TW: description of flashbacks and other PTSD symptoms, suicidal ideation, self-harm
A very important part of my coping mechanism, i.e. how not to die, was called “no people day”. It’s very descriptive for a reason.
I haven’t had a no people day since February. A few hours, here and there, but not full days with no people, no devices, no social media. It’s really not working well for me.
In February, the moderator for a daily picture community I followed had to go away for a month, for family reasons. Nobody else would, so I stepped up to do it. I had just quit my weekly link-compiling job because people were harassing me about how I picked the links (rules are not a thing) and following me into my personal space for it, so I had time, and it’s just a picture a day, right? And crossposting it from the main site to social media. Ten minutes a day, maybe?
Since then I have not had a day to myself. It’s not a matter of just going in, posting the picture, and leaving again. I have to decide what picture, upload it, name it, link it, format the link, check the page is working, crosspost it, check the crosspost is working. I have to deal with comments. I have to act as secretary for the moderator, passing on her messages.
It isn’t fun any more.
Part of the reason it isn’t fun is because, increasingly often, now that it’s not a temporary thing (or rather, it is, just nobody knows how long for), the comments are things like “you should have posted this picture instead!” and “your titles are weird”. The other week there was an entire, two-day-long saga because apparently I was supposed to know about something that happened on the other side of the world and I was supposed to post pictures to celebrate it, despite the picture comm having a rather specific theme with nothing to do with current events at all. Then, when I worked out what was happening and made a post with the requested pictures, I got told off because people were afraid to look at them because apparently, you know, pictures of naked people on social media isn’t the best kind of post to like and therefore share with all your friends. Obviously, which is why they weren’t posted until someone specifically asked, they were clearly labelled, and I said they would not be posted again. Today is the third day in a row for the “you should have posted this picture instead!”. It comes from two people. One of them posts another picture in the daily theme and makes me feel like I’m not doing a good job enough for her because she always has an other favourite picture and everyone tells her how wonderful it is. The other one just tells me I should have posted X instead. Again. And she repeats herself until it gets posted. Today I told her that if I was actually doing something wrong she could just tell me so I could work on it, and if people didn’t like the themes (things like all the pictures have a man wearing brown so the page is titled Brown, pretty much because having a title makes the embeddable link pop up with a preview picture rather than a no content warning) then I could call all the posts the day of the week instead. Given that I use the titles to find whether I posted a picture recently, it would be annoying for me, but though I watched it before taking over, I’m not exactly the target.
Another part of the reason is that it’s hitting a lot of triggers I haven’t worked on because I didn’t know I had them, or that they were permanent. One of my jobs at old work, the place that gave me PTSD, was to update the Facebook page every day. I did this over breakfast. I got into work at 6am, got all the emails from overnight, printed them out, filed them, worked out what was important and what actually needed to be done (separate things), and at 8:15am I went downstairs and got a bacon sandwich with no butter. It was usually ready for me. I took it back to my desk and ate it out of the bag while I found a rights-free image, or an appropriate link, or whatever I’d been told to post, and I would make a post, check on comments. I was so good at it (page views drastically increased) that suddenly I was monitoring everything except Twitter, and only because I lied and said I didn’t have one, and the marketing manager had an app on her phone for it, so she handled DMs. So that routine also included taking enquiries, assigning people to clients, and then, naturally, “since you’re doing it anyway”, actually taking and interviewing new clients. And if I wasn’t done before my actual supervisor got in any time between 8:30am and 9am, well. Trouble. That bacon sandwich was usually my only food for the day.
I used to do stupid things, like take pictures of a toy in front of our sign and make a message about what kind of things we did. Easter? Well, the Easter bunny was there, literally. The skeleton that lives in an interview room? He got a name. This is what an office looks like, so if you come in you can see what it looks like first and prepare accordingly, if you need to. For ages after I left, even after they realised it wasn’t a good idea to have an employee with access to their social media who wasn’t actually at work and revoked my access, I was receiving notifications about these pictures, because Facebook (correctly) had determined that I owned them. ‘Add a description!’ it would tell me. I broke down one day and emailed them, saying I didn’t have access to the page any more and please just stop.
