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Hiatus How To: When, how & why to take a break from NSFW Twitter

(CW for discussion of mental health, depression, abuse, trauma, and anxiety.)

 

To go on hiatus is to take a break, or to pause something that has been ongoing.

The first time I went on hiatus in an online kink community, I had a full-on hot mess breakdown. I didn’t know what “hiatus” even meant. I was terrified it would be forever, and I didn’t even know how to reassure myself, let alone the people around me. It was 2016 and I was still new to size kink as a shared experience instead of a shameful secret. I’ve come a long way. I’ve made mistakes and learned a lot. That seems worth sharing.

What this won’t be:

This won’t be an official guide. It won’t be an argument for or against leaving a community temporarily or forever, because only you can know what you need. I won’t talk about what it’s like to go on hiatus when you depend on NSFW Twitter to make money from art, writing, or sex work, because I don’t have personal experience with that yet. (If anyone does, and wants to share some advice, I’ll gladly consider quoting you!)

I also won’t pretend to understand you, your situation, or how you feel about your body or mental health. Some of my advice will be a good fit for you, and some of it you can leave. I’m not a mental health professional, and strongly recommend you consider talking with a counselor or therapist if you even halfway think you might want to try that. (Jump to the end for a list of kink-friendly therapy databases where you can look for sliding-scale and low-cost options.)

What this will be:

Hopefully, this will be a useful collection of my thoughts on my own hiatus process that I’ve developed after years of trial and error and watching friends go through the same. Some come back to the community and some don’t. Some hiatuses are scary. Some are a huge relief.

I’m writing this to you, and to the person I was during my first panicked hiatus. And to the less-than-supportive friend I have been to others going on hiatus. I’ll draw from examples in the size kink / #SizeTwitter community, but I think much of this will be relevant to NSFW Twitter or other online kink spaces in general.

I’m writing to share some questions that you might not have considered, and to point you towards some resources, and to just show that it’s okay to need a break—even from something you love.

 

Topics I’ll cover

What’s the point of a hiatus?

To me, the point of a hiatus is to carve out time and energy away from my online kink community.

I might need that space to:

    • rest for physical or mental health
  • focus on my career or volunteer work
  • take care of someone else in my life who needs me
  • go on a trip or move to a new home
  • give myself judgment-free permission to not be sexy
  • give myself judgment-free permission to not be creative or productive
  • give myself judgment-free permission to not be helpful to others
  • set boundaries I might struggle with otherwise.

I have experimented with different kinds of hiatuses, to serve different purposes. Here are some I have tried (whether or not I announced it), and what they mean to me:

  • Hiatus or “full” hiatus – I’m stepping away and don’t know when I’ll be back
  • Semi hiatus – I’m cutting back on my time here, but may be around in limited capacity
  • Short hiatus – like the full hiatus, but for a short time frame like a week or weekend
  • DMs closed – this is a hiatus on private conversations to help conserve emotional energy
  • Creative/art/writing hiatus – I have writer’s block and I’m giving myself judgment-free permission to be here without needing to contribute creatively to the community
  • Social hiatus – I have no energy to socialize but I want to share this story I wrote
  • RP hiatus – I am not feeling sexy in a 1:1 role play context but want to be social and creative and explore sexy things in a solo way

It may help to think of a hiatus like using a safeword in a kink scene. A full hiatus might be the “red” signal to stop all play. The “yellow” to slow down or change something would line up with a DMs closed, creative, social, or RP hiatus. The “green” signal is when you know to come back.

Not all kinds of hiatuses will be for all people, or for all situations. Some folks rely on our “pocket friends” to keep us sane through difficult times, and the thought of deliberately stepping away can feel really isolating. This is especially true if you have one or more marginalized identities and online social networks form a critical lifeline between you and people with the same traditions, cultures, languages, health conditions, neurodivergent identities, sexual or gender identities, social barriers, or other unique shared experiences. I know there have been times when not being able to talk about my size dysmorphia / euphoria felt absolutely devastating, and finding this community meant the world to me.

It’s okay if hiatuses are not for you, now or ever. You’re a human being with the very real human evolutionary legacy of needing social connections and interdependent support. And fuck anyone who judges you for it.

 

How can a break help with my creative blocks?

One reason to go on hiatus is to help with creativity. It may seem counterintuitive, but taking a break might give you the breakthrough you’ve been working so hard to achieve.

You may feel like the rational or admirable thing to do when you’ve got a creative block is to force yourself to try harder, work longer, and stare at that blank screen/canvas/camera for eight excruciatingly unproductive hours if you have to. But trying to force ideas when you’re exhausted or burned out can give you diminishing returns, like squeezing a stone for water.

There’s research behind this, too. In this passage from Laziness Does Not Exist, Dr. Devon Price cites studies from Frontiers in Human Neuroscience and Psychological Science. I’ve linked them below for anyone else who gets off to nerdy competence.

Moments of insight and creativity don’t come by trying to force them—they require a period of mental inactivity. Good ideas often come to us when we’ve stopped trying to come up with them, such as when we’re in the shower or on a leisurely walk. While it seems like these ideas have come out of nowhere, the truth is that our minds have been quietly and unconsciously developing them during our downtime. Psychologists call this productive downtime the “incubation period.” Like an egg that must be kept warm and safe in order to develop into a healthy chick, the creative parts of our minds require safety, rest, and relaxation in order to produce unique ideas or insights.

