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When Extreme FOMO Sets In Due to My Illness

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I waited for a couple of weeks to write this because I couldn’t seem to find inspiration and I have been extremely busy opening a new musical workshop in Washington, D.C. Then, I was reminded that the D.C. Pride Festival is this weekend. As an out gay man, I’m super excited to participate this year. But as someone with lupus, I’m very wary of the damage I can do to my body when I’m out in the sun dancing in my tightest tank top and shortest shorts (don’t judge). Let’s be honest, calling out of work because I partied too hard at Pride isn’t really something I can do. As I browse Facebook and look at all the events I will be missing, extreme fear of missing out (FOMO) sets in. This isn’t the first time I’ve encountered FOMO, and it won’t be the last.

Since I was diagnosed with lupus, I have missed out on so many social gatherings. From best friend’s weddings to birthdays to Tinder dates, I’ve flaked out on a lot. We all know that stress can be a trigger for flare-ups, so if you’re stressing out about FOMO, you may be self-inflicting unwanted stress on your body. You have to let this go.  

I wish I had a clear answer on how to get rid of those feelings of guilt or stress when you have to cancel your plans, but each situation is different. I think informing your friends and loved ones of your condition is super important. I didn’t clue in on this until I kept canceling on a guy I was dating. He thought I wasn’t interested (I was) because he didn’t know that I was dealing with lupus. With new people, I know it’s a very difficult and personal thing to reveal, but if you see a future friendship or relationship with this person, I recommend telling them. People are surprisingly compassionate. This made things much easier when my friends were planning outings. Some would even ask for my input to make sure that I was comfortable.

I think FOMO is initially linked to anxiety. We’re afraid that something monumental is happening in our circle of friends and we’re going to miss it if we don’t go. Chances are… nothing is happening. You might be missing out on the occasional brunch gossip, or your friend drunkenly hitting on the bartender at happy hour, but that’s it. For me, my FOMO is pretty much linked to my ego. I can’t stand the fact that my friends are having an awesome without me and how dare they post it on social media. This is where I have to take a large pill of “Get Over Yourself” and just deal. Logging off social media is a big help. You might be amazed how much better you feel after cutting off your phone for the day and doing something productive. The amount of time I waste scrolling through Facebook or Instagram is shameful, so if I miss a few hours of it, I think I’ll be OK.

I think of FOMO as that one mean girl who was always “fake nice” to you in high school. A “frenemy,” if you will. The only way to not give it power is to ignore it and focus on what actually makes you happy. Yes, you will miss out. But think of how much time you’re wasting on FOMO… let’s call her “Becky with the good hair.”

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s the hardest thing you deal with as someone with a chronic illness, and how do you face this? What advice and words of support would you offer someone facing the same thing? Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Originally published: June 7, 2016
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