I know what it is like to wake up wishing you weren’t alive. I know what it feels like to hate yourself, more than anything in the world. I know what it’s like to notice that happiness is an unfamiliar concept. I know what it’s like to believe you don’t deserve love, family or friends. I know what it’s like to feel PATHETIC, WORTHLESS and USELESS (I used to repeat these three words to myself). I know what it’s like to feel nothing, yet everything simultaneously. I know what it’s like to believe consequences don’t matter because you won’t be around long enough to suffer them. Because I didn’t care. I just did. not. care.
I had my first psychiatric hospitalisation when I was fifteen. I’d attempted to take my own life, and I remember I was devastated when I was conscious enough to realise it hadn’t worked. I remember feeling like I was a pathetic excuse for a human because I failed at everything I did... I even failed at taking my own life... “Even hell doesn’t want me...” I thought to myself. [Note to everyone right now – if you are experiencing anything like this at the moment go and tell someone, a trusted adult, a parent a friend. Do NOT ever think that leaving this world will make things better. Help, support, time, healing and holding on to hope and life will make things better and things will be so much better – look at me and what I have been able to experience as a survivor of depression!]
This article was supposed to address the theme – Social Media isn’t Real - and be about how my Social media platforms were actually falsified fabrications of my reality; the way everyone else must have assumed my life was mellow and peachy, when in fact, behind the lens I was suffering.
I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I’m going to mix this up a little… I’m going to tell you how social media actually HELPED me in my recovery and SUPPORTED me in finding myself. I’m going to share with you the surprising truth about my life on social media. I am going to show you that the suffering wasn’t hidden behind the lens, it was hidden behind my mask – and that mask was my reality, day in, day out for so many years – how long I had that mask for is only just now becoming apparent to me – and I started wearing that mask well before social media was invented.
Have you ever seen an image someone has posted and wondered how genuine their smile really was? Were they really happy?
Well, for a while, that smiling girl in the photo was me. And no, she wasn’t happy. For a long time I tried so hard not to let anyone see what I felt beneath the façade I showed online. I was miserable. And I was lost. I didn’t want anyone to know how I really felt because I didn’t want them to feel sorry for me, or to treat me differently and I DEFINITELY didn’t want them to save me. Nor did I want to stand out, I just wanted to fit in, or more so maybe “fade in”. So I smiled. “fake it until you make it” they say…
When I ended up in hospital for the first time (I had two inpatient stays - one at a public Children’s Hospital and another at a private hospital that specialised in mental health disorders), I had been using tumblr (a blogging/social media site) to secretly express my emotions. I had no name on the tumblr and nothing that could trace the site back to me… mostly because I was terrified my parents would find it and realise just how unwell (and unhappy) I really was. I’d reblog image after image of depression triggering quotes and deeply morbid visuals. I would immerse myself in that world, and wallow in my own self-loathing.
During that 18 month period I saw around eight different specialists… doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists and even hypnotherapists. None of which I thought made any difference. Not because they were not good at what they do. But because nothing and no one, no matter how specialised or educated they are, is capable of making someone with a mental illness realise they are healing and doing better UNLESS the individual wants to feel better. And I didn’t want to feel better. I still thought I deserved that self-hate, or at least, I didn’t deserve goodness. It was like, my own negativity cloud became so familiar that it actually felt safe… I could hide behind my depression and somewhat ignore that reality was happening around me.
It was only on my second and last hospitalisation, did I finally sense and acknowledge hope within me and realise that I didn’t need to be unhappy anymore. And I didn’t want to be!
It sounds incredible cliché, but I woke up in hospital one morning, and it was like a switch was flicked. I no longer wanted to feel like that.
From there on, I started using my tumblr as a source of inspiration... I began posting content that was filled with sunshine, happiness and colour! I deleted all the old, depressing stuff and proudly wrote my name across the top of the page. I started answering questions I received in regards to recovery and happiness. And what I found was that so many others could relate, and the only way to help them was to become more and more transparent with my own story and empathise with them – showing them that recovery is possible and life has so much beauty to find. It was in this way that I realised that helping others, helped me too.
I started Instagram. Initially my profile was on private, but after a little bit of time I decided to make it public and from there on I found that the followers grew organically.
At first, I used my social media accounts to motivate not only others, but also myself... Anyone who has ever recovered or IS currently recovering from depression will know that sometimes you have to literally force yourself to do things, anything, in order not to relapse. I would go for runs, motivated by the thought that I would be able to inspire someone else to do the same. And this coincidentally helped me. I would choose healthy meals, smile more, take photos of beautiful places and things, hang out with friends more often, travel and experience the world. I would see it in colours I hadn’t seen before, and yeah, initially this was to inspire others, not myself. But eventually it became a lifestyle, and it became something I truly loved, adored and lived for! I found that the more I shared about my personal struggles the more I was able to help others. The more I smiled – the happier I felt.
Nowadays, I am one of the happiest people I know. I get up early and watch the sunrise. I stay active, practice yoga, make healthy eating choices, I adventure to new places (locally, domestically and internationally) and share the incredible cultures, places and people I meet and see via my social media. I capture beauty and share it online in the hopes to inspire others to seek their own sunshine! It may sound weird that an image of a healthy meal can be “inspirational”, and believe me it seems strange to me too. But if that image is able to inspire others to make healthy choices for themselves, then I think that’s great. If posting images of the sunrise or sunset inspires others to appreciate it to, then you better bet I am going to share that. If fitspo posts manage to help others become more active, body confident or health conscious then that’s amazing! Social media is strange, the concept seems very odd, but it works. It is such a powerful tool and if we choose to use it for selfless, inspiring and helpful reasons, then it can be the most pivotal tool in helping to create positive change, globally. We can use it to meet new like-minded people, spread awareness and messages of importance, help others to take notice of the beauty they find, inspire creative content production, conceive new ideas, promote a healthy lifestyle or encourage others to participate in their own life more!
I would say social media has been the opposite of a burden to me. It has assisted me in finding my purpose, who I truly am, the things I love and helped me to remember what true happiness is. Social media has always shown my reality – when I was 15 I wore a smiling mask, now at 22 I wear a smile.
Love and light,