chronic illness · mental health

why social media is sometimes the best mask when you’re feeling unwell

I have a slightly love-hate relationship with the Internet, social media sites in particular. Although it is amazing to be able to connect with the rest of the world, friends from all over, people from different countries and cultures, it is also incredibly overwhelming, and there is this strange underlying ‘pressure to perform’ happening around us, with everyone posting all of their wonderful achievements and goals all over the place, I seem to end up (whether I like it or not) comparing myself to everyone else, feeling lost and not quite good enough.

I also find it incredibly interesting how our portrayed lives on social media almost rarely match up to the truthful realities of what is actually happening internally. We post colourful photographs of recent adventures over-saturated and tuned up to look more vibrant, and we post statuses of ‘feel good’ things, so that people congratulate us or ‘like’ us to show their support of our wellbeing.

This is all well and good, but what happens when we are feeling unwell? When our realities do not involve long road trips to go surfing, or stay up all night partying at a festival, or decide to take 6 months off to go backpacking around Australia? How do you connect with an ever-increasing world of the Internet when you have nothing more to show than what you had for breakfast that morning or how exhausted you still feel after your insomniac-ridden sleep last night?

The truth is, people don’t often know what to do when you post up thoughts of pain, of sorrow, of overwhelm. They don’t know how to cope with it, they almost don’t want to hear about it. It’s too easy to become distracted with vibrant images of picture perfect Instagram lives, of cherry-picked moments of ‘ISN’T MY LIFE AWESOME’, snapped up through an IPhone camera lens.

What I find interesting is that I find myself getting caught up in this whole facade too, posting images of the beautiful natural surroundings and a smiling face, when in reality, that was the only time I had managed to leave the house that day. I had excessive fatigue in my body and my legs felt like dead weights, the light was so intense I was fighting back a migraine because of how hypersensitive I felt, and as beautiful as it was to be outside, I was exhausted as a result. But none of this shows in the photo, all you see is a smiling, happy contented face in a stunning, sun-drenched surrounding with the ocean as the horizon.

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What’s interesting is that why we still post these things, perhaps hoping that maybe one day it will be better? Hoping that one day this will become our norm, our consistent reality, that one day life will go back to how it was before, strong, independent, vibrant,Β alive?Β It’s important to be real, to be raw, stripped back and authentic, but this also makes us incredibly vulnerable, and when your mental and physical health is so fragile, this can make it a real challenge. Sometimes, posting things like this on social media can feel like a real sense of protection, so that you can remain hidden in your fragility, remain safe behind closed doors while you get your head together again, in your own time. People don’t ask questions, they don’t probe you for answers you don’t know how to give just yet, you can work things out and resurface when you feel ready to. And sometimes, it feels good just to celebrate the small victories, the little memories that remind us that, on that day, you got out of the house, you felt the sun on your face and you smiled.

Go gently,

Mell xx

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