The Phantom Facebook User
When I first joined Facebook, I did so under a false name. I had 3 friends on there and that was it. Slowly more and more people discovered my pseudonym and friend requested me. People I hadn’t seen for a long time got in touch and it was terrifying.
Part of my mental health problem was that I beat myself up for every mistake I had ever made and having people from my past get in contact renewed those feelings. I couldn’t accept that we all make mistakes and the fear of people bringing those things up was terrifying. Little did I know at the time that no one else ever really thought about them.
I refused to put any photographs of myself on there. I’ve always been the person taking the photographs/videos. I had such severe self-loathing that the thought of people seeing photographs was too much.
Occassionally people would put pictures up that I was in and I would have panic attacks. It got to the stage where I left Facebook and my pseudonym behind. I rejoined under my own name some time later, but we’ll leave Facebook there for now. .
In 2009 I thought I would give Twitter a go. I chose a handle that was something nobody except those people very close to me would know, @gordondon. By the way, Gordondon was our African Pygmy Hedgehog and named after the introduction to a Loudon Wainwright III song. I still get people thinking my name is Gordon Don.
On Twitter I could do what I enjoyed, talking about films, tv, books and comedy in total anonymity. I loved it. Nobody had a clue who I was in ‘real life’ and I could exist on there.
After my mental breakdown in 2012, the one that made me realise I needed to seek help, I started CBT and EMDR therapy. This has helped me deal with issues and was where I was told, “The only thing people are perfect at is being imperfect.” It was a long process (I still have therapy sessions when I need them).
In 2013 my Wife was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. She has always been pragmatic about it and extremely rarely lets it get her down. She started going to a support group funded by the MS Society and in 2014, as a thank you for their great work, I signed up for a sponsored zipline to raise funds for them.
I mentioned this on Twitter and somebody tweeted me asking how much I would need to raise for me to do the zipline in the Princess Leia Bikini from Return of the Jedi. I responded £500, never thinking I would ever raise that much. 16 days later the £500 had been raised (it reached £1,000 by the day), so true to my word I ordered the outfit.
As the day got closer I realised something. I would have to put a photo of myself online to prove I did it. I had been sponsored by so many people that just sending it directly to them was impossible. I had a massive panic attack.
To be continued…..