Writing On Vocal Helped Me Reengage With The World
And did wonders for my mental health
I've had quite a few low days lately. I tend to joke around about my mental health a lot in my writing, mentioning my frequent bouts of self-doubt and using humour as a way to deflect past trauma, but in truth— life is a battle. Yes, writing out my woes has always eased some of the anxiety I feel daily, but as with all things, eventually, simply writing it out doesn't cut it any longer.
This current blue-lemma started when someone commented on one of my Medium articles that they didn't find the humour I was attempting to convey in a recent story.
As a self-proclaimed humourist, that shit stings. Deep.
Of course, on the surface, I know that not everyone will find my jokes funny. That's the risk we take as online creators. We muster up the bravery to write our story and then wait to see if people like it. We can tell ourselves that we write simply for the sake of writing, but let's face it, once we get even an ounce of positive engagement, we're in it for the likes.
As my horny friends and I used to say in our twenties, "We're addicted to what the dick did."
The dick, in this case, being readers who stroke our ego. Also, sorry for the gross analogy.
So obviously, when we get unnecessary comments from readers telling us that they didn't enjoy the piece when they could have just kept scrolling by it, this will cut a little deeper than perhaps is warranted.
After receiving the comment, I also got two simultaneous rejection notices flung into my inbox from two separate publishers. This isn't anything new for me. I'm an ole pro at rejection. But it seemed to sting a little more on this day when things were already looking grim as far as the writing thing went.
To top it all off, I was told by the appliance repairman that my broken washing machine is unfixable and I will have to buy a new one. Great. How the heck am I going to afford that with all of these writing setbacks?
Back in November of 2020, I was going through a very dark period in my life. With pandemic life raging and my marriage on shaky ground, I couldn't see much light (other than my two beautiful kids) in my life. I'd hate the sound of my alarm clock in the morning because that meant another day of disappointing the people around me with my gut-wrenching anxiety.
I couldn't eat and instead would find myself staring blankly out the window while listening to my audiobook app, trying to drown out all of the thoughts racing through my brain.
Even when genuinely sad, I’m so friggen melodramatic.
I had been writing on Medium for over a year, and although I was doing alright for myself on that platform, I had stopped producing regular content for the site. I couldn't help but focus on the loneliness that was steadily creeping into my life. It was consuming me. All of my friends and family were hours away from where I lived. Pandemic life and money struggles were keeping us all at a physical distance. My husband and I were growing farther apart every day, it seemed. It felt as though I had no one to share in my wins or my struggles when it came to life in general.
Then I discovered Vocal.
For the first few months, I didn't do much with the platform. I quietly crept around like a stalker reading people's posts on the various Facebook groups I had become a part of. I wouldn’t engage, though. My confidence wasn't up for that sort of thing. From reading my fellow creator's work, though, I realized something.
Whenever I wrote humour on Medium, it would have to be finely tuned humour. The sort of thing that is not only difficult to write but also takes a lot of brainpower— something I couldn't muster at the moment. I wanted to write silly life stories about growing up or the weird thoughts that kept me awake in the middle of the night. Of course, I could write these articles on Medium, but I knew they'd go nowhere. No one would even read them because they surely wouldn't be distributed to the larger Medium audience.
However, from creeping on the Vocal Creator's Lounge group, in particular, I was able to see the benefit of these Facebook groups. This was not some link bombing page where people would toss their articles and never return for further engagement. These people were like a family. They supported one another's work and, in turn, were supported.
So, one day, when I felt like I couldn't stand another second without human interaction, I summoned some bravery and posted one of my silly stories. The next day I posted another. I invited people to share their stories in the comment section of my post, and I happily read and engaged with every link that was dropped.
After a week or so, I started feeling comfortable with this group and knew I had stumbled upon something extraordinary.
I grew a bit more courageous and shared a very personal story (that had previously received zero reads) about losing a child in the third trimester of pregnancy when I was a teen.
The outflowing of emotion and support I received brought me to tears as I sat alone in my bedroom, wondering why it had taken me so long to rummage up the nerve to introduce myself to this group.
My days slowly but surely began growing a bit brighter. I uncurled myself from the ball, which I had previously been holding all of my sadness in and started channelling those feelings into my writing.
I grew a bit of confidence, but more importantly, I didn't feel alone anymore. It is difficult to explain this feeling of being alone when there are literally people all around you. But a lot of it had to do with my choice to become a writer. I didn't have any friends in this industry, so when I’d try to talk to any of my offline people about the woes of writing, they'd stare at me blankly and nod their heads.
If I told them I had received a Top Story spot on Vocal, they'd reply by asking, "What's that?"
Alternatively, when I recently placed in the Eat Local Challenge, all of my Vocal group friends were showering me with praise. Which, is basically my love language because I'm such an egomaniac. (Jokes! Kind of.)
This newfound support and camaraderie of having writing cohorts was alien and unbelievably wonderful.
I started writing daily to have a reason to post in the group and engage with my new friends. Then, even when I didn't have anything to post, I'd still engage because, well, I wanted to talk with my friends. These people inspire me to write more and journey out of my comfort zone regarding my craft. On a daily basis, I see the phenomenal work that is shooting out from their fingertips, and the creative (and slightly competitive) artist inside of me gets excited to start working on the next new story.
By growing these online relationships with this little Vocal group, I fostered better relationships in my offline life too.
My spirits were lifted, and I found my voice and the courage to talk with my husband about the issues we'd been facing. I reached out to my friends of twenty years and told them I was struggling. I began calling my mom more. Knowing that I had a group of online friends to confide in, or even who would simply appreciate some of the work I was putting out into the world, gave me a renewed sense of meaning in my life.
Anyone who has never had the good fortune to befriend a bunch of strangers on the internet may not understand this story. It's a tale of introversion and seclusion.
Sharing intimate or scary or funny stories with near-strangers is a special sort of something. I can't put my finger on what that something is, but I know that I cherish it.
I do this thing when I’m feeling insecure or sad or worried. I withdraw from everything. I hide away in the backyard or the bathtub and dwell on the tiny details of my life that are causing me grief. Talking about my feelings has never been my strong suit, and admittedly it still isn't. So I often reach out to my online friends by sharing humour stories that touch on the issues I’m facing.
And they get it.
They supply me with validation by saying,
"I love your casual use of humor melded around Big Topic things."
It's comments like these that give me the drive to keep going and working towards my goals. It lets me know that all of these seemingly silly stories I write aren't for nothing. It reminds me that we can make an impact in people's lives, even if it's just providing them with a laugh for the day.
Sometimes I think that I write too many articles about my online friends. I think that eventually, it's going to become super creepy that I’m so in love with them all. But, as is usually the case in my life, now that I've fallen, I can't help myself from fawning over these people.
This band of merry Vocalers is a big part of my life right now, whether they like it or not.
So yes, I've been a bit down lately. Feeling the blues and the insecurity that comes with being a human in today's day and age. The difference is now, I know that I can log on to my Vocal Facebook group, check out the new articles on offer, receive feedback on my work, and get down to the serious business of being an online friend.