As today is #WorldMentalHealthDay, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to start posting about mental health. If you don’t know, I suffer from cyclothymia and anxiety, and talking about it is important to me. It would have helped me a lot when I was younger to find those kind of articles, and this is why I decided to start posting about it.
For this first post, I will talk about the impact of social media in my life next to my anxiety and cyclothymia.
TW: hospital, suicide, coma
HOW IT ALL STARTED
Since I got my very first laptop at 11 years old, I have always been on the Internet but it’s only when we discovered my diabetes that I started to use it in a different way.
What happened to me was rough and I won’t talk a lot about it on this post but I still have to develop some parts for you to be able to understand the whole thing.
After weeks of losing weight, drinking tons of water, being unable to eat because my tongue was hurting me, I went on vacations with my grand-parents in the South of France. That’s when everything started to get worst— and when I stopped breathing. They took me to the hospital and I was in a coma for awhile. When I woke up, it took me days to be able to finally sit on my bed and it’s only after that my familyt booked a plane for me to go back to Paris in a wheelchair with a doctor. When I finally arrived in this new hospital next to my family, I started seeing a psychiatrist: they told me that what happened to me will make me feel the same thing I would have go through if I lost my mom, and so that I would have to go through the stages of grief.
A few years later, two months before turning 18, I tried to kill myself. There’s no way to sugarcoat it.
That’s when the psychiatrist talked to me about cyclothymia, anxiety etc. It was hard but I took it anyway— it felt good to put a name on what was happening inside of me. So I decided to get better, and that’s what I did.
That’s when I was introduced to the Role Playing Game world on Facebook. If you don’t know what it is, it’s a game in which you have to create an account for your character and then simply play them. There’s a plot created by the moderators and you decide every move of your character by writing their stories with others. It’s like writing a novel with tons of point of views and writers.
And so I played Lily Luna Potter (from the Harry Potter world). And it felt good.
I was somebody else— prettier, smarter, funnier. I had friends there, my character had a boyfriend, and more importantly she wasn’t diabetic. At some point, I lost myself in the game. I didn’t want to be who I was. But the game had to stop and so I joined another one which made me feel better, but somehow even worse. The relationship I had with the person I was playing with was abusive but I let it happened because I couldn’t be myself, I couldn’t bear living with who I was and I didn’t want to be me.
Next to that, I joined Twitter again. That’s where I used to talk about my real feelings. How I felt trapped, lost, bad. How I wanted to disappear, how I hated myself. It may seem stupid, the whole thing, but it did help me. But as my psychiatrist said, it couldn’t last forever. The game couldn’t last forever. It was like a crutch and I’ll have to let go at some point.
WHEN IT TURNED BAD
“This was just a sad invention. It wasn’t real, I know. But we were happy. I guess I couldn’t let that go. I guess I couldn’t give that up. I guess I wanted to believe ’cause if I just believe, then I don’t have to see what’s really there. No, I’d rather pretend I’m something better than these broken parts, pretend I’m something other than this mess that I am ’cause then I don’t have to look at it and no one gets to look at it. No, no one can really see…” Words Fail, Dear Evan Hansen (musical)
Even though it made me feel better, it was all a lie.
The character I was playing wasn’t me and talking about my problems online wasn’t helping me neither. I was making myself feel more miserable everyday and it all became an obsession.
Soon, I couldn’t stop using my phone.
I needed to play,
to do something else than being by myself.
I couldn’t even go out and spend some time with my friends because I was embarassed for them to be seen with me and because I couldn’t miss a chance to play.
I was online non-stop. It was impossible for me to miss a day, an hour, even a minute.
And I think I realised how bad it turned out when I did try to kill myself and that the first thing I asked my mom to do was to take my phone and text the person I was playing with where I was.
Because I didn’t want them to think I was inactive.
Because I wanted to play but I had to stop.
HOW I STARTED TO CHANGE
When I came out of the hospital, I decided to do something about it, mostly because they wanted me to go to a psychiatric hospital and I didn’t.
