(This is the fourth post in a new series called “Anxiety Society,” in which I interview everyday anxiety suffers from all walks of life about their struggles, their triumphs, their coping methods, and more. I believe that the more we openly talk about our mental health, the less of a “thing” it becomes. Conversation can reduce stigma, and my interviewees want to be a part of that.)
Earlier this week, we met Angie Jackson: mom, ex-cult member, agoraphobic. In this second half of the interview, we hear about Angie’s experience with abortion, pro-choice activism, anxiety, and using the internet to cope.
Angie opted to make her abortion public by posting about it on Twitter and recording a YouTube video after taking the “abortion pill,” or RU-486.
She wanted to “demystify” the process, she said. In this WTSP news broadcast, Angie explains that our culture “silences” women who abort without regret or sadness. (Our interview continues below the video clip.)
You broke ground not long ago (a year ago? two years ago?) when you bravely live-tweeted your abortion. In one of your videos, you mention that you didn’t do it to justify it for yourself. Why did you want to share such a personal process with the public at large? How did sharing affect your anxiety level?
It was nearly 2 years ago, in February of 2010. I wanted to share it because when I was facing my abortion, I didn’t know where to find first hand accounts about the process itself. I could find women saying they didn’t regret their abortions, which were helpful, and I could find medical descriptions of the procedure, which were largely cold. I wanted to hear from a woman what the abortion actually physically felt like, because that was what I was terrified about. I wanted to know where it fit on that 0-10 pain scale, and whether or not it would kill me.
Since putting out the video, I’ve gotten death threats, rape threats, “I hope you die” wishes, and even some wishes for the death of my young son. It’s all very disturbing. I’ve also gotten emails from literally hundreds of women thanking me, either because they are facing an abortion and my video helped, or because they had an abortion long ago and this has helped them heal and move on from that. I’ve had men thank me for helping their wives, daughters and sisters through medically necessary and elective procedures. I’ve also been able to help women in countries where abortion is banned obtain safe procedures.
I watched your “Hate Mail” video. (WARNING: Link is NSFW due to sexually explicit and profane language.) It WAS disturbing — even for myself, as a third party, to watch. How did the hate mail affect you? Did reading it out loud to the internet lessen its impact? Did it stick with you for long or were you able to cast it off from the front burner?
Making the video definitely helped, although going through the hate mail to find the worst was not fun. Using silly voices was also a necessity. I had to show them I wasn’t going to let them silence me, or other women, through their -essentially – terrorism. I wish I could say I’ve been able to just brush it aside, but that’s not entirely true. I’ve quit making videos, and I no longer check the email account where comments are submitted because 2 years later I am *still* getting brand new daily hate mail and death threats. My videos are still out there, and I do get supportive letters letting me know they’re still doing good, but the onslaught of hatred and misogyny was pretty intense. I find I have better days when I just don’t check that email. I do hope once I’m able to afford counseling and medication for my anxiety that I’ll be able to resume making videos.
We’ve covered a lot of ground here — but it’s necessary, because YOU cover a lot of ground. You fight abortion stigma. You’re a vocal anti-theist. Your Twitter feed demonstrates that you’re not shy about expressing political opinions. This goes against the typical stereotype that those who are socially anxious are also shy.
The internet is my megaphone! From the comfort of my own home, I can Twitter battle all day and when I start to feel the slightest anxiety, I can close my laptop and walk away.
And does having a voice impact your anxiety level?
I get more attention, both good and bad. If someone attacks me online in a public setting, I can be reasonably confident I’ll have allies by my side quickly. I find I have to check myself to avoid forming tunnel vision and only surrounding myself with like-minded people online. My social anxiety fears come from being trapped in a public or social setting I can’t escape. The internet isn’t like that. I can always log off to go play a video game or Legos with my son. The internet allows me to have a huge social life, while still having the solace I need to feel calm.
If you weren’t Angie Jackson, what would you say to Angie Jackson when she’s panicking? And what can other anxiety sufferers do to thrive socially and emotionally while still in the midst of their illness?
“Be kind to yourself.” Find safe spaces on the internet or with face-to-face friends where you can be yourself *and* be accepted. Be honest with yourself and others about your struggles.
Any other final thoughts?
“Confessing” my weaknesses has helped me accept myself and find friends more than any other activity I’ve engaged in online, so blog if you can. Blog using a pseudonym and a picture of a cat if it makes you feel safer, but reach out to people and keep the good ones close to you.
Angie blogs at angieantitheist.wordpress.com.