I can see the headline now…“Instant Messaging Apps Fed My Paranoia”
I feel the need to apologise to everyone who currently knows me.
I’ve touched on my paranoid,over thinking mind before,and I even went as far as saying I no longer stress and worry about what people think. However that isn’t entirely true.
When something “changes”, I assume the worst. My track record proves I’m usually right. That’s a hard feeling to shake.
I still worry.
I’m still paranoid.
I’ll still doubt you.
I’ll still over analyise things.
Its not your fault. Trust me though, its not really mine either. I wasn’t always this way. I’ve been broken, and although I’m essentially fully healed, there’s still a weak point. Certain situations balance precariously on that weak spot and, yes, it means I “have my moments”. Please, understand them and bear with me. I am a better, stronger, more confident version of myself than I ever have been before. And, as much as I’m less tolerant of bullshit and being treated like crap, my good nature, and need to try and find the good in people and situations that really do have no good in them, still lingers. Its who I am. I care too much. Because of this, I struggle to remember not everyone is like me.
And here’s a confession for you. A blog exclusive, if you like.
I struggle to let go of things that were once so good but no longer are. My mind doesn’t accept that its often better to draw a line completely than try and salvage some of what once was, in order to cling onto a good memory. Now, this isn’t because I want things to be the same, or want someone back. Far from it. It isn’t every situation either. My marriage was so stale, and the good times were so long ago and so overshadowed by the bad times and revelations, that I successfully let go quicker than even I thought possible. And I have no problem moving on. No, the reason is because I don’t want something that was so meaningful to me to appear to mean nothing to them.
If you’ve read previous blogs of mine, you will be forgiven for jumping to conclusions and expecting me to go ” I’ve been cheated on, I don’t trust anyone “. I’m not going to. Yes. It played a part but it goes deeper than that. It goes deep into the depths of my self doubt and my own head. So, why am I saying its not me? Well, if it was me, paranoia would’ve played a part in my whole life and it hasn’t. If I was to try and pin point when it started, I’d say 2 years and 6 months ago. AFTER my marriage ended.
When I started dating the person I ended up marrying, neither of us had mobile phones. Contact was made using an old fashioned land line, a couple of evenings a week. We both worked in town so it was easy to pop along and see each other at lunch time if we wanted to. We got our first mobile phones together, but by that point we were living together. There was no chance to build up a routine of ” contact”. I had no chance to start wondering “why haven’t I heard from him!”.
18 years later when I become single again, times have changed. I initially started talking to the guy I ended up dating just after my marriage broke up, G, on Facebook. Messenger has this handy little way of bobbing a persons picture down next to a message you’ve sent to show they have indeed read the message. Then it would conveniently show a wobbling “…” to indicate they were replying. Our messenger conversations had a very definate start and finish. I wasn’t left hanging. We’d say goodnight and that would be it till one of us said “Morning”. We soon awkwardly exchanged numbers in my shop, remember G worked in the shopping centre where my workplace was located, and constant messaging commenced. I’m sure you’re all thinking my god she’s obsessive, but it genuinely was him more than me. He’d walk past my shop and wave, and by the next time I had chance to check my phone, he’d sent about five messages. I loved it. I thrived on it. In the later years of my marriage I wasn’t made to feel attractive. I actually told my then husband that I felt he would rather be anywhere but home with me and although he denied it, I knew how it was wrong that he’d come home later and later and then go straight to his ” office” in the cellar (how right was I in the end!?). I had sensed I was losing him, and despite his insistance it was all in my head, I was right. And he told me he hadn’t loved me for two years. So, he lied too. Now, I had a man texting me with things like “although my eyes are watching my boys play football, my mind is on you”. How is a girl not meant to love that!?! After a few days of not seeing me, he’d tell me how much he missed me. Heading home after evenings at his, he’d message saying he wished I hadn’t had to go. His favourite phrase in broken English was ” why you so lovely?”. I got used to it. I got attached to the contact. No end or beginning to conversations, just a never ending stream of messages that only paused when we were together. I hadn’t had that kind of attention, hadn’t felt so wanted, in a very, very long time. Due to working in maintenance, he had early and late shifts to do work out of hours, but he gave me his time and made effort.
