Surviving the Spraytanpocalypse, Part 1

My experiences are not the same as yours. The specific things I’ve dealt with in life are not the same. That said, I’ve learned some things the hard way and some of these things might be useful.

———

For over a decade, it has been part of my job to interact with the internet-at-large. For ten years I read all of my mail. I didn’t necessarily respond to it, but I read every myspace message, then every email and @ on twitter. I thought it was fair to give a stranger’s armchair diagnosis of debilitating dissociation the same amount of consideration I gave to criticism on language use from a member of my wider community. I believed that if I put words and thought out there, it was only right to hear out the responses. And, fuck, did that ever fuck me up.

Reading things that were sent maliciously—to hurt—isn’t the same as being stuck in the same physical space with someone as they scream the words at you, but it’s on the same spectrum. Eventually all those little comments pile up, especially when they’re coming in every day. Especially when they’re mixed in with important messages you need to see in order to maintain your work and have the money to pay your rent, to help organize protest, or to keep up contact with friends and loved ones.

Eventually this pile started to get to me. Eventually a nasty tweet from some random human on the other side of the globe who was almost certainly never going to act on their threat was able to poke at the scabs from threats of immediate concern or from my past. Eventually I found myself going into fight or flight mode every time I opened my computer or unlocked my cell phone.

People tried to help. “Haters gonna hate” was pulled out of storage and dusted off. Encouragements to ignore [blank] or to not think about [other blank] were given out like Halloween candy in a middle-class US suburb. Eventually my response was an extremely frustrated “I’D LOVE TO BUT HOW.”

Because, you know, that “don’t think about pink elephants” thing.

I tried imagining unresolvable concerns as clouds floating away, and picturing them as leaves falling into a stream before being carried off by the current. Then I bemoaned how ineffective this was for me to a partner who told me that they handle thoughts of things they don’t need to think about right now with a direct, internal ‘I don’t need to think about this right now.’ I was all “OK THANKS BUT THEN IT STILL COMES BACK.”

(It was a very all-caps period of my life, stuck between “Yes, yes, I need to take care of myself” and how the actual fuck to do that.)

To which they replied “Yes, and the trick is to accept that things you don’t need to think about will pop back into your head and then calmly address them again with ‘I don’t need to think about this right now.” Once I stopped getting frustrated with my inability to put a thing out of my head permanently, it became slightly easier—and far less emotionally draining—to put those things out of my head until something could actually be done about them.

Finally a friend introduced me to Rebecca West’s “Black Lamb and Grey Falcon.” It is not light reading and many grains of salt must be taken with it, but somewhere in those 1,200 or so pages was the most effective answer I’ve found so far to BUT HOW: instead of subtracting bad things, add good things.

Or: When bad things cannot be subtracted, protect the good things and turn to them as things to do thinking about and focusing on when you need a break from the bad things.

(An individual’s good things to think about/focus on will vary, as will what we each have access to. Here are some of mine: cats+laser dot, floating in hot water—which has a 50/50 chance of helping or exacerbating, fucking, sewing silly little things for friends out of remnants from larger projects.)

The ability to wrangle our brains into actually taking a break from stressors feels important because without rest—if we are constantly embroiled in skirmish after skirmish—it seems that much harder to find the stamina to win a war.

xo

Stoya

 

10 Replies to “Surviving the Spraytanpocalypse, Part 1”

  1. Thank you for addressing something i have felt for a while as if I’ve had been on an island (archipelago if what they say about “the more personal it is, the more general it is”).

    I’ve had my share of life events, that had led me standing in that endless sea of sayings, memes, and verbally-vomited pop-culture please-don’t-let-me-make-you-really-care phrases with me screaming at its beach a “YES. FINE! BUT HOW!”

    I have the emotional equivalent response of a turtle hiding its head at the sign of outside danger; which is to say i wad not as proactive as you to find the answer quickly.