Whenever I explain this principle to people, I’m reminded of a moment from the show Mad Men. The successful, charismatic advertising executive Don Draper is giving advice to Peggy, a young, ambitious copywriter who’s struggling to come up with a tagline for a client’s new product. In just a few short sentences, Don perfectly explains the concept of creative incubation. “Just think about it, deeply,” he says to her, “and then forget it. An idea will jump up in your face.”

If that’s not enough to convince you, here’s the part that helped things click for me.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, the writer and star of the musical Hamilton, famously came up with the concept for the show while reading a history book on vacation with his wife. He didn’t go on vacation hoping to come up with a concept for a new musical; he was just trying to find a way to relax after seven nonstop years of performing in his show In the Heights. Yet the moment he had time to truly recharge, he arrived at a creative breakthrough that changed his life forever.

After Hamilton’s massive, unprecedented success, Miranda had to force himself to find time for a vacation again. Fans of the show were dismayed when he left the performing cast. But in interviews, Miranda emphasized the importance of laziness.

“It’s no accident that the best idea I’ve ever had in my life, perhaps maybe the best one I’ll ever have in my life, came to me on vacation,” Miranda told an interviewer in 2018. “The moment my brain got a moment’s rest, Hamilton walked into it.”

How do I know when to go on hiatus?

The simplest answer: go on hiatus when you want to. If any part of you feels good about taking a break, it might be time to consider giving it a try.

Sometimes I take a hiatus because I’m simply planning ahead. For example, I know I  will need to use my phone around a lot of people because of work or family events. Raise your hand if you’ve ever opened NSFW Twitter out of habit and realized you were in public with a stranger looming over your shoulder. (That’s got to be the least appealing use of “looming” ever on my whole website!) The thought of my boss or mother in law in that scenario makes me shudder. So for big events where I’ll need my phone a lot, I let Twitter friends know my plan and either log out or uninstall the app for a set period of time.

More often, I need a hiatus for physical or emotional reasons. It can take me a while to notice, and even longer to take action, but I’ve gotten better at it.

I have learned that there are some signals from my body and brain telling me when I need a break. Everyone is different, and Western culture has trained us to ignore these signals, so don’t feel bad if you’re not sure yet what your own are. I’m still figuring mine out.

I know it’s time for a size kink hiatus when I feel one or more of the following:

  1. The thought of opening Twitter makes me feel tired
  2. Scrolling is good but the thought of interacting with anyone makes me feel tired
  3. Thinking “I should tweet” instead of “I want to tweet”
  4. I realize that scrolling on Twitter makes my stomach muscles clench, which can become nausea or a stomach ache when I ignore it
  5. I’m planning to share a story and feel dread/emptiness instead of excited
  6. I see other creatives sharing work and feel guilt/shame at my stalled projects, instead of inspired/motivated by their success
  7. I see someone else go on hiatus and I feel envious
  8. Small irritations can push me into a rage and I want to burn it all down
  9. Mild mental health triggers can send me reeling for a day or more
  10. Heavy mental health triggers leave me nonfunctional for a day or more
  11. I start asking myself “what’s the point” or “why bother”
  12. I can’t remember the last time I had a meaningful connection with someone on the app
  13. I can’t remember the last time I felt turned on by something while scrolling
  14. I see something that usually turns me on but feel unmoved by it
  15. Seeing messages in my inbox increases my anxiety (more than usual)
  16. My size dysmorphia / euphoria feels muted or happens rarely (this may be pretty specific to me—my therapist thinks this is a sign of depression due to dissociation from my body)

Look closer and you’ll notice that thirteen of the items above are emotions or bodily sensations. That’s no coincidence. Resmaa Menakem wrote in his groundbreaking book My Grandmother’s Hands:

Our bodies have a form of knowledge that is different from our cognitive brains. This knowledge is typically experienced as a sense of constriction or expansion, pain or ease, energy or numbness. Often this knowledge is stored in our bodies as wordless stories about what is safe and what is dangerous. The body is where we fear, hope, and react; where we constrict and release; and where we reflexively fight, flee, or freeze.

I would argue that a need for a hiatus is often rooted in fight (see 8), flight (see 4, 5, 7, 15), and especially freeze (see all of the above, especially 1, 2, 4, 6, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, and 16). Freeze is our body’s last resort, the collapse, the point where we’ve tried everything else and the oldest parts of our brain are making a last-ditch effort to survive by shutting down, holding still, and hoping the danger passes us by.

When I first understood the connection between fight/flight/freeze and sexual libido, it was such a revelation that I wrote “Sexual Brakes, Trauma, & Kink in the Burning 20’s.” In a nutshell, it’s okay if your brain and body don’t want sex when you are stressed. It’s okay if they want it more. Both are normal, and there’s science to prove it. Research also shows that big feelings (like fear of getting sick, or anger at injustice) can be processed and released before they do lasting harm or send your body into shut-down. But I digress.

I would also argue that a desire for a hiatus means some part of you wants to revoke consent. (And that’s okay!) I learned this concept not in kink or BDSM, but actually from EMDR therapy. My (awesome, kink-informed) therapist would probably tell me that these signals from my body mean that “not all parts of me consent to this action.”

For example, let’s say I’m forcing myself to tweet for engagement so my next story doesn’t fall unread into the void, and my stomach starts tensing up. A big part of me wants that engagement, so I keep working on the tweet. Now my stomach starts hurting. I finish the tweet and feel better, but then I come back to the replies again and again. Not because I want to, but because I think I should and because deep down I’m afraid of becoming irrelevant to the community if I don’t. Now I’ve got a stomach ache and nausea, and it’s getting louder and harder to mute. It’s as if my head is saying “yes” and my body is saying “I want to stop now.”

