Originally Published on Mrs. Muffintop – written by Ashford Evans
1. SHOCK: “What?!?! How on earth could people find this offensive? That’s not what I meant at all! I don’t even know what to do about this!” This stage is jarring to say the least. Your mind is a whirlwind of intentions, frustration, and disbelief. This is the stage where you obsessively refresh the offending site/article to see if any more comments have been made. You begin googling your article to track down any other terrible comments. You read them over and over. This usually results in “numbness.”
2. EMOTIONAL RELEASE: This could be tears, it could be anger, it could be angry tears. There are usually hastily written text messages to supportive friends, links to the article in closed writer groups, PMs to editor friends. “What did I do wrong?” you ask over and over. The emotional release quickly gives way to step 3.
3. DEPRESSION: “Why did I write that?” you ask yourself over and over. “I didn’t mean to come off that way. Maybe they are right. Maybe I’m a bad person. A bad mother.” This stage is extremely isolating as you withdraw into yourself afraid to make any sudden movements for fear of eliciting a new onslaught.
4. PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS OF DISTRESS: This could manifest in many different ways for many people. It could be loss of appetite or even over-eating. I personally suffered many sleepless nights and also faced a raging return of my long-standing gastrointestinal issues. This stage sucks.
5. ANXIETY: As if, as writers, we don’t suffer from anxiety enough. We all want people to connect to our words. We all feel the twinges of trepidation when hitting the “submit” button. Now this anxiety is amplified.
6. HOSTILITY: This is where the true anger sets in. I became viscerally angry toward my aggressors. I began pleading my “rightness” and defending my stance to all those who would listen. I began to take on a self-righteous attitude regarding my opinions. This is where it gets tricky. I want to be clear on the fact that I NEVER responded to any of the comments. As much as I wanted to. I DID NOT stoop to their level and interact with them. In this stage response/defense pieces were swirling around in my head but I DID NOT write them. I was careful not to “burn down the house because I saw a spider in it”. It’s important to keep your hostility in check and only manifest it in appropriate [safe] places.[bctt tweet=”‘Response/defense pieces were swirling around in my head but I DID NOT write them @AshfordEvans'”]
7. GUILT: I began thinking of those I may have hurt with my words (however misunderstood they were). I began feeling guilty about the hostility I had exhibited (and then grateful I had not acted on it).
8. HESITANCY TO RENEW NORMAL ACTIVITIES: I believe this one speaks for itself. After getting raked over the coals I think we are all a little hesitant to put ourselves out there again. “What if I’m misinterpreted again?” swirls in your head along with that pesky “Writer’s Block.”
9. HEALING OF MEMORIES: The realization that you are growing as a writer and that these things will happen. For me it was a piece written outside of my normal voice; my true self. It was a piece where I was trying to mold myself to fit a larger site in hopes that they would welcome me into the fold. The problem is, it was disingenuous. It wasn’t me, who I am. So of course I felt misunderstood and misinterpreted. That’s exactly what I put out into the world.
10. ACCEPTANCE OF ONE’S NEW ROLE IN LIFE: Ultimately this was a good experience for me. It helped me grow as a writer and gave me resolve to stay true to myself and my style. It has thickened my skin so that next time maybe it won’t hurt quite so bad. (As I’m sure there will be a next time.) It happened, and it’s over. And I must move on.