After a while together, his messaging habits changed. I’d not get a morning text if he was on an early shift. He stopped saying he missed me. Messages were ended with a “x” rather than “xxxx”. My work mates said it was normal. It couldn’t possibly keep up the way it was. My rational mind agreed, but my paranoid mind thought, and knew,better. It had changed without warning. I’m very, very intuitive. What was right..? Rational mind or paranoid mind? Two weeks after I felt things had changed, he ended things. The whole its not you, its me, routine. My paranoid mind was right. It had been fuelled with being right, so my inclination to trust my gut feeling rather than be rational dug its heels in and stands firmly by my side to this day. G adamantly promised he wanted to keep a friendship, so I tried and quickly realised it was only me making the effort. For months after, I kept a few special text messages from him locked on my phone. It was clear he didn’t treasure our time together as much as I did. That hurt. That made my paranoia look at it all differently and doubt what we had. When your paranoia is right about a feeling, its hard to ignore when it crops up again. It took me ages to delete those texts, even after I started online dating.
The good thing about texting though, was that you were never really sure if a message had been read. You know, I’ve since realised this ignorance is bliss.
My next relationship was the alley cat musician. Meeting online meant I had no way of knowing he’d read messages until he replied. Sure, you could pay for membership to allow you to see when messages had been read, but I wasn’t quite at that stage yet! We exchanged numbers on my birthday, a week after we’d started chatting. Texts were consistent till our first date, then completely ramped up after meeting, again, on his part more than mine. When he went to Italy for three weeks he said it’d be hard to keep in touch daily, but I heard from him way more than I expected to. One particular text exchange went as follows:-
D:- I’m so excited xx
Me:- About what? Xx
D:- Us xx
How is a girl meant to respond to that? I was giddy with excitement. Remember my blog about the power of words? They need to be used wisely. You don’t use simple words like that if you have no intention of following through. Maybe I’m gullible….? I know I cling to such words. Words are my thing, remember. Use them on me and be warned, I’ll fall for it every time.
After Italy, I got a new phone which enabled me to install WhatsApp, something he’d been asking me to do since we got numbers. Word of warning, WhatsApp is not good for a paranoid person. It was the beginning of the end for mine and Ds relationship.
WhatsApp has 3 indicators for the status of a message.
1 grey tick- message has been received by WhatsApp server. (The recipients phone is likely off, out of signal or service is down if it remains on this for a while)
2 grey ticks- message has been sent to recipients phone but has not yet been read.
2 blue ticks- message has been read by recipient.
Added to this, you can see if someone is online. If they haven’t changed their settings, you can potentially see WHEN they were last on. You can even check what time a message was read. WhatsApp is creating stalkers!
This is what a paranoid mind sees.
1 grey tick- the person has blocked you.
2 grey ticks- they’ve got it, why haven’t they read it? Are they ignoring me, they’ve been online since I sent it!!
2 blue ticks- they’ve seen it. They’re not typing. They are ignoring me. Its been an hour since they read it. Oh, they are online now…. Nope, still not replying. I’ll send them another just in case…
D would often go AWOL for whole evenings , with messages not even reaching his phone. I’d wake the next morning to find he’d read them at some ungodly hour of the morning but still not replied. Even after nights we were due to see each other. I’d send a rant. Which would get ignored. I’d get paranoid that if I didn’t message him, he’d think I’d stopped caring and then he’d never message and I’d lose him anyway. I’d send another to be told “I’m not getting into an argument, you’re pushing me away”. The original messages long since losing their meaning. It infuriated me. When I tried the same tactics with him, he turned nasty on me! We never really broke up. I just gave up. He never explained nor apologised just kept telling me I was wrong. Maybe I was too much, but come on…. He’s meant to be coming to see me but his phone remains off all night…..?? I think I had every right to rant! I’d go on and on at him, like poking a bear hoping for a reaction. The more he didn’t reply, the more I went on. He told me on numerous occassions that I was pushing him away. Truth be told, I’d long given up on him but he kept telling me to ” give him time” and I so desperately wanted the “I’m so excited” text exchange to be real.