These two parts of me are in conflict and not truly communicating. If I keep ignoring my body like this on a regular basis, she may eventually find a way to revoke her consent, going into a full freeze shut-down, and I will end up sick, burnt out, exhausted, and unable to do the thing anymore. If you need a break and don’t take one, eventually your body will take it for you.

Anyone else have trouble translating stuff like this from your body? Maybe it feels overwhelming, or scary, or just fuzzy. The best way I know to navigate through it all is to get curious and try to let go of judgment. Think of it less like a conflict and more like a conversation. What would your body say to you if it could speak in words and not signals? What would you say back? Bessel Van Der Kolk wrote, “Once you start approaching your body with curiosity rather than fear, everything shifts.”

Getting curious about your body’s signals is helpful in all kinds of situations, but especially sexual ones. The phenomenal resource Girl Sex 101 by Allison Moon and KD Diamond have a great section on what they call “embodied yes.”

Sometimes… it’s hard to know the answer to an earnest check-in. It can be hard to know if something is scary-exciting or scary-bad. It can be hard to say when something is just not-great instead of out-and-out bad. If you don’t know what a “yes” feels like, it can also be triggering when someone asks you for consent, because you don’t know the answer… Getting a sense of what yes and no feel like in your body can help you along when you’re not sure what you’re feeling. It can also help you speak up when something doesn’t feel right.

If you’re like me and find it easier to focus on what others want, it may take practice to tune into what you and your body want. Girl Sex 101 offers some practice questions to guide you through the tune-in process. I shared a photo of the page in this tweet. (Let me know if you want the full alt text and I’ll be happy to share it.) I also tweeted a photo of their reassuring section called “What about when you don’t know what you want?”

I think it gets especially complex if you feel pleasure exploring kink elements like humiliation, shame, degradation, or objectification. I won’t go into detail on those here, but it’s worth spending time noticing what kinds of body responses have you leaning in or turning away, and why. Kink can help us explore our shadow selves and fully embody, process, and release fight/flight/freeze impulses or big emotions. (I recently realized that I use objectification scenes to return to myself after long periods of dissociation, for example.) Sometimes that’s a thrill, sometimes it’s a relief, and sometimes it’s just too much. It’s okay if that changes for you. These desires may come and go.

Ask yourself, is it scary-exciting? Scary-bad? If it’s a mix of both, you’re the only one who can decide what the right combination is, and what your own limits are.

How do I go on hiatus?

There are lots of options for creating digital boundaries with yourself.

I use the Stay Focused app for android to lock myself out for certain periods of time (like during weekday hours when I should be getting ready for work) or to make sure I don’t lose long stretches of time to doomscrolling (after 15 minutes on Twitter, it will lock me out for the rest of the hour). You can even set it to have custom messages to take some of the sting out of it. Mine usually makes me smile: “balance in all things, you thirsty bitch.”

Some people have to log out of all their devices. I know one person who changes her password to something she won’t remember, writes it down, and gives it to her partner to return to her after a set period of time. Some people uninstall the app and use browser plugins to block the website.

You can update your display name to say “[Name] is on hiatus” or add it to your bio or a pinned tweet.

You can update your settings so that only mutuals can DM you. You can update your display name to “[Name] DMs CLOSED.” (Remember to reset this if you open commissions later.)

You can deactivate your account, which is especially useful if you’re facing hate or attacks. Be careful with this option, though. After 30 days, if you don’t re-activate your account will be permanently deleted.

You can delete your account and start over. As hard as I find this idea personally, I know some who feel like a completely fresh start was the only way forward for them. We’re allowed to reinvent ourselves anytime and for any reason, and liberating yourself from a past identity, behavior you want to renounce, or some other aspect of your kink scene experience is a valid choice. (Sometimes people do this for safety, if they’re being harassed with hate.) You can request a ZIP file of your Twitter archive to reference later, if you like. I gave it a try for this blog post and had my archive within 24 hours. For reference, I’ve had this account since 2018 and my 14.8K tweets became a zip drive with 10,488 files at roughly 1.3 GB in size. It doesn’t show you replies to any of your tweets, but it was fascinating to go through the files and felt really good to have all my writing and thoughts backed up like that in case I were to ever lose or delete my account.

You can also simply stay on Twitter and stop interacting with people.

There’s really no wrong way to do this. Do you feel like you’re getting the break you need? You’re doing it right.

Why should I announce my hiatus?

(CW for mentions of abusive behavior.)

However you decide to step away, it’s a good idea to make an announcement so that people who care about you don’t lose sleep wondering what happened.

In the midst of emotional turmoil and burnout, it can seem appealing to just disappear. Ghosting is technically a way to conserve energy, and sometimes in a crisis or trauma freeze response our nervous systems can just shut down.

There might be some messages from your “Traitor Brain,” a name one of my friends uses for depression, trying to convince you that nobody cares. (Traitor Brain is a Liar McLiarface. Even if I don’t know you, I care.) My own Traitor Brain has whispered in my ear that maybe cutting all ties with no explanation will “show them” what they’ve been taking for granted. (Trust me, this never ends well.) There are endless variations on these stories that our exhausted, broken hearts tell us—trying to give us a sense of agency when we feel powerless. Disappearing is so tempting in this mindset.

