Mental Health & Social Media – Episode II

Anxiety Attack of the Unknowns

There was no other way,  I had to post a picture of myself in a Princess Leia bikini.  May 4th loomed large on the horizon.  But I’ll get back to this later.

In the meantime I had discovered a brilliant Twitter community, Movie Talk on Sunday (#MTOS for short).  Every Sunday night somebody posed 10 questions based on a theme (the work of a director, a genre, etc) and everyone answered and debated.  It became the perfect Sunday night activity to stave off the anxieties about Mondays.  A friend has since told me, “Don’t let a Monday rob your Sunday.” Sound advice.

After a while it was suggested that a real world meet-up of #MTOS participants took place in London.  Without thinking I booked my hotel and train tickets.  I knew these people so everything would be fine.  Then the realisation that I didn’t really know these people, I just knew their taste in films and the side of themselves they chose to share.  And vice versa, I had only allowed a small part of the ‘real’ me be online.  Then the anxiety rushed in.  My usual negative thoughts of “what if they don’t like me” and similar started spiralling in my brain.

All the time, I thought “just cancel the train”, the hotel was a no-refund deal but that’s okay.  My wife talked me round and said I could always decide closer to the time.  She also took part ocassionally in #MTOS, so convinced me everything would be fine.

The day of the meet-up came and I caught a very early train to London.  All through the journey I was nervous, to say the least. Excited tweets were appearing in my timeline from other #MTOS-ers and I played along.

Then a plan hit me.  I knew people in London and one particular friend was also a massive film fan.  I sent a text and a few minutes later the plan was dashed. “Sorry,  have something else on tonight.” read the reply.  Ok, back to panicking.  Then another text arrived. “But I could meet you after that.”  I nearly punched the air with joy.

I arrived in London way too early, as I do for everything.  I found that being overly early for things took away some of the anxiety.  I had arranged an early check-in, so went to the hotel and then tried to relax.  Tried was the operative word.  I tried to nap, I paced around the room, I tweeted. Nothing worked.

In the end I decided to go for a walk along the Thames.  Headphones in as usual, so that I didn’t have to interact with anyone.  I walked up and down the Southbank, anxiety building.  Many times I thought I would just go back to the hotel and watch tv for the night.  This would have also included berating myself for not going.

The time for the meet arrived. I stood outside the pub, debating whether to go in.  Inside I could see a range of film-related t-shirts. My breath was shallow, I pulled open the door.  I had a Jurassic Park t-shirt on and heads turned from the group.  I timidly said “MTOS”, like it was a speakeasy password.  Smiles broke out and I relaxed a little bit.

I spent a lovely evening talking films (my favourite topic) and meeting wonderful people.  I talked about my mental health problems and trepidation of attending and only encountered friendliness and understanding.  Later in the evening my friend turned up and as he is the most affable person I know, he fit right in.

As the evening wound down, I said goodbye to a new bunch of friends. I walked back to the hotel with a spring in my step and a smile on my face.

To quote Marge Simpson, “A stranger’s just a friend you haven’t met”.  Somebody else might have also said it, but Marge sang it so it’s better.  I always have anxiety meeting new people and this evening helped me to get over that a bit.

At this point I will point out that you should always keep safe when meeting internet people  – this Lifehacker article has useful tips.

Oh and yes, the bikini.  I’ll get to that next time.

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