DEAR CHARLOTTE: I am a thirtysomething woman with no acknowledged addictions or vices. I am of average weight and build and am in generally good physical condition. My mental health, though never professionally evaluated, is, if not normal, at a level that allows me to function adequately in normal society. However, recently, I’ve been exhibiting symptoms of withdrawal, such as anxiety, restlessness, poor concentration, sweating, muscle tension, etc.
These symptoms started suddenly, after binge-reading a blog that I had fallen behind on. This very funny and engaging blog is about a woman going through her mid-thirties, and earlier this week, I read all the posts in about two sittings on public transportation. There have been no new posts since, and I began experiencing my symptoms yesterday. What is happening to me? Is it possible to experience withdrawal after a binge, and not just from ending an addiction? What should I do to calm my symptoms? Please help. – ADDICTED TO LIFE
DEAR ADDICTED TO LIFE: First off, I am so glad you reached out to me. I know a thing or two about withdrawal – from sugar and flour, from caffeine, from “The Crown” – and yes, you can experience withdrawal after a binge. It’s worth noting that you may have been predisposed to such symptoms, being exceptionally fond of this woman and her blog, but you are normal and there is nothing to fear.
I have reached out to my good friend, the woman behind the amazingly funny and popular blog, “Tastes Like Onion,” and she shared the following with me. I hope it brings you comfort, eases your long-standing pain, and gives you hope for the future:
According to Wikipedia, [drug] withdrawal is a “group of symptoms that occur upon the abrupt discontinuation or decrease in intake of medications or recreational drugs.” While your post does not speak of drugs per se, an enjoyable activity like reading a favorite blog can create similar physical symptoms as endorphins are released and you experience a pleasurable sensation. Abruptly discontinuing this activity therefore, can create withdrawal.
So one thing that can help relieve these symptoms is to think of others, and in this case I suggest we think of the author of the blog you so love, this woman in her “mid-thirties”… I can only speak from my experience, but writing about my own life has its many challenges and rewards.
Writing about my own experiences can be gratifying, but it also takes a certain pause, an awareness, a space I have to intentionally create in my day to reflect on what’s happened and search for humor, poignancy or pathos. It’s hard when life gets going and I feel too busy or tired to reflect. In fact, most days there is something that happened, some thought or feeling, that I can write about to connect me with the world… Taking pause and reflecting on the day would certainly help anyone remember that life IS in its little moments – the embarrassing push-pull door encounter, the brief smile exchanged with a stranger, the reminder to look up and take deep breaths…
Writing about my own experiences not only takes awareness, but also requires prioritization. I often forget that everyone has the same amount of time, and how I choose to spend it is up to me. Yes – some things are more set, like long days at the office or helping care for family. But I choose whether to snooze an extra 30 minutes in the morning, or journal and meditate. Or whether I watch an extra episode of “Jeopardy!” in the evening, or curl up in bed with a good story. Lately, I’ve been choosing not to write, but rather reading for enjoyment and/or escape, reading or watching anything to do Meghan Markle (now HRH Duchess of Sussex), or just snacking and then feeling bad about snacking… But it’s good to be honest with myself that it’s not that I don’t “have” time to write – it’s that I’ve chosen to spend my time in other ways.
Which leads to the third reason why it can be hard to write about my own experiences – it can be exhausting, emotionally taxing, and at times, even feel overly indulgent and self-centered. It’s not always easy to take a painful situation and make it funny. It’s not always on the top of my list to reflect on why I’m sad, lonely or melancholy. It’s not always easy to let myself think about my fears and then name them, and great – now that I’ve named them they are definitely going to come true… But alas – it feels ironic to avoid writing in those times because writing is exactly what can lift my mood, bring about other perspective to a situation, or help me think of ways to actively engage in and with the world and feel less helpless. It’s not easy to expose myself to judgment and lay my feelings out for the world’s consumption. But sharing is caring and not only does it benefit me by continuing to write, share and process things in my life, but it may help others may feel more connected, less alone, or get some practice laughing at themselves and not take things too seriously…
So from one writer to you, loyal addicted sweaty reader, thank you for wanting more. Thank you for reminding me of why I started this space – to share myself and my life with you. Thank you for allowing me to write, just write, and push myself beyond needing to be liked and funny, beyond needing every post to be wise and life-changing, beyond needing to be more than I am.
I am me and this is my self-reflection, my outlet, my voice… Thank you for letting me be seen and heard.
Dear Charlotte is written by Woman at Tastes Like Onion. Write “Dear Charlotte” at firstname.lastname@example.org.