Sometimes we disappear because someone forced us to. I’ve witnessed and heard horror stories of hateful harassment driving people to delete, of abusive partners or family changing passwords, deleting accounts, or taking away devices or internet access. I have heard of people who have been publicly outed and deleted their account to stay employed or keep custody of kids. If something like this happened to you, this is not a hiatus and it is not your fault. I hope you find safety, support, and are able to come back to the community when you are ready.

When it is within your power, I strongly urge you to put up some kind of message when going on hiatus, for people to see when they come looking for you.

Here are some tweet-length statements you can copy/paste and adapt for different situations.

  • I’m going on hiatus because I need to rest and figure some things out. I don’t know when, but I’m planning to come back and will answer DMs then.
  • Hey everyone, something big came up in my life and I need to focus on that for a while. I’m okay but I’m going to take a hiatus for the rest of the month. See you then!
  • I’m burned out / I’m not okay / I’m sick / I was in a car accident / I’m grieving and I think I need some time off Twitter. I’d love support in the meantime, you can buy me a Ko-fi at ____ or shoot me a DM to help me stay sane.
  • I had ______ emergency and really need some support thru Ko-fi/emergency comms. I know money is tight for everyone right now, but replies & RT are still a huge help. I’m stepping away until I get my feet back under me. Thank you!
  • Good news: I got a promotion/landed my dream project! Bad news: I have no space for Twitter right now. Stay kinky, I’ll be back this summer!
  • I finally reached my limit on RP. Who knew that was even possible? I’ll be around, but need to go on RP hiatus, both in and out of DMs. I mean it. Try to push me into playing a giantess and I will block you. This is your only warning.
  • I’m not feeling very sexy lately, so I’m gonna take a break here and focus on self care / my SFW art/writing. I wish I could say when I’ll be back, but I’m gonna let my body set the pace. I’m just a DM away if you need me.
  • Writer’s block is being a total asshole to me, so I’m going on a short hiatus to drive off into a sunset and find myself or some shit. Try not to burn the place down while I’m gone.
  • Real life just got set to Advanced Mode. I need to cut back on distractions, so I’m going on semi-hiatus for the near future. Just gotta take care of some things.

Here are some of my past hiatus announcements.

Pinning a hiatus tweet can also help you clarify your boundaries. For example, when I put “DMs closed” in my display name, I assumed that would discourage people from sending me DMs. Because I wasn’t clear on what that meant to me, some folks used my DMs like a voicemail, assuming I’d know there would be no pressure to respond quickly. It still exacerbated my anxiety, though. Things got better when I explained what I needed.

One thing you’ll notice is that none of my examples include an apology, and some don’t get specific with explanations. That’s because it’s okay to take time away from Twitter for ANY REASON.

You don’t have to explain yourself, and you don’t have to apologize if you’re not feeling sexy/talkative/creative/sociable—you are human, not a robot, and your mental and physical health are important.

Is it okay to go on hiatus after asking for money?

Speaking of boundaries, sometimes when an emergency comes up and we ask for financial support, we can feel pressured to stick around and update people. That happened to me during this emergency last spring:

At the time, I felt torn between taking a hiatus and staying on Twitter to keep folks updated. My nonprofit career taught me some toxic habits like the tendency to put the donor at the center of the work, instead of the people in need of aid and support. (There are some good arguments for ditching the current nonprofit model of philanthropy as unethical and unsustainable, if you’re curious.) Anyway, there’s this power imbalance that comes from money changing hands, and a sense that you need to keep doing the thing that got you the money, in order to continue receiving support, even if that’s “just” emotional support.

I caught myself feeling that way. I paid closer attention to how I felt when I was using the app, whether time on Twitter was draining me or giving me energy, and decided it still felt good. I realized I wanted to have a place where I could vent to folks who cared and who were following my story. I decided to not go on hiatus in that situation, but that was my decision and based on more than just “I owe these people for donating to me.”

Time and energy are precious, and it’s okay to conserve those even after someone has given you financial support.

The word to focus on here is “give” — when you give a gift to someone, especially someone in crisis, that gift ideally comes without strings attached.

In online communities when opportunities for mutual aid, acts of service, and other support are limited, it’s important to have healthy boundaries around financial gifts. Don’t expect it of people, and when you’re in a position to give, don’t expect someone in an emergency to spend energy satisfying your curiosity.

You don’t owe anyone details of your life or constant updates. The people who care about you will understand and respect your boundaries.

How do I get through the hiatus?

This is a new section I’m adding after publishing this essay and talking to others about their experiences. One person mentioned privately that they felt anxious and antsy all during a break from Twitter. Consider this my “facepalm” moment that I didn’t include a section on how to actually get through the hiatus itself!

Because you know what? Anxious and antsy sounds absolutely understandable to me. I’ve been there too. Not every break I’ve taken, but at various times, depending on my stress and how engaged I’ve been with Twitter. These apps hardwire our brains with dopamine reward loops. Leaving is a kind of withdrawal, both from the mental activity of the app, the rush of the dopamine, and the vital social networks we’ve built.

But look at it this way. Twitter—all social media, really—is not built to stop. It’s designed to keep going and going, scrolling and scrolling. The only way to stop is to put the brakes on yourself. Capitalism is not built to give us pauses or ends or closed chapters. Not in healthy ways. We have to do that ourselves, because the boundaries won’t come from anywhere but within.

It can be a genuinely difficult and uncomfortable experience to cut ourselves off on purpose and to set those boundaries. It’s one reason that I talk so much about different kinds of hiatuses. You don’t necessarily need to go “cold-turkey” to get the rest you need. Sometimes all you need is a change. A single new boundary can make all the difference in the world.