    To make the story short, I was lucky to find myself painting a nerf-gun (of all things) when i felt that glimmer of repose from it all, and was able to breathe from the never ending hordes that arise out there on the “real world”.

    I’ve been wracking my brains as to how this practice has gone missing from common knowledge around me, and I’ve found physical evidence from my great-parents (a brush, a tool, and other knicknacks for my “sanctuary”) that have made me wonder if it was so natural for them as to not feel the need to pass this practice along.

    Then again… Turtle. Here.

    Thank you for sharing your all of what you’ve gone through. My” little island” feels happier yo be part of a bigger archipelago.

  2. I understand, even if there would be 100 good things and 1 bad thing, that one bad thing can actualy be like 1 000 things.

    For me, whenever I had problem with people in real life or internet life, I tell myself “People will always be bad even if I would be a saint”. No matter what, theres always that one person who just throws mud on everyone. I like myself, even tho Im not “normal” for these people, for me they are the weird to think that way.

  3. Along with putting positive thoughts inside our head, you need to surround yourself with people also. I believe everyone should have four people in their lives. A mentor who has it all together, you can learn from and instill in your life. A coach that can develop you to be a better person, whether it is physically or spiritually. A cheerleader who believe in you, wants you to be successful, and encourages you. And finally a friend, this is someone you are able to be real with. You may have frustrations and whatever it is. They’re not to judge you but they are there to listen.

    Now as much as I want you to find people to fill those roles for you. Make sure you become one of these four roles for others as well. See we are not designed to live life on our own. After you found these people for your life, ask them if they are willing to help you achieve your goals and in return you help them to reach theirs : )

  4. I’ve been struggling with this issue lately, as I’m sure is true for a great many of us. It’s not easy to avoid thinking about a fascist madman having control of nuclear weapons sufficient to destroy the world hundreds of times over. Add in my own array of garden variety individual troubles, and the picture starts to look impossibly bleak.

    I think you’ve correctly identified the answer, though. Even if things do somehow get better, in terms of events global or personal, we’ll never have full control, and there will always be sizable patches of darkness. The solution is, as you say, to tilt our focus in the direction of the good things, large or small.

    Even miniscule things we do that improve the world ever so slightly still count – they wouldn’t have occurred if we hadn’t acted. And finding ways to feel and express compassion for ourselves also counts, because that allows us to forge on, and hopefully do other beneficial stuff down the road. My #1 item for self-care is going to rock & roll shows – life is always better with more live music. 🙂

    Best of luck with the brain-wrangling!

  5. Nothing but love here, dear Stoya.

    I greatly admire your conviction, strength of voice, and commitment to your ideals. And I’m so sorry to hear that psychotic, conflicted, angry souls are able to get under your skin. It’s awful what some people will say from afar.

    Here’s wishing you the best in displacing darkness with light.

  6. The rejuvenation of one’s spirit, of the spirit of one’s community is so key. Thanks for sharing as we all move forward to a better day.

  7. Oh wow! Apologies If I was mundane or insouciant previously on “Hello World”. I never for once thought your experience led to a fight-or-flight episodes. Hence, scrap the “advices” I gave.
    Some people get through things their own way, some write, some talk to friends, some just run away… there are no “right” way to do it. Rebecca West’s “Black Lamb and Grey Falcon.”, Never read it, but I will pick one from my local library if they have it, or on kindle. I am more of a technical/scientific reader, I know… Boring!!! lol – But slowly I am opening up to another genres when time allows.
    Nevertheless, I am glad you are dealing with “it” your own way, and finding your own tempo.
    cheers!

  8. First: Thank you for sharing your struggle. there’s some truth to the saying “hater’s gonna hate”. some people thrive on that hateful negative, destructive, chaos and seek to make others suffer with them. i think if someone says that to you what they mean to say is that you are not responsible for the way others feel and act, and it is not worth your time to worry about someone who is trying to tear you down and crush your spirit.
    second. if some asshole threatens someone, internet trolls included, it’s a criminal act and should be treated as such.

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