Miraculously, they stopped. So I thought I had gotten over it, you know. Facebook became my safe place. Sometimes I post things on there that I want people to know that I can’t say, and while I have filters and tightly control who can see what, have a ban list about three scrolls long, and don’t put information on there or post on public posts with my own name, it’s been mostly okay. My mum got an account last year and the influx of notifications every time she gets a new app and has to share it is very annoying, so it feels less safe, but right now I’m working on boundaries with her and every time she does something that hurts me I take the time to explain why and tell her the consequences, because she says to this day she didn’t know what was happening to me until I actually managed to get workers compensation for stress, which is nearly impossible here. (True story – I walked into court for the very first mediation, which I thought I wouldn’t have to attend until my lawyer emailed me that morning and asked if I was coming, and the mediator took one look at me and said “well, obviously, she can’t work, and we have to put her in a separate room”. One look.) I haven’t been able to get through to her that she is part of the problem, because when I got home at 8 or 9 pm (yes, that makes for a 15 hour day with a 15 minute break!) I had to ring her and tell her everything that happened, and if I didn’t she would just ask and ask and ask until I told her to shut up. Talking is one of those things that’s supposed to help, but for me it just solidified the abuse in my head, making it more real, because I had to go home and re experience it every day, to be told things like “well I can see both sides, you did it wrong after all” and “it’s not that bad, think of the money” and “you won’t get another job if you leave so you have to just get through it”. Three years later, I have a new trigger. Maybe I won’t ever get another job, I definitely did nothing wrong because it’s impossible to please someone who tells you not to do something and then wants the manager to give you a warning because you didn’t do it, and gives instructions written on post-it notes in text speak, oh, and expects you to do all her work for her on top of your own and everyone else’s. But over three years later, and I’m finding new triggers, and things that bother me now that didn’t even six months ago.
Part of that is that I haven’t had a no people day in months. Part of that is that I haven’t been sleeping, because I have had some kind of sinus thing for a month now and if I sleep I can’t breathe. Part of that is I have to deal with extra stuff that is so bad my partner is now very annoyed at me as he had to get stitches because I threw him into a mirror because he tried to stop me cutting my stomach open to get rid of a uterus that shouldn’t be there and the thing inside it that is controlling my mind and changing my body.
Part of that is that after I passed out this morning after experiencing an allergic reaction yesterday (itching->rash->unconscious->swollen throat), I woke up, rushed out to get my mail and found it wasn’t there, forgot deodorant again because my brain won’t remember anything, got home and showered because when I passed out I not only lost my knitting but spilled a drink on my head, and finally I settled into the computer to catch up on stuff before the rugby tonight (GO BLUES). In the page widget, there was an option to boost a post that wasn’t familiar to me. Apparently, the moderator, after being offline for two months and leaving me in charge indefinitely three months ago, decided that overnight was a good time to start sharing articles to the Facebook page, and just the Facebook page. This missed out the main part of the community, so I had to get the link (and backtrack to an official source, no less), and make an actual post for the main site, then because everything gets crossposted, post it back to Facebook, and this on top of the normal picture post.
This is mildly annoying. Anyone can post pictures to the main site, and there’s one other person who does – she has her own picture community, and if she posts one that fits with ours she crossposts it to us, and then I just crosspost that everywhere else. (Incidentally, if I don’t post a picture that someone else wants, they can just post it themselves, but they never do, they just comment to my post to tell me I didn’t include it. That’s why nobody else stepped up to actually post – they don’t want to, even occasionally.)