If you do decide to take a full hiatus and are concerned about the withdrawal, it may be worthwhile to try strategies that help people who are trying to quit smoking or who are going through a breakup. Be gentle with yourself.

I know for me, when I first go on hiatus I often find myself doomscrolling through other apps—I’ve found Pinterest to be the least harmful, personally, though I’m trying to train TikTok to be a haven of happy brain chemicals. I usually rely a lot on distractions like comfort books, nostalgic shows, a complex project, anything I can “lose myself in” for a while. It takes the edge off, until the impulse to open/reinstall Twitter wanes somewhat.

A strategy I’ve learned from depression is to crank up the self care just the way you would if you were sick. Make sure your basic human needs for calories, hydration, hygiene, and medicine are met, then lean into all the things you find soothing.  After all, the whole point of this hiatus is to help you rest, right? Soft weighted blankets, your favorite music, good food or drinks. If you can get outside, do it. Nothing helps like a change in scenery.

It’s also a good time to explore other forms of care. This excellent graphic, “The Unspoken Complexity of Self-Care” by Deanna Zandt is the best explanation I’ve seen for it. There’s a place for self-soothing, self-care, community care, and structural care. They’re all tools.

It’s not all bubble baths and me-time. Sometimes it’s channeling your anxious energy into active things that will make your life more livable. Like the kind of self care that amounts to parenting yourself—taking yourself to the dentist, researching therapists, or dealing with the stack of mail you’ve ignored for weeks. Sometimes it’s reaching out for community care—joining a freecyle buy-nothing group, or volunteering for a cause that’s meaningful for you, taking a class on a kind of exercise or dance you’ve never tried, or loading up at the library on books about something that’s always interested you. Are there relationships in your life that you could explore outside NSFW Twitter, like family, friends, professional, or community? Who haven’t you connected with in a long time?

I know the pandemic is ongoing and not everyone has the privilege of taking all these risks with their health or their loved ones’ health. This is not a great solution, but if you’re missing size kink friends, it’s something: at the start of quarantine, my polycule and I dealt with the social withdrawal by diving into shows like The Good Place, Schitt’s Creek, and Crazy Ex Girlfriend, because they had a set cast of characters that helped convince our brains that we were spending time with people and getting to know them. I’ve found that podcasts and YouTube series with multiple hosts can achieve a similar effect. I listened to Stuff You Should Know for so many years that to this day when I try a random episode, my brain still gives me the little burst of happiness and recognition that my friends Josh and Chuck have come by to talk about weird shit over beers.

I’ll be honest with you, even with these recommendations, I still struggle to know how to rest. I’m the kind of person who was raised to see rest as only acceptable if you were sick or injured, or something I need to earn as a reward. (Fuck that.) Even when I could let go of that, I started treating rest like something I need to work hard at, something I could study and practice and accomplish. One of the books I mentioned earlier, Laziness Does Not Exist, has been instrumental in helping me wrap my head around what it means to genuinely rest.

Just know that if going on hiatus is hard for you, then you’re not alone. If you don’t believe me, there are some other experiences in this thread.

Even if a hiatus is hard, you may come out of it with energy, brain space, emotional capacity, and all kinds of treasures. You’ve just carved out a tiny hole in your life. What do you want to fill it with?

 

How do I know when to come back?

This might seem like a hard one to answer. But honestly? When you feel it, you’ll know. Come back from hiatus when you want to come back.

My own most recent hiatus had no set end date and lasted close to a month. After stress from several different areas of my life ended or eased up, I felt more in touch with my body and found myself opening Twitter more often. Instead of just lurking the way I sometimes do during a hiatus, I started liking things and bookmarking tweets to share later. I began thinking about things I wanted to tweet about, experiences in my own life and sizey media I had encountered recently. I saw multiple tweets from friends and wished that I wasn’t on hiatus so I could reply.

After several days of different kinds of “yes” signals, I realized I wanted to come back. (Then I was exposed to COVID and gave myself an extra week just to deal with the stress of  quarantine.) The point is that I’ve learned to give myself a little while to test the waters. I’ve come back too soon before, and in those cases I start feeling tired immediately. Sometimes I’ll come back with a semi-hiatus and see how that feels.

If that answer seems too ambiguous, we can flip the list from earlier.

  1. The thought of opening Twitter makes me feel excited
  2. Scrolling is good and the thought of interacting with people makes me feel happy
  3. Thinking “I want to tweet” instead of “I should tweet”
  4. I realize that scrolling on Twitter makes me smile
  5. I’m planning to share a story and feel excitement instead of dread
  6. I see other creatives sharing work and feel inspired/motivated by their success, instead of guilt/shame at my stalled projects
  7. I see someone else go on hiatus and I hope they feel up to coming back someday
  8. Small irritations lead to small reactions
  9. Mild mental health triggers make ripples and not tidal waves
  10. Heavy mental health triggers make an impact and not a crater
  11. I start asking myself “I wonder what ____ is up to” or “how would I tweet about ____”
  12. I am craving a meaningful connection with someone on the app
  13. I get turned on by something while scrolling
  14. I see something that usually turns me on and feel turned on
  15. Seeing messages in my inbox does not increase my anxiety (more than usual)
  16. My size dysmorphia / euphoria comes back or happens often, and I want to tweet about the experiences

If you’re still not sure: Do you want to be here? Is that true for all parts of you? Does your head say “yes” but you feel a weight on your shoulders or chest? Does your body say “yes” but your mind feel fuzzy, distracted, or forgetful?

