At the time of writing there are just sixteen days and 15 hours to go until Christmas, well inside the period when the spectre of the Office Party looms. They’re a strange thing at the best of times, a night of enforced jollity with people you might not otherwise socialise with, too much alcohol, inappropriate liaisons, the pressure to dress up. I guess they can be enjoyable when you’re in the right mindset, but when you have a mental health problem it can be really hard to set your mind to “party”.
There are so, so many mental health reasons why an office party might inspire dread. Without even really trying I can generate a whole list. Being too depressed to get dressed up and/or get yourself there. Social anxiety. Issues around eating in front of other people or fear that food may be contaminated. Body image. Needing to discreetly take meds to a schedule. Discomfort about being around copious amounts of alcohol. Worrying about making a fool of yourself because you are hypomanic. Maybe you have non-mental health conditions which cause other hidden issues with parties. Maybe autism makes you hypersensitive to noise, maybe you are uncomfortable with the rigid gender expression these events tend to enforce, maybe you are dyspraxic and worry you’ll be pressured to dance.
And yet the whole thing can stir some longings. Workplace bonding is something we can’t have if we have lost jobs or could never obtain work because of mental health disability. We all know that colleagues can be awful, but some can be a huge source of support and even become lifelong friends and I will freely admit that I am lonely without them. So I’m probably misremembering or over-romanticising office parties, but I kind of wish I had one to go to.
Where do I turn? To my Twitter friends. In a way, they are my colleagues. We all share an interest in the same field. Twitter is the water cooler where I discuss what happened over the weekend. It’s where I debrief after a work event, where I share a research paper or my learning from a conference.
So that’s where I want to have my office party, and I wondered if you’d care to come? It’s a cliché to say that an event is “what you make of it”, but in this case it really is.
You can tweet wearing your PJs or you can dress to the nines in your own living room. You can pick a picture that you like to represent a party version of you, take a pic of yourself at that moment, or keep your appearance private.
There is no pressure to eat or drink, because there isn’t any except what people “bring” (describe) – but I would ask participants to start food-related tweets with a content note (CN) to give people a heads up to skip that tweet if reading about food is difficult for them. It’s like a trigger warning, but less strong. I do it something like this:
You can stay for one minute or the full hour, talk to anybody or nobody, tweet once or tweet as many times as your fingers allow in 60 minutes.
If you’re up for it, I’m happy to host for an hour on Wednesday 21st December at 6.30pm. All you have to do to join is use the hashtag #TwistmasParty within that time slot. I’ll be “DJing” via Spotify so that you can all point and laugh at the cheesiness of my Christmas playlist.
(Usual caveat: this is all assuming I am well enough. I’d love someone to be a backup person, just in case. Do let me know if you think you could help. Also full credit to @skingers for coming up with the hashtag!)