So, Um… Where Did Joanna Go? A Return to the Middle Ground

Posted by on Aug 18, 2017

Back to the Blog

It has been six months since I last wrote on this blog.

The apologist in me wishes I could offer a great story as an explanation, or some resounding justification for my absence. But as with most of life, it was simply a lot of little things that added up.

Recovery update first, since that’s what we’re all about in this little corner of the blogosphere. Relative to my own process, I’m doing really well. There have been occasional slip-ups, of course, and my mind is still not the friendliest place to live in, but by and large, I am stable.

What has been particularly helpful is that I’ve been in a meal support program for 16 months now. Yes, that is a hell of a long time. And wouldn’t we all be thriving if only we could have indefinite support services?

It seems to have been some weird glitch in the insurance matrix that has allowed this. Which is such a wonderful irony isn’t it? They back off and let me get the treatment I need, and, lo and behold, I GET BETTER. What a goddamn novelty.

More on that in a future post though. Strictly updates today.

Family

So why did I disappear for a little while? Well, there was this bitter inevitability: My family found my blog.

Granted, I don’t try very hard to hide my identity. My name really is Joanna. And hey look, there’s a photo of me up in the sidebar.

Historically, these lapses in anonymity have been half-hearted attempts at authenticity. On the one hand, I wanted to tell the world about my mental health travails. On the other hand, we’ve all got future employers to think of as we conduct ourselves online.

Somewhere along the way, though, I’ve become more intentional about this authenticity. I am proud of the advocacy, speaking, and writing I’ve done. This is no longer just a secret side project, but a part of my core identity. More and more, I’ve wanted to crumble the walls between the “recovering Joanna,” who has mostly lived on these webpages and in treatment offices, and the Jersey-born philosophy nerd with a penchant for sarcasm.

When it came to my family, though, apparently I confused that desire for authenticity with actual readiness. I had already told some of them about my eating disorder, but then one of them publicly liked a post on my Middle Ground Facebook page, splashing it across everyone else’s newfeeds, too. And when the cat finally tore its way out of the bag, I balked. I felt embarrassed. Exposed. Intruded upon. Angry. Paralyzed.

I reminded myself that this was the price to pay for authoring a recovery blog. I told myself that lots of writers have to look past certain people in their lives in order to reach their intended audience. Still, I couldn’t shake the feeling of being watched. When I tried to write, my thoughts couldn’t breach my internal censor.

I felt angry, yet I also felt I had no right to this anger. After all, I was the one who had opened the door by putting my words on the internet.

After a couple months of internal debate, during which I felt increasingly stifled, I took my musings over to Instagram. The short, informal posts have helped me to combat my self-censoring. Plus it has a few more privacy settings than one can get here on the open plains of the internet. So please do follow me there (@the.middle.ground). Over the next few weeks I’ll start migrating some of my writings from there to here.

I’m still deciphering my feelings about this issue, and I’ve yet to come up with a plan to get around (or better yet, accommodate) those feelings. But I’m writer. Not writing, while it was temporarily the safer option, left me feeling stagnant and withdrawn. I have to write. Privacy, ego, a Google search that comes up empty— those are all acceptable sacrifices. Writing, for me, is not.

Work

The other obstacle to writing over these last several months was my transition to a new job, which I’ve mentioned here before. Last September (yes, it’s been a long transition period), I was promoted to social media manager, and while I was still at the same organization, in the same department, even at my same desk, my lifestyle changed in considerable ways.

Social media is mercurial. It’s hardly something that lends itself to “managing.” For me, as someone prone to anxiety and who struggles to accept uncertainty or relinquish control, it has been a year of being continually challenged and stretched. And that’s a very good thing — I’ve learned new skills and I’ve been forced to tolerate discomfort. I’ve grown and changed in many positive ways.

The downside is that it has taken nearly a year to appreciate and finally address the ways it threw me off balance.

Social media is active 24/7, and from early on I struggled to delineate boundaries. My waking impulse was to the check notifications that came in overnight. I had an abiding sense that I needed to do more to try to keep up with other social networks (which is not a feasible task when you are a team of one and you’re comparing your networks to BuzzFeed). Even when I was offline, I worried about what was happening online — I should be checking the networks, monitoring comments, brainstorming fun new content.

Of course, no one at my job asks me to be “on” 24/7. In my classically anorexic way, I was the one who turned up the dial on self-expectations, then beat myself up when I inevitably fell short. But I’ve worked on that in therapy and finally made my way over to Camp Realism. I’ve gotten better at adhering to boundaries, designating time to log off, and keeping my expectations reasonable.

So that was the slightly more boring reason for being absent from this blog. But now I’m back. Finally.

What’s Next?

For one thing, I’ll resume writing. And as I mentioned, I have a number of short posts that I wrote for Instagram (one more time: @the.middle.ground — follow me!), which I’ll be reposting here. I’ll get back to writing for my favorite organizations and sharing what they’re doing for the mental health community. (Next EDC/NEDA Lobby Day is October 5 in Washington, D.C. — be there!!)

And…(*deep breath*)…I’ll start checking my email again. That’s the first to go when I get stressed or anxious. But I promise I’ll do my best to get back to all of you who have so kindly reached out in one way or another. I appreciate your patience as well as your support.

Thank you to everyone who has stuck around in the interim. Let’s get back to navigating the middle ground together.


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