Unfortunately, for those of us with depression and/or anxiety, FOMO is a pretty damn common emotion to experience. Usually, it comes alongside the frustration that we could have joined in, but our mental illnesses were holding us back, mentally or physically. Yet arguably worse, in some ways, is the FOMO that comes as a result of just not being invited. Anyone in the baby-boomer generation right now is probably screaming “it’s because you’re always on those smartphones, able to see what you’re missing out on!” at their screens (ironic lol). While they’re right to a certain extent, the typical millenial I am rejects this as the reason for FOMO, and more of an aid for those feelings of worthlessness. Because it does suck to be sat at home, minding your own business, and be sent/stumble upon pictures of your friends having fun without you. Especially when it’s an event you haven’t been invited to, therefore it’s effectively a reminder that you weren’t invited, because they must all secretly hate you right? At least, that’s what the depression and anxiety is telling you. You’re not good enough, and they don’t want you there.
Now this is all very negative and shitty, so lets have some good old-fashioned advice.
What to do if you’re experiencing FOMO: A patronisingly oversimplified step-by-step guide:
- Walk away from the situation. If you’re seeing pictures online etc. of your friends out without you, close the app, put down your phone, and occupy yourself with something else until you’re feeling confident enough to look at your phone again. Despite what the anxiety is telling you, it’s unlikely they were intending to upset you by posting the pictures, and once you’re over the initial hurt of being left out, you’ll probably realise you weren’t actually missing anything.
- Talk to a friend. Communicating with someone you trust can help ease anxiety by encouraging you to think about something else, and remind you that you are worthy of people’s attention.
- If you can’t get the FOMO thoughts out of your head, try and work out who is actually hanging out. It may be the case that the group is largely made up of aquaintences or people you don’t consider friends, and that you simply just aren’t part of that friendship group. With this in mind, you probably wouldn’t be enjoying yourself much if you were there. Kick back with your favourite past time instead, and feel smug that you’re having a much better time at home.
- Say ‘fuck it’, and get some rest. You can drag your friends in for interrogation later when you’re less upset and they’re less likely to get defensive.
- Decide who from the group you trust the most, and ask them for a one-to-one. Explain your FOMO to them in relation to your mental illness to help them understand why their behaviour hurt you. Don’t be afraid of sounding like a whiny brat, and don’t apologise. Your feelings are valid, and they need to understand that. With any luck, they will understand why you’re upset, without them feeling the need to be defensive – after all, you’d hope they weren’t intentionally trying to hurt you! Whatever their reason for not inviting you, being honest with them and vice versa should help reassure you.
- Don’t push them away. Recognising the importance of point 5, above, will stop you from falling into the trap of fighting back with the silent treatment – pushing them away will only further confuse them, and perpetuate the circle of being left out and feeling upset. You may feel as though they should know why you’re upset, but people aren’t mind readers, and when it comes to mental illness, your mentally healthy friends will have even less of a clue why you’re ignoring them.
What to do if your friend is prone to FOMO:
- Try to remember to invite them. This seems obvious, but if you’re planning something social, make an effort to extend invites to all of the relevant people. For people with mental illnesses, simply being included in social events can mean everything.
- If we’re not invited, avoid discussing the event around us. This is not the same as going behind our back! Continually discussing and expressing your excitement for something we’re not invited to will merely remind us of this fact, and we may fixate on the fact you had the opportunity to invite us and chose not to, even if this is not really the case. This is relevant to both before and after the event – telling us/people around us how much fun you had is not nice to hear, and we’ll probably feel even worse thinking we really missed out on something good.
- Explain why we aren’t invited. Not in an awkward, sit-down, patronising way, but take a minute to tell us where you’re going and with who. We will likely be reassured that we wouldn’t want to be there anyway, and will therefore be glad we’re not going. Since we’re your friend, there must be a valid reason we’re not invited, otherwise you’re just a giant prick (and depressed person, you’re better off without those kinda people).
- Avoid sending pictures to us while you’re out. It’s basically a postcard to us that you’re having a great time without us, and we’re probably already low-key salty we’re not there, so no need to increase the Salt Level™. It’s not gonna be fun for anyone.
- Make other plans with us – we understand that you have other friends who we might not get along with/know so well, but as long as you’re reminding us that you still like us, all should be fine. After all, just because we’re battling a mental illness doesn’t mean we’re (intentionally) unreasonable, we just need that extra reassurance.
These guides are obviously simplified down versions of recommended behaviour; doing or not doing any of the listed suggestions is entirely up to you and what feels best at the time. It’s also worth remembering that these are also idealistic goals, and that at the time it might not feel possible to do any of the suggestions. However, as with any mental health advice, keeping positive ideas in mind whenever possible can have a significant impact on dealing with those shitty moments and low moods. Also, I am no doctor, and all of these suggestions are inspired by personal experience, so if something sounds like bullshit to you, it may well be bullshit for you.
This post was co-written and edited by my close friend Sarah, who can be found at http://www.sarahrosemcgrath.wordpress.com