Also, because I care too much, I worry unreasonably. On one particular night I was meant to be visited by D and he went AWOL, I woke up to the news that a man in his 40s had fled the scene of a car accident in the early hours of the morning, leaving his passenger who was in his 20s stuck in the wreckage. I knew that an ex band mate of Ds was returning to his native country that day, so my worried paranoid mind convinced me that D had offered to give his mate a lift to the airport and the crash was them. Trust me, a mind like mine can go there. I felt sick as the day went on. Much later in the afternoon, he sees the messages, even ones telling him about the crash and my assumption. I guessed he was at least alive. Or dying in a ditch! He doesn’t reply. I rant. That night he messages to say he got drunk at a mates and stayed there. No acknowledgement of what he’d put me through.
We remained friends for a while after, with him insisting I was one of his best friends and he trusted me, but when the ignoring continued and it was only ever me putting the effort in, I realised I had to let go. I tried telling him it was a pointless, one sided friendship and I got told I didn’t understand. That he was “sorting his life out”. Because I cared, I felt I couldn’t let him down. So he got chance after chance but nothing changed. How could a man once so ” excited about us” care so little now? I clung onto the hope he’d get sorted and a friendship would remain. It was pointless. I forced myself to let go. He begged to talk to me to explain himself, but I was done. He accused me of being “like all the others”. That hurt, because I care what people think of me. Even though I was cutting him loose, I didn’t want his parting impression of me to be negative. I battled with myself over the need to rant and justify myself to him. Truth is, he didn’t care, so I shouldn’t. Ignoring his plea to explain himself was probably the first time I ever went against my nature. I sometimes wonder what he’s doing now, but I know he’s probably putting some poor person through the same again.
This paranoia doesn’t just haunt me in relationships, it extends to friendships and other situations too. I’m currently organising a charity fundraising gig so have been messaging venues and bands. I’m shy on the phone, I can get my point across using the written word so much better. Again, social media apps and instant messaging let’s me know if an enquiry has been read. Sure, I don’t expect immediate replies, but to not answer, EVER? Rude! My feeling is this, if you can take 5 seconds to open an app and read a message, you can surely take two more to type ” yes” “no” or “message u later”. As a result of my own paranoia, I try really really hard to not open a message and let it be seen as read until I can grant a reply. Although I realise not everyone is as obsessive about it as me!
I’ve said before though, I’m paranoid because I care. Because the person or situation is important to me. I’m sorry. I can’t help it! Its not because I dont trust you, its because I’m scared I’ve done something wrong. I know, I know, the more I bother you, the more likely it is that I’ll end up doing exactly what I’ve been worried about doing!
So, If I’ve asked you a question and I know you’ve seen that question but haven’t answered for a few hours… My mind will go through one, some or all of the following:-
They’re ignoring me
I’ve pissed them off
Oh God they’re dead
I shouldn’t of asked that
I’ve upset them
They’re somewhere they shouldn’t be
They don’t know how to answer, it must be bad.
Paranoia is very, very real. It verges on anxiety. There are many levels. I’m not at the delusional stage. I’m not claiming I have a mental illness either, because, believe me, I know people that have and its way more than what I feel and experience. And I’m not paranoid in a negative way, not really. I’m only paranoid in those situations that are important to me. With the people I am, or have been, close to. Perhaps I have pushed people away in the past. Although my gut feeling tells me if my genuine concern and worry could push them away, maybe they don’t deserve my friendship after all and they were infact wanting to walk away from me for other reasons, just used my guilable nature and turned it against me. If I think you’ve stopped talking to me, I’m not angry at you, I’m worried I’ve done something to cause it!
I jokingly tell the people who come into my life that I get paranoid. Truth is, its no joke.
My current partner and I don’t live together. I’m grateful he’s not a techy geek. Simple texts is all we have. No read receipts. A vague enough routine for me not to endlessly stress that I’ve said the wrong thing.
Remember how much words mean to me.
Don’t promise me the world, and leave me waiting for the journey of a lifetime.
Don’t say you’ll get back to me, then leave me hanging.
Don’t tell me you’re excited, then show no evidence of it.
I wasn’t always like this. Maybe one day I won’t be again. If I haven’t driven you all crazy by then!