What I experienced today was not annoyance. Instead, I was sitting at my desk at old work, dressed in business clothes that felt too plain and wrong (the one day I wore something nice, on a day I was meant to have off, but I had to go in because my supervisor did and then she ignored me until five minutes before I left early because I had plans, damnit, I was told that my clothes were not appropriate. I was told that when I dressed any way, actually, and it took over a year after leaving before I re-learned how to dress like me), exhausted because I’d gotten home at 9:30pm and only slept for two hours because I was awake early so I didn’t miss the first bus (and even now, if I go to bed before 4am, I am awake at 4:36am, so I can get ready for the first bus), I was eating my bacon sandwich and being told off for eating at my desk, and told I didn’t have to post to Facebook today because the marketing manager had found a link last night and posted that because she thought it was interesting. I was visiting work with my parents, when they drove me in to pick up my stuff and drop off my Secret Santa present and my medical certificate for the time I was off due to emergency surgery, and the marketing manager ran up and said all the Facebook followers wished me a good recovery, because she’d told them all I was away. I was getting emails during busy times, saying “post this by 11am because we have to keep content steady so we have the best chance of reaching people at peak time”.
And I was in her office, waiting for instructions because she’d emailed me to go to her office asap and then she was saying “you have to go apologise to everyone for having a panic attack, because that is rude and disruptive, and then I will tell you what I want you to do.”
I was at my desk, and she brought me two days of work at the end of the day after she’d held it back for a week and I said I didn’t have time and she was telling me off because of course I had time and everyone would help me even though they never actually did, and my supervisor would be away anyway, and it had to be done by Monday. My brain was blank and words wouldn’t come out so I started crying, and I was told off for that too.
And I would really like to have a no people day. I want to make a bunch of flowers for a birthday present. I don’t want to have to make screencaps and edit them to have pictures to post. I don’t want to wake up next time and have to be at the computer because if I don’t post the pictures by 6pm I will get comments asking where I am and if I am okay. I don’t want to have to post pictures at all. I don’t want people who asked me to look after the page because they were away to be posting content and screwing up the content metric. I don’t want to know what a content metric is or when the best times to post are or how to maximise post reach without paying because I learned all that in an office and I was so good at it that I got more to do even though I was already working 70 hour weeks to do at least three people’s work. (Fix the printer, the toner’s out again and you can do it cleanly! I don’t want to walk down two flights of stairs, can you just run an executable on the server real quick, while I wait? You’re better at maths, here’s a five year old file, can you sort out a schedule of costs? I’m at the country office, can you just interview the client for me and put a memo on my desk for Monday? How dare you leave a memo, that’s not how this works. A client’s going to kill himself and I’m really worried, can you call his doctor? You’re qualified anyway, just ring the client up and advise them, I trust you not to give them wrong advice since you’re so good at everything.) I don’t want to get comments that the pictures I posted are the wrong ones or not good enough or there should have been twenty pictures and not four. I know these pictures are important, because the main target is women over 50 who are single or housebound and it’s been repeatedly expressed how nice it is for them that they wake up and see new pictures every morning and the comments are the only interaction they have with other people. The social media audience is wider, but they have their own entire subcommunity and they tag each other in comments and know each other, and because I was lurking before taking over, I’m uncomfortable being involved in that. I ignore everyone’s birthdays and just try to post a picture every day so that people can go to the page and not have to deal with stuff or feel left out because they don’t want to make their birthday public.
“Just turn off comments!” is the general thing people say when you say you don’t want them. But there’s a community in the comments, and I can’t take that away from them, and besides, it’s not my decision, because while I’m doing all the work, it’s not my community. If there is spam, and I just turn off notifications, then I don’t get the spam and I get yelled at for allowing it, because only moderators and people they specifically empower can delete spam. Similarly, if there is an actual issue, I wouldn’t get notified unless someone messaged me privately, and that’s not meant to happen and it’s why I quit the compiling one. And if I just ignored them, then eventually people would resent me. What I do right now is reply to some comments, the ones that ask about the pictures or provide actual feedback, and let the rest go. I still have to read them, though, to decide which is which.
I can schedule the posts, and I have bought some days that way, but I can’t schedule and crosspost, so I still have to go do that. I haven’t had a no-people-day in four months. I cannot deal with this by having a no-people-day and recharging my introvert batteries.
And now I have to go be on and happy and watch the rugby, when all I want to do is cry and sleep and not have to then go and report on the result and cook for a ton of people because they don’t have their own tvs or whatever. And crosspost this. Of course.