We probably all have a love-hate relationship with the internet, at least to some extent. Toss mental illness into the mix, and it can amplify both the love and the hate. That’s certainly been the case for me. The opportunity to connect with information and other people can be a great thing, but it can also cause its share of problems, particularly when it comes to social media. If you are looking for ways to feel sh•tty about yourself, social media can deliver in droves.
I was never a big social media user. Facebook used to be my platform of choice, although that was mostly because I got sucked into FarmVille. When my second episode of depression hit me, my relationship with Facebook completely changed. What once was a harmless past time became an edged blade. It is so easy on social media for people to make their life out to be happy and wonderful and perfect (regardless of what their actual circumstances might be). When I got depressed, all I could think about was how pathetic and inadequate I was that my life wasn’t happy/wonderful/perfect. Instead of wallowing in that for too long, I decided to run away. I shut down my Facebook account, and remained almost entirely social media free for about 5 years, aside from very brief dabbles in Twitter and Pinterest.
Earlier this year, as I was grasping for things that would help pull me out of a lengthy depressive episode, I started trying apps to support my mental health. I have a list of those that I have found particularly helpful on my mental health apps page. I was using Pacifica’s discussion forum regularly, and was surprised by how much I appreciated being able to share stories with other people.
About six weeks ago I started my blog. This depressive episode has lasted about a year and a half, and it has significantly impacted many aspects of my life. I haven’t been able to work very much, so I’ve had a fair bit of time on my hands. I decided that writing would be a productive and perhaps even therapeutic way to spend my time. I’ve previously had work published in several academic nursing journals, but blogging was a whole other creature that I would have to get familiar with. I was also interested in connecting with other people’s stories, because it seems like in-person communication is just a bit too much for me these days.
When I first made my blog public, I didn’t think that anyone would actually read it. I remember how excited I was when I got my first follower, the fabulous James Edgar Skye, The Bipolar Writer. I decided that if people were willing to read my posts, I might as well set up some social media accounts that I would use only for the purpose of putting my blog out there to the world. I didn’t use those accounts to connect to anyone that I actually know in person, and likewise I didn’t tell anyone I know the name or URL of my blog. I like the sense of intimate anonymity this creates.
Of the social media accounts I’ve created, Twitter is the one that seems to resonate with me the most. It’s not all smooth sailing, though. I’m following some amazing organizations and individuals, and I’m really interested in reading what they have to say, but it feels like I would have to spend hours on Twitter every day just to keep up with everything that turns up in my news feed. I’m a bit too deer in the headlights at this point to even think much about writing my own Tweets.
I continue to be surprised when more people read my posts, but this has prompted me to think of other ways that I could get out there and engage in the online community. The mental health blogging community on WordPress feels very cozy and comfortable, but the broader world out there is much more daunting. Since I have no idea what I’m doing and am just sort of fumbling along, it seemed reasonable to have a look at articles on how to increase blog traffic, and check out blog indexing sites and aggregators. That’s when the wheels started to fall off.
Things aren’t as bad as they were a few months ago, but I continue to have cognitive symptoms from my depression. I am easily overwhelmed with new information or multiple different kinds of information. The internet is both of those thing to the gazillionth degree, and that has really been a struggle for me. I spent all of this morning looking at various things related to increasing blog traffic, and as things got muddier and muddier in my brain I realized that I really had no idea what I was looking at. I couldn’t even navigate my way through the basics of various websites, which made me feel like the village idiot. It got to the point where I realized I needed to just close all those browser tabs and do a mental reset (facilitated by some Ben & Jerry’s ice cream). I’m trying to make myself feel better with this whole blogging thing, not worse.
I think what I need to keep reminding myself of is my purpose. It’s very easy to get overwhelmed and lost in the vastness of the internet, but I didn’t start on this blogging journey to try to be everywhere and get involved in everything. My purpose is to write my stories and to read other people’s stories, and I need to just keep bringing it back to that. If I can do that, I can stay away from the hate side of my relationship with the internet, and use the love side in my journey towards recovery. Because no matter how out of control that internet might make me feel, I have the power of choice… and I can choose to use it.