We live in an incredibly connected world these days. Social media has made it so much easier for everyone to express their opinions on just about anything. So we can now see people’s complaints and thoughts in near real time as people take to their phones to update their status about whatever is racing through their mind at any given moment. Like many of you, I too am guilty of this. So every once in awhile I like to hit pause and take a look back on my social media and see what I’ve been saying. I confess, I’m not always happy with what I’ve posted because I feel like I’m complaining (trust me, my wife can attest that complainers are one of my biggest pet peeves, so to feel that I’ve become one is horrifying). Really thinking about it though, I realize that I’m not complaining, I’m venting and there really is a difference. Not only is there a difference but I think venting is pretty crucial to those of us battling a chronic illness like multiple sclerosis.
The posts of mine that make me cringe with embarrassment, the ones I often regret and even sometimes go back and delete are usually related to my disease. They are emotional, spur of the moment, word explosions that I release upon whoever might be following me. Like many things that people post about on social media, I don’t always give a lot of thought about what I am saying. Although I feel some embarrassment when I look back, should I? My embarrassment is usually because I feel like I am complaining. The truth is, I don’t mean to sound like I am complaining, I am venting. I’m at a point where I’ve had enough and simply have to get it out.
So why isn’t this complaining? Well, the difference for me, is that although I am putting it out there for everyone to see, I don’t really expect anyone to do anything about it or even really see it. In many ways, it’s for me alone. So why put it on social media? Good question, I guess because it’s so easy. Also because saying it out loud to myself doesn’t give me that relief. Deep down, I probably do want others to know. Not because I want sympathy, but because there is just something about telling others, something about getting it off your chest that feels therapeutic.
Venting is a pretty common human response. I think about how many times I’d ask someone to grab a beer with me after work so I could vent about something that happened during the work day. I’d express my derision at whatever had occurred that day, get it out of my system, and then be ready to carry on with life. I’ve had friends and coworkers do the same to me. The difference for me now is that I no longer work. I am at home, on disability. I’ve expressed before how lonely having an illness can be. Some of this venting behavior of mine is certainly related to that. Other than my wife, I can go days, usually a week, at a time before I see a person other than my wife. It’s a massive reason my beloved dog, who has recently passed, was such a massive part of my life. For folks like me, venting on social media isn’t just convenient, it can feel like our only option.
So I know sometimes I will post a sad, woe is me status update (and if you know someone with a chronic illness, they likely will at some point too), but please don’t feel bad for me. It’s not your sympathy or attention I seek. I simply am getting it out in the best way I can, it feels good to me, it helps me. I’m also very lucky to have met many others battling chronic illness on social media, that is my outlet to them. It’s amazingly helpful to be able to vent to someone else who is dealing with the same issues as me (as they say, you don’t “get it” until you get it), and social media is my best medium for doing that. So again, please forgive my occasional sad (and sometimes crazy) status updates, I really am just venting!