You don’t necessarily need to get all parts of yourself to agree 100% to move forward, but it can help a lot to sit with it and try negotiating. What would you need to do differently for all these parts of you to feel mostly yes or even a “hell yeah”?

I remember once I decided to come back from hiatus, but kept putting it off and forgetting to actually reinstall the app. Every time I said to myself, “okay, today’s the day,” I would end up focusing on other things and find myself at the end of the day wondering why I hadn’t followed through yet. Maybe I was just busy or dealing with memory issues that come with depression and C-PTSD, but I also have a sense that this avoidance was my brain’s way of saying, “not ready yet,” and nudging me to take more time to rest than I thought I should need. These days, when I notice a pattern of forgetfulness around something hard, I try to see it as valuable data.

If you don’t feel enough of a “yes” to want to come back, that’s okay. This is your twitter account, your body and mind, and your life. Go at your own pace, and in the direction that is best for you. If you realize you’re going in the wrong direction, you can always change your mind.

How do I know it won’t be forever?

Here’s the thing. You don’t know if it will be forever. Some people take a hiatus and never find themselves craving a return.

And in order for this to work, that has to be okay.

When I go on hiatus in a deep depression, there’s often this sense that the awful draining exhaustion will never end. Traitor Brain whispers in my ear that the numbness will be there forever. The joy and pleasure will never come back. (This is a pretty common symptom of depression, by the way.)

Each time, I have been wrong about that. But each time, I don’t truly know what will happen, what I will need, or even who I am becoming. Sometimes I don’t change at all. Sometimes I change a lot. (Sometimes I come back from my break intending to write a lot of smut, and I surprise myself by writing an essay like this instead.) I have to accept the possibility that my healing may take me in a different direction than size kink.

Going on hiatus is an experiment. What happens when I don’t spend time on SizeTwitter? What happens when I get more rest? What happens when I go back to Twitter but set new boundaries to limit my time, or the way I interact with people, or change my name or appearance? What happens if I don’t go back for a week? A month?

Each of these small experiments are a chance to gather data. What variables can you change? What constants feel good? Maybe you’re a different person than you were when you made your account. Maybe you want different things. Maybe—certainly—that’s okay.

In times past, when someone I cared about wanted to leave the community, I used to get really upset. I was so afraid of the possibility that it would be forever. I used to try and convince them to stay, as if I could talk them out of their pain. I think sometimes I even tried to guilt people into staying, because I couldn’t face the sadness of losing their friendship. And maybe watching them walk away scared me, shook my faith in what we had built. Are we allowed to just walk away?

Yes. Because otherwise, there is no consent.

If a person can’t say no, can they ever really say yes?

Somewhere along the line I realized that it’s not about me. It’s about them being where they want to be, and making choices that are right for them, in their life, in their situation and context, which I know very little about.

The healthiest thing I can do is to trust my friends to know what’s best for themselves, and to respect their agency and decisions.

How do I reassure people that I’ll come back?

If you are confident that you want to come back after your hiatus, it can be helpful to let people know that’s part of your plan.

When someone we care about leaves suddenly or has a big disagreement with us, one of the reasons it feels scary is that we don’t know if our relationship with them will continue. A connection we counted on suddenly shifts into a big question mark.

When we offer a time estimate for the end of our hiatus, we’re not making any promises. We’re saying to our friends that we want to stay connected to them. People are less likely to have big reactions when they know the relationship will probably continue eventually.

You don’t have to put time constraints on your hiatus. Sometimes that can feel like a deadline, and may keep you from being able to truly rest. It’s enough to say “I plan on coming back.”

If you did estimate you’d be back at a certain time, it is 100% okay to change your mind. Consent can be revoked at any time, right? That’s true here as well. Life is unpredictable, and folks with your best interests at heart will understand if you end up needing more time.

How do I come back?

I’d recommend starting slow. I’ve come back from hiatus and found myself devoting hours each day to scrolling, only to find myself burning out again. Use an app-blocker if you have to. Ease back into it.

You can make an announcement or you can simply pick back up right where you left off. If you plan to make any changes to your boundaries, like how you respond to DMs or limiting RP for a while, it can be a good idea to tweet that or add it to your bio, your display name, or pinned tweet.

One thing I know for sure is that you do not need to apologize for taking care of yourself. I struggle with this all the time. But I know it’s true.

If you regret how you left, then it might make sense to make specific apologies. For example, if you ghosted someone in the middle of a conversation, and feel the need to explain, then by all means, do that.

But do not ever feel like you need to apologize for listening to your mind, heart, and body in a world that tells you to ignore all of the above. It’s okay to not be okay, to need to slow down and do less.

Rest is not a reward, it’s a prerequisite to health and survival.

How do I support someone going on hiatus?

The most important thing you can do is to respect their boundaries. And unless they specifically ask you to help them enforce their boundaries, don’t “call them on it” if you see them around in small ways.

If going on hiatus is like using a safeword, then this passage from The New Bottoming Book by Dossie Eastman and Janet Hardy may be a useful reframe:

Using a safeword is a difficult decision for a player, particularly an experienced one. Good players know that when their partner uses a safeword, she is often feeling disappointed, chagrined, and inadequate over needing to do so. This is an important time for mutual support and affection. Whether the safeword has been invoked by the top (yes, tops use safewords too) or the bottom, it means somebody is having a hard time, and needs and deserves caring support and validation. Dossie was once subjected to ridicule for using a safeword, of the “Aw, c’mon, can’t you take it?” variety—and, she says, “It turned me into a real bitch real fast.” She never played with that top again.