I promised my mom and myself three things:
- I will go out more, at least once a week to start with;
- I won‘t spend so much time on my phone anymore;
- and I will only be positive online.
And that’s what I did.
At first I only went out every Sunday with my best friend. Then we started to do it more, and now I’m almost always out (even though my body can’t always take it, but that’ll be for another post).
I played less and the person I was playing with didn’t take it well. A year later we stopped it and I never felt better than the day it was all over, the day I stopped talking to them and pretending I was somebody else.
I started to share positive thoughts on my Twitter instead of negative ones and to even help people, be nice. Instead of saying what was wrong, I talked about the things that made me happy. It was hard at first but soon it made me feel better because I was only surrounded by happy thoughts everywhere. I still felt bad, but it was getting better.
I think that the most important thing I have ever did, beside of all that, was going out by myself and stopping using my phone when I was with my friends. It was hard, even scarry at first, but I did it and it worked for me.
I don’t remember when I started to feel better exactly but something really important happened to me when I left the hospital this day.
I came out as someone new, ready to fight and to live my life properly. To love myself and to use social media in a way that would make me feel good.
No matter what, I loved social media. I was the one who used them to hurt myself, but I could change all of that and see them as something else, as a way grow up and accept who I was.
WHERE I AM TODAY
A few months ago, I realised that texting a lot was stressing me. That was something I used to do while playing online and somehow I couldn’t do it anymore.
And so I just stopped.
I told my friends how I felt, they understood and they now know that I won’t necessary answer immediatly or all the time. I barely answer to pictures sent with Snapchat and it can take me a day to answer to a text (obviously, non important) even though I saw it, but that’s okay. I now know myself and how to handle this. I don’t have to answer to people right away and my mental health should be my priority.
I also realised that the notifications were making me feel bad. Each time I got one I was mad and sad.
And so I cut them off.
I only kept the ones for the text messages in case something happens, but I am now free from all of this. And it really makes me feel better. I don’t feel like I can’t breathe anymore, I don’t feel overwhelmed by all those new informations that can be useless sometimes. I am now free to read whatever I want whenever I want to.
I also stopped giving attention to social media, texts and notifications in general. To this day, I am surrounded by amazing people who are understanding and who love me for who I am. I don’t need to wake up with tons of messages to feel loved and I can go a week without receiving anything without freaking out. I do understand that some people see notifications as a sign of recognition, of love, and it’s totally okay to feel that way. Unfortunately, I had to change this for me to get better.
WHERE I AM NOW
Today, I feel good but mostly at peace. I love social media because they helped me to get through some dark times, they made me meet most of my best friends and taught me a lot (even about my sexuality). Even though I love social media, I still learned to get some distance with them and to use them in my own way.
Starting my bookstagram account a year ago really helped me too and made me feel more confident. I have no notifications turned on for it, I answer to messages and comments when I can and feel like it but do not pressure myself— for now it’s working well.
It is important to say that I want to become a publisher or a community manager in the future. Yes, I do want to work with social media. They are a huge part of my life and I am sure that they can save people if we know how to use them and if we remember to spread love on them, to be kind.
“Every time you post something online, you have a choice.
You can either make it something that adds to the happiness levels in the world—or you can make it something that takes away.
I tried to add something by starting Girl Online.
And for a while, it really seemed to be working.
So, next time you go to post a comment or an update or share a link, ask yourself: is this going to add to the happiness in the world?
And if the answer is no, then please delete.
There is enough sadness in the world already. You don’t need to add to it.”
Zoe Sugg, Girl Online
WHAT I LEARNED FROM ALL OF THIS
Dealing with cyclothymia and anxiety is hard, but we can find ways to make it easier. If something is making you feel bad, ask yourself if you truly need it and/or if you can improve it, change it. It will take time for you to find the right solutions but remember that your mental health should be your first priority. You deserve to be happy and if, like me, social media is a source of stress, then cut it out. You can still use them but in a safer way.
Ps: Do not ever be afraid to unfollow people. You should be surrounded by people who are safe and understanding. If not, let them go. It took me years to understand this but trust me, it works.