers

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Welcome to the Q & A for #LiterarySpoons, a brand new Twitter hashtag event hosted by me and @SpoonieCult. The purpose of #LiterarySpoons is for writers who identify as spoonies – which includes those who are chronically ill, disabled, mentally ill, and/or neurodiverse – to share their writing with the community. Our first #LiterarySpoons event will take place Thursday, October 13th from 5-7PM PST / 8-10PM EST / 12AM-2AM GMT.

Question 1: How do I share my original writings?

Answer: Compose a new tweet and include a title, description, and link to each piece. They can be in the form of blog posts, articles, essays, poems, stories, screenshots, etc. They could be published on blog sites like WordPress or Tumblr, in literary magazines or journals, or in online magazines or news outlets. Make sure you include the hashtag #LiterarySpoons and specify any mature content or trigger warnings. The posts will be moderated and any offensive or copyright-infringing content will be reported.

If you need a free, fast, and safe place to post your work, I recommend creating an account on Medium and using that as a platform to host your content. With Medium, there’s no need for layout or website setup.

Question 2: Does the writing I share have to relate to being a spoonie?

Answer: Nope! Subject matter and genre is entirely open. The point of the event is for us to showcase our best work. If that involves being a spoonie, great! If it’s a story about a unicorn, that’s fine too! The material doesn’t need to be new or written specifically for this event. The only requirement is that it’s original.

Question 3: Is there a limit to how many pieces I can post?

Answer: There’s no official limit, but be mindful and considerate of the event. Don’t flood the stream with your work. I’d say five posts total would be around the maximum. That will allow others to share their work without getting lost in the feed.

Question 4: What exactly is a spoonie, anyway?

Answer: The term came from a blog post written by Christine Miserandino called “The Spoon Theory.” Those of us battling chronic illness, mental illness, and disability often have trouble keeping up with day-to-day life. Our energy has to be measured out, and Christine chose the metaphor of measuring that energy in spoons. How we feel can be unpredictable and vary from one moment to the next. That’s why many of us call ourselves “spoonies.”

The term has morphed into a wonderful and supportive online community and a shorthand way of identifying ourselves.

Question 5: What if I can’t attend the event during the date and time it’s scheduled? Can I still participate?

Answer: Absolutely! I recommend scheduling your posts in advance using a free service like HootSuite. You can hop on the thread whenever you’re able to and read other people’s posts.

Question 6: Is this just a one-time event?

Answer: We’re hoping to make #LiterarySpoons an ongoing monthly event. You can follow me, @alanasaltz, and @SpoonieCult to stay updated on future events.

If you have any questions that weren’t answered here, please leave a comment or send me a tweet. I hope to see you and your writing on the hashtag!

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What is Anxiety Disorder?

Photo credit: Alana SaltzIn previous posts, I’ve mentioned that I’ve dealt with anxiety disorder for most of my life. Although I think mental illness is becoming less and less stigmatized with time, I’ve noticed that anxiety disorder is still very misunderstood.

Life is stressful and anxiety provoking. Everyone struggles with anxiety, often on a daily basis. So what’s the difference between being anxious about the realities of life and having an anxiety disorder?

Think of anxiety disorder as being similar to clinical depression. Everyone gets depressed at times depending on their life circumstances. Clinical depression, however, is when depressed thoughts and feelings occur constantly over an extended period of time, often without cause, and aren’t easily relieved. The same is true of anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorder is when a high level of anxiety is consistently present and is easily triggered and heightened by circumstances that most people don’t think twice about.

For example, my anxiety often comes up in relation to social events. I get anxious when I’m going to an event or party where I don’t know a lot of people or when I’m planning a date with someone I don’t know very well. Sometimes the anxiety appears in the form of worries about feeling awkward or uncomfortable, having to deal with potential traffic or parking problems at the venue, and the possibility of getting physically ill during the event.

While everyone might feel nervous about things like this, sometimes these fears cause me to feel nauseous or trigger a migraine that makes me feel unable to go to the event at all. I’ve missed out on parties and have cancelled dates because of this on many occasions. When anxiety affects the quality of your life this way, it’s time to consider the possibility that it may be a disorder.

