This week I noticed a lot of Instagrammers talking about the pros and cons of social media and I thought I would take the time to discuss some of the impacts this has had on my mental health and how social media has supported me through some rough times.
**Before I get started, I would like to point out, that these are my experiences. I am in no way a mental health professional. I am simply sharing tools and practices that have benefited me. I would also LOVE if you would share things that work for you in the comments below. **
I have always loved interacting with people over the internet. My family moved the summer before grade 9 and the transition wasn’t very easy for me. I was a super awkward but opinionated teen and I sucked at social interaction. Internet chatting platforms allowed me to reflect on my conversations and helped me feel more confident. If people liked me on the internet, that meant that I wasn’t totally unlikeable in real life. Now I’d like to point out, that I did not know I had pretty serious anxiety until my 20s. But reflecting back, I displayed signs of anxiety well into my childhood.
Throughout my adulthood, I have noticed that whenever I’m going through a tough time, I turn to the internet. I find it to be a safe space to learn and express myself. After a rough breakup in 2008, I fell in love with Twitter. I loved the amount of information at my fingertips. I joined a book club, I made some amazing friends and I even reconnected with my now husband. Social media helped me recover from a very long and deep depression. Again, I was still undiagnosed at this point.
During that time, I also discovered blogs. Holy cow did I LOVE blogs. I would read blogs for hours. I fell in love with a group of women who had created an amazing DIY/Styling community and I could not get enough. Then one of them posted an article about finding out about her anxiety (you can read it here – kylaroma.com) and something clicked. Everything she was talking about was a mirror image of my life. It seemed so obvious. HOW HAD I NOT NOTICED THIS BEFORE? I always thought I was just extremely sensitive and genuinely a bit crazy. And then I just started researching.
2009 marked the year that my doctor and I came to the agreement that I had an anxiety disorder (I have never had an official diagnosis as the wait times in Alberta for Psychiatrists is ridiculous, and I hate the idea of using time that someone else might need) and I started meds. It wasn’t always sunshine and rainbows, but I stopped having crazy lows and my phobias pretty much disappeared overnight. If it wasn’t for that one blog post, I don’t know how long I would have gone untreated.
In 2010, Bell started a campaign called Let’s Talk Day, a social media day to raise awareness for mental health. One of my friends started sharing her mental health journey on facebook and I felt a little more inspired to keep pushing forward. Shortly after this, I started sharing a few insights into my struggles with anxiety and I was surprised and how supportive everyone was. I grew up feeling weird and different and through social media, I was once again starting to feel connected and understood. In fact, Let’s Talk Day is Wednesday, January 31st. I encourage you to follow #BellLetsTalk on social media and help spread awareness and raise money for mental health.
Recently, I have found great comfort on Instagram. I joined @makedaisychains through a month of #boringselfcare to highlight how sometimes the small things are worth celebrating when you’re struggling with anxiety or depression. Sharing those simple drawings connected me to many friends that I discovered were also dealing with their mental health. I have also found positive teachers to inspire me in the classroom. One of my biggest challenges to date is not feeling defeated by this profession. The idea of being a teacher and being miserable sounds like a great way to uninspire my students. I discovered the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek (which I will talk more about in a future post) that helped me get organized and reduce my workload.
All of these outlets, communities, and tools would not have been available to me without social media. I don’t know if I would be ok today if it wasn’t available. Now it hasn’t all be perfect, I went through I terrible complain about everything phase on Facebook, as well as an unfriend everyone who doesn’t support my brand of politics spree. Even this week I got blocked and am STILL dwelling on it. But reaching out has really helped me feel better. I have had to learn to unfollow things that get me riled up and curate my feed to feel inspired and motivated. I have had to take hiatuses and even apologize for getting out of control. But overall, social media has really helped me come to terms with my anxiety and depression and I’m really glad to say that today, I am in a good place.