Never allow anyone to tell you that you were wrong to use a safeword; the judgment of when to use or not use one is purely your decision and is not debatable. Even if you’ve given consent to an activity in your pre-scene negotiations, you are entitled to withdraw that consent if the activity isn’t working for you—if it’s too intense or if you’re reacting in a way you hadn’t anticipated. Although a top may feel disappointed by your use of a safeword, she doesn’t get to express anger or reproach, or put you down for safewording. Your safeword is your mechanism for taking care of yourself and nobody but you can tell you how to take care of yourself.

To translate, going on hiatus from an online kink community is a difficult decision. A person going on hiatus may feel disappointed or inadequate and needs support, affection, and validation. We shouldn’t try to debate someone going on hiatus, and we shouldn’t try to talk them out of it. Someone who joined a kink community is entitled to leave that space for any length of time that feels right, especially if their experience there is too intense or if they’re responding to it in a way they didn’t expect. Nobody should put someone down for needing a break. Your hiatus is your mechanism for taking care of yourself, something only you know how to do.

If you’re looking for a little more guidance on being supportive, the best way I know to support someone going through something painful is through “Ring Theory.” In this model, from the famous article How Not to Say the Wrong Thing, the person having a hard time is in a circle of support, and the people surrounding them hold space for their difficulty, then look outward to ask for support in turn.

As members of a community, we are allowed to feel all kinds of things about one of our friends leaving that community for a short period of time or forever. We may feel sad, angry, lonely, afraid, envious (see #7 on How do I know when to go on hiatus?), resentful, rejected, abandoned, heartbroken, or any number of contradictory things.

When you feel things like this when your friend wants to go on hiatus or leave Twitter with no plans to return, I would gently suggest that those feelings are actually about you. Your feelings are rooted in your history, your past experiences, and what it means to you in particular when someone needs to leave a group temporarily or permanently. Not everyone will feel the same way. Your feelings are valid, and they are also yours to manage—hopefully with empathy and connection from others farther out in the rings of support.

In most cases, your friend is probably not leaving Twitter because of you. They probably didn’t have any intention of making you feel sad, angry, lonely, or afraid—and worries over making people upset may have been a factor if they were reluctant to take the rest they need.

When you look at the list How do I know when to go on hiatus? all sixteen of my reasons are focused on me or on vague groups of people like “other creatives.” It’s true that actions from particular people may add to the list of reasons to go on hiatus, but in most of those cases? When someone wants to take a step like this, part of them already has a foot out the door. Whether they knew it consciously or not, there were already several bullet points on their list. A single specific interaction may have simply felt like the last straw.

Your friend’s hiatus is about them. Your feelings about their hiatus are about you.

Pour support inward. If you need to process your feelings about their hiatus or leaving Twitter, I encourage you to reach outward for support. Don’t put that on your friend.

First, because they don’t deserve that and it may cause more harm than good. Second, because if they don’t come back, this might be your last interaction with them. Make it kind.

Third, because the way you behave in this moment may have an impact on whether or not they want to come back. If you punish them for taking care of themselves—for example, calling them selfish—then on some level you are proving that being in this space on Twitter is going to be incompatible with getting their needs met. “Do not punish the behavior you wish to see.

The same is true for when someone comes back from hiatus. Don’t say “FINALLY” and don’t give them a hard time. Welcome them back and give them a reason to feel good about returning.

Complaining to an artist about the length of their mental health break is not the best way to encourage them to make more art. Trust me on this. If you feel impatient about seeing new content, I suggest you try passing the time by taking up painting or writing.

Going on hiatus is usually a strategy to take care of yourself. You want your friends to take good care of themselves, right? No matter how else you feel about them leaving, if you like this human being, you hopefully want them to be happy and healthy.

Some good ways to respond to a tweet or DM announcing a hiatus:

  • Let them know you care.
  • Let them know you support their decision even if you’ll miss them. You can even thank them for taking care of themselves. This happens so rarely that it can mean a lot to someone for their small victory to be celebrated.
  • Give them wishes for rest, healing, or their favorite comforts.
  • Make sure they know they are welcome, wanted, loved, worthy of belonging, really freaking awesome, or whatever else you’d say to someone going on a journey or in the hospital or enduring something scary.
  • Match their tone. If it’s flirty and lighthearted, it’s probably cool to reply in kind—as long as you’re not trying to open the door for more interactions. If they say they’re taking a break because they’re not feeling sexy, then keep it platonic. If they’re somber, don’t try to cheer them up or tell them to look on the bright side. If they’re trying to not make it a big deal, then consider keeping your reply casual.
  • It’s okay if you don’t know the perfect thing to say. Just be there for them.

My own most recent hiatus tweet received some really kind and supportive responses.

I can’t pick which replies to quote, so I encourage you to browse the thread. Some are short, some are long, and they all meant the world to me when I was feeling exhausted and lonely.

That’s the point of all this. Being there for each other. Easing the loneliness of feeling different. Exploring, on our own terms, all the ways that we can feel good together.

What can help me through my hiatus?

These are two of the books that have helped me through my own mental health hiatuses, both from SizeTwitter, and in other parts of my life.