I’ve been coming across more and more people lately who have complained to me about being anxious a lot but feel they aren’t being taken seriously. I’ve come up against that problem many times in my life. People constantly tell me things like, “Don’t worry” and “Just don’t think about it” and “What is there to be anxious about? You’re being ridiculous.” Of course, comments like that only make me feel worse about being anxious, and feed into the endless cycle of anxiety.

The cycle goes like this: You feel anxious, then you feel bad about feeling anxious, which causes you to feel even more anxious than you did in the first place. You start to feel like there’s something wrong with you, that you aren’t normal, and you wonder why you can’t just make the anxiety stop like everyone says you should be able to. One of the best ways to stop this cycle is to feel understood by others and to be easy on yourself about these feelings as you work on them.

For me, the most difficult part of having anxiety disorder has been the physical symptoms that accompany it. I can’t tell you how many different doctors and specialists I’ve seen over the years. I’ve gone to doctors complaining of constant stomachaches, headaches, and migraines. On average, I missed about 20 days of class every year when I was in grade school. Doctors have done tests and prescribed medications despite never finding an actual medical cause or condition.

When it all comes down to it, I can see that these pains are caused by my anxiety. However, they are real pains and symptoms. Anxiety can cause an increased acid build-up in your stomach leading to nausea and cramping. It can also cause tension in your neck and shoulders that triggers migraines.

I believe there needs to be a better public understanding and awareness of anxiety disorder. So many people who suffer with it feel isolated and misunderstood. If you think you might be struggling with anxiety disorder, there are steps you can take to start feeling better. Consulting a professional is always first on the list of recommendations. I also suggest looking into alternative therapies such as yoga and meditation. And being open and honest about your feelings and concerns with your friends and family can make a world of difference. If they aren’t getting it, tell them that you really need them to understand that these feelings are real, and that this is a real condition.

To learn more about anxiety disorder, start with the Anxiety and Depression Association of America’s website. Psychology Today’s website is a great resource for finding a certified therapist near you. There are also numerous guides and workbooks devoted to helping people overcome anxiety disorder.

Just remember, if you or someone you know is dealing with anxiety disorder, be gentle and understanding. It’s not a disorder that will go away overnight, and I’ve spent years in therapy working on making things better. I still go through phases, like over the past few months, where the anxiety is worse than usual. But I try to remember that there’s nothing wrong or broken about me, and that I will get through it. Having the right support system in place makes it that much easier.

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Who Am I, Really?

Lately I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about who I really am. I’m not sure there’s a “true self” exactly. I think all of us are a big mess of contradictions and personalities. For example, some people would describe me as being a quiet person while others have told me that I talk too much. Both things are true. When I’m in a new social situation, I’m often shy. When I’m with close friends, I might end up talking a lot.

I guess we present different sides of ourselves to different people…or even to the same people at different times. Yet there seems to be this idea floating around that we need to embrace our “true selves.” But what if I’m not sure which self of mine is the true one? And what if my true self is not the one that other people want or need me to be?

I’m really struggling with this issue in my writing because I’m not quite sure who exactly I am now or who exactly I was as a kid. I’m trying to write about my childhood and teenage years with honest self-reflection, but it seems impossible to pinpoint what the hell was actually going on back then or even what’s going on now.

Part of me feels like I need to censor myself, and I think that’s the problem. I’ve been told my entire life that I’m too emotional. I’ve been told that I cry too much, complain too much, and that I’m depressed and/or anxious too often. Despite the strides I’ve made and all the work I’ve done to change this, there are still people out there who look at me this way.

We’re rarely encouraged to talk about our emotions in real life. Mental illness, despite its prevalence, is still a taboo topic of conversation. I’ve been hesitant to mention it here even though it’s the focus of my memoir. But in writing, expressing honest emotion is a necessity. Even in blogging, some sort of emotional connection to your reader is required.

I think that’s why the writing I did as a teen feels more honest and uninhibited than my recent work. I hadn’t learned to control my emotions and impulses, so they flowed easily into my writing. At the same time, I had a lot of trouble making and keeping friends because they were overwhelmed (and occasionally annoyed) by my emotionality.

Is there a way to be open yet reserved, emotional yet controlled? Is there perhaps some sort of happy medium I just haven’t found yet? I don’t really have an answer or conclusion for this post because I’m genuinely struggling with all of this right now. Maybe I’m chasing a sort of self-awareness that doesn’t really exist.

 

Do you think we, as people, have a true self?

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