Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A lesson, and a goodbye.

I saw something this morning that made me want to crawl back under the covers and stay there. Forever. Seriously. For a few seconds, I was ready to abandon everything and just wallow. A feeling of hopelessness so deep that lying in bed for eternity (atop a mattress in need of replacement, at that!) seemed a better option than proceeding with my day, or any day from here on out.

For me, today and by the grace of God, it was just a few seconds, but for Robin Williams...for him, yesterday was the end of a few seconds here and a few seconds there and then minutes and days and years, and enough was enough. The pull of freedom overpowered a dark and hopeless perception of reality.

Like the rest of the world, I took his death as a personal blow. One desperate hour stole so very many of our generation's greatest characters from us. How could we let this happen...again? How do so many who suffer so deeply slip through the cracks? And like the rest of the world, for a few minutes, I crusaded - in my head - for mental health awareness. For programs and understanding and destigmatization. For grace and compassion and patience and love. For spare bedrooms and rides to work and medical care. For butting in and asking questions and really knowing people. And then I went on to sleep, happy and well-adjusted in my cozy little bed.

But then I woke up, and I started to go about my day. And as I started to go about my day, my route took me past the scale in the bedroom. And on day 9 of a sugar detox, in the middle of training for a second half marathon, feeling good with just about everything going my way, I thought I'd take a peek - at my highest non-third-trimester weight EVER.

And just like that, I wasn't happy and well-adjusted anymore. My zip-a-dee-do-dah had turned into full-on, depths-of-despair, last-straw miserable. It took three little numbers to remind me that on my best day, like so many millions of others, I am barely stable enough to be called "emotionally healthy." And when my own history of depression and anxiety, and my family history and well, life, are all factored in - I'm reminded how the line between mental health and mental illness is a fine one that spirals quickly. I could be Robin Williams. Just not as funny.

This morning, rather than wallowing, my brain threw itself into overdrive - analyzing, searching for answers, reasons, solutions. And across a giant marquee in my head flashed a shining accusation, an indictment of an enemy that I've known for awhile was lurking:


As a person competitive by nature and generally concerned with how I am perceived, facebook is finally proving toxic to my emotional health. In spite of knowing that the rest of the world is not presenting life in reality on the ol' facebook page, here are two other things I know:

1. Regardless of my ability to filter through the garbage, Facebook is a catalyst for my depression.

Days. I can spend days...or weeks...believing the lies that facebook tells me. Do more, be more, try harder. Have more fun. Have less fun. Be concerned about this, get involved in that, donate to this.  The voices that tell me that I'm not good enough are not coming from inside my home. They're not coming from inside my family. They are coming from well-meaning friends. Specifically, it's the innocent and triumphant posts about how awesome they are for going to the gym/working out at home/taking a long run/losing 10 pounds on a cleanse/etc. I do believe that most of these sweet people mean to be encouraging, like "Hey, camper! You can do it too!" But mine is a different reality, and my brain is having trouble believing the truth - that my self-worth is not found on the scale. The thought process goes like this: If they value fitness enough to post three times a day about it, and I am not ostensibly a fit person, then they must not value me. And to compound that, I am a pretty terrible person for not being excited about how awesome they look in that swimsuit.

Bogus, I know. But I can't fight that mental battle anymore. When I do lose thirty pounds, facebook ain't gonna care. It's time to let it go.

2. Facebook makes me resent my real-life friends.

This is a crazy hard thing to admit. But it's true. If I am going without sugar for 21 days, or literally laboring to complete a couple of 14-minute miles and you come along and post about how you haven't run in awhile and - oh, it hurt, but you got your 5 miles done in under 40... I will full-on, crazy-person resent you.

And something tells me this is not healthy. If you have felt this from me, I am so very sorry. (But I am envious in ways you cannot understand. I'm working on it.)

Mental illness and addiction is real and terrible, and it leaves no one unaffected. I can't solve the global problem, but I can take steps to protect my own health. So, in honor of Robin Williams, I guess this is goodbye for now, facebook. I will listen to this lesson and not let his death be in vain, for me. It's time to stop dancing near the edge of stability and run toward wholeness, into the arms of the One in whom my identity and value is immeasurable. Anyone with me?


Tina T. said...

Amy, your reaction to Facebook is very common, and many people do not have it as part of their lives. In 1981, I basically made the decision to move away from suburbia because another member of the family could not deal with affluenza. It turned out to be a good move, except for upper schools for the kids. At the time of the move, we had no indications that they were so out of sync with the academic average in rural America.
Back to you, we love you no matter what the scale reads. My scale has been acting up, too, but I am past caring. I will miss your comments, photos, and zany views on life that actually help me get through my days. I hope you will continue to send them out by email.
We all share experience with depression, anxiety and alcoholism in our family and sometimes personal histories. Our household runs on vitamin P (Prozac). Please call me if you are ever so low that you don't see the point of getting up or going through the motions. This is a way I am able to help others after all those years in med school, our adrenaline laden child rearing, and my lack of activity due to pain.
Please know that you are loved, life is not a competition, and Facebook is not a necessity. You write beautifully and journaling could be a substitute.

Seriously, please call me anytime.
Aunt Tina

Am+a said...

Hi Amy! Thank you for sharing this lesson with the rest of us. You are right; life is NOT a competition, and Facebook is NOT a necessity. I have given it up for a month at a time here and there; I know that I don't really NEED to see everyone's new pictures & check-ins & memes. Yet, during my "facebook fast" times, I have found myself wanting to post something about how I just folded 4 loads of laundry, or that I went out to dinner at a yummy restaurant, or that my MIL's doctor told her during her last appointment that I'm doing a good job taking care of her and that she should listen to me. In those moments, I had to TELL GOD about my triumphs and struggles, and that had to be enough.

Unfortunately, facebook seems to bring us to the place where we are constantly COMPARING ourselves to the others around us. It's not a fair view, though, since each person filters exactly what they want us to see. Some people tell outright lies on FB, I'm sure, for the sake of keeping up appearances. Comparison can be a poison in our souls; leading us to think that we are less or God loves us less because "X" is happening in my friend's life, but it's not happening for me. We forget that while that good "X" thing may be happening (weight lost or a cool vacation), they are really having trouble with "Y" and "Z" (kids at each other's throats, maxed-out credit cards), but they sure aren't going to let anyone else know about it.

Run towards wholeness, my friend. Embrace it. Blog about it along the way. You don't have to be on FB to interact with people who love you. I think I may have another FB fast coming up for myself... and that would not be a bad thing, not at all.

Julie Keefe said...

Thank you, Amy. For your honesty and courage. I want to be done. But I am afraid of being lonely. And sometimes Facebook makes me think I'm not. Sadly, though, it's just a lie. Because FB makes me feel lonelier after the hours I spend "checking" it. It's not fun. It's a sad addiction and I need a program.