Laziness Does Not Exist, by Dr. Devon Price

Every time I see an artist or writer on SizeTwitter put pressure on themselves to create more, to push harder, to post more often, to increase engagement and find more followers, I wish I could slide a copy of this book across the table.

Dr. Price has upended so much of what I thought I knew about what it means to be productive, who has value in this world, and how to exist as a creative person in a society that seems to demand relentless machine-like outputs and perfection.

If you want a tl;dr you can check out this 49-minute interview with Fresh Air, ‘Laziness Does Not Exist’. “No one likes to be called “lazy.” But social psychologist DEVON PRICE argues that we should embrace laziness. Not only is disconnecting, taking a break and relaxing good for our mental and physical health, it’s also important to resist and push back against societal pressures to overwork. In their new book Laziness Does Not Exist, Price explores the origins of the “laziness lie” starting with the Puritans, its racist history and our culture’s obsession with productivity which leads to anxiety, burnout, exploitation and alienation.”

Burnout, by Amelia and Emily Nagoski

Burnout is probably the book I recommend the most to people in all parts of my life. It includes accessible science and excellent tips on how to process and release the stress that’s making so many of our lives unbearable right now. They also cover other dimensions of stress reduction like how to dismantle the patriarchy and love your body.

I talk about it at length in Sexual Brakes, Trauma, & Kink in the Burning 20’s. For a good critique of the limitations of the white feminist, cishet, ablebodied, and neurotypical perspectives of this book, I recommend the podcast series Big Strong Yes, specifically the episode “The Gold is Love“.

Therapy may be able to help you find a way through.

Here is my thread on tips and databases for finding a kink-friendly therapist or counselor with a similar background.

Using a database can let you filter search results and look for sliding-scale and low-cost options:

For LGBTQIA+ people who need immediate help:

Therapy isn’t for everyone. In America, it’s less accessible for marginalized people or those struggling financially. It takes trial and error to find someone who clicks with you, who can push you to question your assumptions and behaviors, while still holding space for you to safely process your experiences. If it doesn’t feel right, if you feel unsafe, trust your gut and keep searching. If they feel right but you can’t afford weekly meetings, ask to space out your sessions, if they offer sliding scale, or for a referral to someone more affordable.

At the very least, therapy is dedicated time to talk about your problems with someone who has training in how to listen and offer tailor-made advice for your situation. It can take the pressure off the people who care about you but may feel out of their depth trying to help. At the best, therapy can be healing and life-changing.

Whatever reason you have for going on hiatus, odds are good that you’ll find some benefit from talking to someone whose whole job is really, truly, listening to you.

You don’t have to go through this alone.

Thank you for taking care of yourself.

 

 


 

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Published inKink PhilosophyMusings

One Comment

  1. Chuck Murnoe Chuck Murnoe

    Hi! As promised on Twitter, I’ve finally had time to read your post, and I don’t think a Twitter thread might do justice and it’s very limited, so I’m writing this comment on here.

    First of all, thank you for sharing your experience and point of view. Not many have the time nor feel brave enough to do it. And some times it isn’t about being brave, but simply honest, getting something off your chest, telling yourself more than telling others.

    We all have our experiences on social media, and it’s clear that it won’t be the same for each one of us, although it’s also true there can be common points you can relate with. Some like “stop forcing things”, “I’m jealous and dissapointed on myself looking at others’ work”, “why bother?” and mental health come to mind.

    It’s true that listening to your body helps in knowing when it’s time to stop, though I admit, some times it’s too late and the stress is there and you find yourself not dealing with the matter in a proper way, despite still taking that needed break. And therapy helps, specially against Bad/Traitor Brain, though you can’t expect your therapist to do all the work themselves. You need to learn how to deal with it. That’s something I’ve learned from my therapy, that I have to do my part, because in the end it’s about my health.

    About hiatuses themselves, yes, they can be helpful. Taking a break to reconsider things, to use that energy on something else, to just relax and not worry, even if it seems hard to rest due to a society that demands us to constantly be productive, in a way or another. At least they’ve helped me, mainly with dealing with my own issues on the NSFW part of social media.

    However, and this is something I’ve mentioned several times on Twitter, I have doubts about when coming back. Not with starting slow, that I know, but knowing when’s the right time to finish that hiatus. My issue might be different from others, but when the feeling you get from the community is that you’re a nobody only a handful of people notice, what if you leave for a long time? A week, a month? Will anyone even remember you? Or will you be completely forgotten?

    I confess I’ve always been kind of the independent person: I’m single, I live alone… but I don’t feel alone-alone. IRL and online friends are there, though some circumstances have severed some ties on both. But even though on main social media I don’t have this fear of being forgotten, I do on NSFW social media, specially size-oriented ones. Because I’m opening myself on a level I can’t do on main, and all I meet is but indifference and nowadays just only a few acknowledge what I do. And I’m grateful for them, they’re the reason why I’m not giving up on the kink, size and smut (I have, however, given up on any chances of being known by a wider audience). Still, there’s this… void that I can’t fill, and mostly because it doesn’t depend on me. It’s how the world is revolving, faster than we can do anything. And the pandemic, at least on my end, has made it worse.

    And there’s also the self-care and self-love that many times we forget, being too harash with ourselves, despite being very supportive to others. And that’s something we need to (re)learn, to build our self-esteem, because we do matter, like we tell others that they do matter.

    Thank you again for sharing this, and thank you for all the times you’ve been there to support others, myself included, to wish us the best in our breaks, to think of ourselves having time to feel better. There are common places and some new things to learn from this text that I hope can be of much use.

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