Image description: Title reads – Social Self-Care Part One. The first panel reads, “It’s okay to be anxious if it’s been a while.” A stick figure stands, saying, “I miss my friend! Do they miss me? It’s my fault. I feel bad. What if they hate me now?” The second panel reads, “It’s okay to reach out anyway.” Two stick figures greet each other with “Hi!” and “Hey friend!” There is a small link in the bottom right corner.

Today’s Stick Figure Sunday was inspired by my own sense of isolation and anxiety about reaching out to people that I’ve dropped out of contact with over the last while. Sometimes a week can feel like too long, sometimes it’s months, or even years.

The anxiety can be overwhelming – what if our friends have forgotten us, or hate us now? What if we abandoned our friends during times when they needed us, and we either didn’t know, or didn’t feel we had a choice? What if our self-care was really selfishness and we’ve been horrible people in our inward turn? What if we’re traitors, making new friends or exploring new projects?

For those of us with certain mental health diagnoses – things like AHDH, bipolar, or borderline especially – any periods of falling off the social map come with a whole weight of stigma, and we can feel like we’re confirming the stereotype and deserve the stigma.

It is okay to feel anxious about all of this.

Those feelings are normal.

You are not weird or bad for worrying!

And the second panel is just as true. You can reach out even if it’s been a while. You can reach out even if you’re worried. You don’t have to punish yourself with social isolation.

Relationships elastic closer and further apart even without neurodivergence being a factor, but when neurodivergence is a factor, the shame level can be intense. So can the anxiety.

You can, if it feels right for you, reach out to those friends. Even if it’s been a while, even if you’re anxious.

And your friend might reach back, or they might not. Part of social self-care is honouring our needs for connection while also honouring other people’s ability to respond in whatever way is right for them. Assessing your needs, being honest with yourself, taking the risk, being vulnerable enough to send out a hello. In these moments of vulnerability, we risk loss. There’s no way around that, and it’s not a bad thing inherently. We have more skills than we often give ourselves credit for, and we can often bring enough resilience to handle the answer.

That’s not always true, though, and part of this self-care is knowing when you can only handle a yes, and not asking in those moments – reaching out to someone where the connection is strong first, rather than reaching out where there is distance and anxiety. That’s why it’s phrased as “it is okay to reach out anyway”, rather than “reach out anyway.”

The invitation is there, but the directive isn’t. You’re the expert. You know if you want to, or are able to, reach out.

The other inspiration for this post is the fact that I’ve started putting together the content for the next online course. We’ve done mental, physical, and emotional self-care – in January, we’ll be introducing social self-care. If boundaries, communication, trust, and vulnerability in relationships are challenging for you, keep an eye out for an announcement with dates and details.