Sorry it’s been a while. As my mother pointed out to me the other day I ‘need to do another blog post’ (thanks for cracking the whip, Mum), but I’ve been struggling with what to write about. Not because I have nothing to say but because I actually have A LOT to say, I just don’t know how to say it all. The anniversary of my admission to the psych ward is approaching fast, and I really want to write about my experience of those weeks, but I need to sit down and properly organise my thoughts about that before I do. It will probably end up being series of posts focusing on different aspects of my time in hospital and what I got from it, as there’s a lot to say. So that’s mostly what I’m working on at the moment.
Before I get to that stuff, though, I wanted to talk about the role social media has played in my ongoing recovery, and what I hope it will continue to do as I rebuild my life.
I think we can all agree that there are many, many bad things to be said about social media. It gives bullies yet another way to bully, but with the coward’s shield of anonymity. It can make us feel inferior when we see others ‘living their best life’ (#blessed) and we seem to be falling short. It can become addictive, making the need to check what is happening so compulsive that it is impossible to ignore.
All of those things are crap, and I think social media should ALWAYS be approached with caution. One thing that helps me deal with it is that I didn’t grow up with social media at my fingertips – Facebook was introduced when I was ***thinks*** 19, and I didn’t get Instagram until I was in my mid-20s. I’m so glad it wasn’t around when I was growing up, as the fewer pictures of me as an awkward teenager there are the better, and I got bad enough FOMO (fear of missing out – see, I’m down with the kids and the lingo) from MSN Messenger. And I still have flashbacks to that jarring sound of the modem dialling up.
But coming at it all as a ‘grown-up’ made it a bit easier, and has probably meant a more harmonious online life.
So, ways social media, especially Instagram, helps me:
My Instagram ‘bank of hope’
When I was in hospital, one of the nurses suggested I keep a notebook and write down sayings, poems or thoughts that helped and inspired me to get better. I definitely scoffed at this, because I was not a 13 year old girl, but then I realised that I’d kind of been doing that since I fell ill, I’d just been using Instagram instead. I’d been storing any photo I liked or that I wanted to remember in the future to my ‘saved’ items folder, using it as a kind of bank of hope. These saved items could be anything: hopeful quotes, posts from The Happy Newspaper assuring me it was okay not to be okay, snippets from books by Matt Haig, quotes from films, literally anything. I still do this on a daily basis when I’m scrolling, even when I’m feeling good, because I want to help future-proof for my bad days, and the more hope I have in the bank, the better!
Using social media as an online diary
I regularly use social media to record moments, good and bad, in my day-to-day life. It can help me, on bad days, to remember that I have felt good at certain times, and also to see that I’ve felt bad before and bounced back. This is especially useful because on bad days I still have a tendency to catastrophise and think ‘I have NEVER felt this bad before’ and ‘I will NEVER feel better’. Looking back on my old posts reminds me that a) I have felt that bad before and b) I will definitely feel better, because I have done before. Facebook and Instagram give me a place to record these moments, as well as helping me to be honest about the ups and downs of living with a mental illness, which is massively important to me.
Following people/pages that help or inspire me
This may seem like an obvious one, but sometimes I do catch myself scrolling through my Instagram feed, suddenly feeling rubbish, and being unsure why. Nine times out of ten, it’s because I’ve seen a post that has impacted on my mood, making me feel inferior or just generally a bit crap. So I now make a concerted effort to curate my newsfeeds, and to only follow people, accounts and pages that make me feel happy or uplifted. Ok, not everything I see on social media is rainbows and kittens (how amazing would that be??), but I have chosen to hide certain adverts or posts that make me feel rubbish or impact negatively on my mood, and taking back that bit of control has helped massively.
So these are just some thoughts about the good bits of social media, and how I’ve made it work for me. Now I need to sit down figure out these next few ‘hospital’ posts. Maybe I’ll just look back at my bank of hope to give me a bit of courage first…
My suggestions of some excellent accounts to follow on Instagram, by the way, are:
- The Happy Newspaper – @thehappynewspaper – good news stories
- Matt Haig – @mattzhaig – have I mentioned how much I love him?
- Megan Jayne Crabbe – @bodyposipanda – a burst of body positivity and sparkles
- The Blurt Foundation – @theblurtfoundation – they do amazing work around mental health
- Sad Girls Support Group @sadgirlssupportgroup – a group of wonderful women posting their own experiences
- Dani Dipirro – @positivelypresent – incredible illustrations
- Calm – @calm – linked to the app, but their Insta page is full of quotes to encourage mindfulness
- Katie Abey – @katieabey – rainbow illustrations of hope and loveliness
- Stacie Swift – @stacieswift – another amazing illustrator
- Me! – @mrs_s_c_p